Volume 11 - Issue 08
August 2013
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Posted on: Aug 04, 2013

 


The Gym Called Life

 

Everything was going wrong in Peter's life. His research for a doctoral degree had run into its fourth year, but he had no telling result to show. The trust and confidence his guide had in him when he started off seemed to be shrinking by the hour, and his friends who had picked relatively simpler problems had romped off with their degrees.

 

He was by nature a hard worker who always believed in sincere and relentless effort, but the pressure of the past couple of months was forcing him to rethink his principles. But that morning was the real low.

He stood on the weighing scale looking at the numbers in disbelief. The worry in his head, it so appeared, had solidified into eight extra pounds of fat. “Oh my God!” he yelled in shock. “Life cannot get worse than this man! I need to get back to the gym.”

On his way to the research lab, he dropped into his local gym and renewed his membership. He was told that he would be joined by a new trainer as the previous one had left.

So now every day after working in the lab, Peter started working out in the gym. The fact that his experiments were not giving results began troubling him more and more. It was not just about the degree any more, it was about life.

How much should one pursue one's passion? When there are obstacles and pain on the way, are they life's signals to you to change course? In your pursuits, when do you cease to be positively persistent and start becoming foolishly obstinate?

And with all these questions running in his mind, his perfectly athletic natural physique had become so upsettingly shapeless. And what made him feel worse was the sculpted build of his new trainer. He was a cheerful and friendly chap, but Peter felt horrible standing beside him in front of the mirror.

As his academic life continued with no exciting improvements, he started spending more and more time working out.

One day he was doing bench presses. He had just finished one absolutely exhausting round and was catching his breath, massaging his own aching shoulders. The trainer walked up to him and said, “Do you feel the pain Peter? Did you realise how much joy is hidden in that pain?”

Yes, it was true. There was immense joy hidden in that pain his body was throbbing with – a joy that he was getting into shape. The trainer continued, “We think that pain is something that we have to protect ourselves from. But deep within we know that pain is the source of all happiness. How else can you explain paying a fortune to the gym for giving you this pain?”

 

He said this and walked towards the parallel bars where another man needed a hand. Peter was soaking in the wise words of the trainer.

He thought to himself, “How we willingly embrace pain and difficulties, knowing well that that pain will give us a pleasant future! If you think all pain is suffering, ask a woman who embraces motherhood knowing well what pain the process of childbirth can inflict on her. How can pain be bad then?”

He looked around thoughtfully and realised that every equipment around was just a form of ‘obstacle’.

Some weights had to be pushed up when they were coming down while some bars had to be pulled down when weights were pulling them upwards. We know for sure that the body benefits every time. Why then do we sulk when we are confronted with mental pain or obstacles in life? Peter had no answer. He went back to the bench press.


For some reason, these thoughts that were running in his head had made him feel so light and energised that he worked out harder than usual. He was going through what he thought would be his final round of bench presses. After the customary set of fifteen he said aloud to his trainer “That's it,” hoping that his trainer would help him put back the bar on the holders. But he didn't.

“You're sure you are done?” asked the trainer. “Yyyess...” said Peter wilting under the weights. “You feel you cannot do even a couple more?” Peter's hands were trembling and his face was all flushed.

“Not even one more,” he replied in exasperation.

“Do a couple more then,” said the trainer.

“This man's crazy. He's going to kill me,” thought Peter.

 

But he didn't have a choice. So drawing all the energy left in him he did a couple more, after which the trainer helped him place the bar back on its holder.

Peter sat up clutching his biceps that were now numb with pain. The trainer sat beside him and put a friendly arm around him. “You've done well today Peter.”

With a smirk Peter replied, “You bet I have!”

“Always remember Peter: when you think you can do no more, try and do at least a few more. I can tell you that those two bench presses you did will benefit you much more than the thirty you did before. There is always a lot you'll gain when you hold out that little bit longer.”

The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That's what most people lack – having the guts to go on and just say they'll go through the pain no matter what happens.

- Arnold Schwarzenegger

Even as these words of his trainer were trickling into him, Peter thought about how he had come to what he thought was his last drop of energy even in the pursuits of his life. And something within was telling him that all his efforts thus far had only served to warm him up; the prime benefits of the struggle lay in every single ounce of perseverance he was going to dish out now. He did some relaxing exercises, picked up his stuff from the locker and walked off thoughtfully.

His life wasn't going to change after this workout, but he was no more afraid of obstacles, pain or delays. He wanted to embrace them as his true friends.

Many times when we face difficulties in life we ask ourselves “What have I done to deserve this?” and invariably we find no answers and feel like we have been unjustly treated. The fact is, tribulations and obstacles are not necessarily chastisements. A road that slopes upwards tires and stresses you, no doubt, but it does take you higher as well.

When we face life and the challenges that it throws at us thus, we will make every tribulation an appraisal that'll lead to progress.

 

"When difficulties come, do not hide; confront them bravely and squarely. Difficulties are inevitable, and they will come in all shades – personal, financial, academic, professional, and even spiritual. Face them all." - Baba

Bhagawan always exhorts us to welcome difficulties with open arms. In a discourse delivered on 14 Sep 1997, Baba said,

“Pleasure and pain go together. Pain is often the means by which God tests human beings. They should welcome such tests because they serve to promote one's spiritual development.

"Students should welcome examinations because they are preliminary to promotions to a higher standard. Devotees of the present day do not relish ‘tests’. They forget that without overcoming tests they will remain where they are. Even students unfortunately are averse to examinations. This is foolish. Only through tests they can progress in life. You should welcome tests and difficulties. By overcoming them your Divinity shall be revealed.”

And even as we stick our necks out and battle the challenges of life and come to the point where we feel we can go no further, let us remember that every push thereafter makes us much stronger. Let us not forget that for every step we take towards Him, we are getting eleven steps closer to Him... because Bhagawan has promised, “For every step you take towards Me, I am taking ten towards you.”

It is through pain that pleasure is gained. - BABA


Illustrations: Ms. Lyn Kriegler Elliott


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