I open my eyes.
Another drop of sweat splashes on the floor.
All I can see are my feet, hovering in the air in front of my face.
They’re shaking… violently.
“Crap, I can’t take no more!”. My eyes are getting watery. My body hurts. I’m shutting down. That familiar voice in the back of my head is trying to convince me…
But just as I’m about to drop my legs to the ground, giving my abs get some hard-earned rest, I hear my strength coach, Fredrik, yell in my ear:
“Jesse! Don’t give up yet. You are stronger than that! Find the interest. Look inwards, and push yourself further. Find the interest!”
His unusual wording immediately caught my attention.
“Find the interest.”
I suddenly became super interested in finding out how much more I could squeeze out of my useless body. My mind became the supreme commander of the piece of flesh disguised as me, and I ignored my shaking legs. I ignored the sweat dripping down my face. I ignored the whole world outside, and for one moment – just one brief moment – closed my eyes and dedicated my whole being to finding out how deep down my interest could pull me. How far out on a limb it could carry me.
The limb snapped.
Falling flat on the floor, my “interest” quickly faded.
But I didn’t care.
I my mind’s eye, I had single-handedly conquered Mt. Everest, saved Wall Street, discovered the cure for cancer, eradicated all McDojos from earth, and killed Hitler blindfolded with a blunt bread knife – all at the same time.
I was a hero.
Because, mentally, I had died several times. But each time my spirit revived me.
I guess this was what Shakespeare meant, when he once wrote:
“A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero dies but once.”
– William Shakespeare (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 32, Julius Caesar).
The important part wasn’t that I had “died”.
The important part was that I had lived.
On and on.
Lived through those agonizing seconds of physical torture, where the voice in the back of my head was constantly whispering “give up”.
This voice exists in all of us.
It’s a constant battle between the logical, smart, shiny new part of your brain (what scientists refer to as the neocortex) and the old, primal, instinctive part of your brain (known as the amygdala), located near the brain stem.
This schism comes in many forms, and we often call it:
Most suffering in life is caused by this constant struggle; between what we think is right and what we feel is right.
Sometimes they coincide.
(That’s when we are the happiest.)
(That’s when we are in pain.)
We say we want one thing, but we do another. We say we want to be successful, but we procrastinate. We say we want a second date, but we never call back. We say we want to be healthy, but we eat another donut. We say we want to be smart, but we never read that book. We say we want white teeth, but we never floss. We say we want to wake up early, but we stay up late.
We say we want to improve our Karate.
[Fill in the blank]
The contradictions never end.
This is the fine print at the bottom of the contract for the privilege of being human, and we all signed it.
With our life.
Ever since the first caveman realized that he could observe his own thoughts (and thus, there must exist a duality within him) – throughout every age, culture and human civilization in the history of the planet – people have known this. That’s why we have such an abundance of religion, spirituality, philosophy, ideologies, cults, morals, codes of conduct and self-help books out there.
We can’t understand ourselves.
We are, and have always been, desperately seeking a way to handle this unconditional and irrational (yet natural) conflict within us.
And our ancestors struggled with this just as much as we do.
But no matter how many generations pass, or how many feel-good seminars we attend, the average person still doesn’t know what to do about this.
(Read carefully now – this is what the self-help industry DOESN’T want you to know).
It can’t be stopped.
As long as you are human, your reptile brain isn’t going away.
That voice in the back of your head isn’t going to become silent anytime soon, and the dilemma of choosing between pizza today or six-pack abs tomorrow isn’t going to disappear either. Those are all just various expressions of the same battle within – and between – us and ourselves.
- Some do it physically (through movement).
- Some do it mentally (through introspection).
- Some do it spiritually (through beliefs).
The Way doesn’t matter, as long as you don’t stray from it.
(That’s why religion always cautions us from looking elsewhere.)
All you have to do is find a Way.
And follow it.
(“Do” means “Way” in Japanese.)
Nevertheless, whatever path one chooses, it will involve the act of acknowledging and accepting that there will always be this gap, or battle, or Devil, or inner voice, or Resistance, or Ego, or whatever you choose to call it, to haunt you.
The question isn’t; “How do we stop this battle?” anymore.
It can’t be stopped.
The question is; “How do we bridge the gap?”
Because if we can’t, we will keep dying over and over again.
Until we can finally live.
“A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero dies once.”
Find the interest.
Find the Way.