cold showers, Brad Pitt and seeking equanimity through extreme racing
I have previously shared this quote by Marc Maron: “Joy and comfort are awkward, and make me want to die”. It still perfectly encapsulates how many racers addicted to that next level of suffering feel.
In Maron’s autobiography, the sentence immediately before the quote above says:
“Pain makes me know I am alive”.
There is a scene in Fight Club, where Tyler, Brad Pitt’s character, pours lye onto narrator’s wet hand, causing a chemical burn. As the flesh sizzles and bubbles up, the man screams in pain, trying to pull out his hand, trying to distract his mind with scenes of serene landscapes.
“Stay with the pain!”, Tyler screams. “Don’t shut this out”.
“It’s what is here. Now.”
“Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.”
“This is your pain.”
“Come on!!! This is the greatest moment of your life, and you are somewhere missing it.”
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything, we are free to do anything.”
Discomfort is not something you can just choose NOT to experience. It WILL take place. It is a constant in any human life.
Voluntarily exposing yourself to discomfort on your own terms though, allows you to TRAIN yourself. When the real discomfort hits, you will already have an experience of having suffered.
In one of Precision Nutrition‘s coaching programs, there is a lesson where we ask clients to take an ice cold shower. It’s uncomfortable. And most of us who have never lived without hot water, would never consider it.
You take a step, you stand under the cold stream of water. You shiver. You observe your own reaction.
Is it as bad as you thought it would be? [It rarely is.]
It’s a tiny step towards observing and controlling your own reactions in a stressful situation. A step towards developing equanimity – mental calmness, mental composure.
Perhaps, one day you can walk along the edge of an active volcano – literally or metaphorically – and maintain that calmness, knowing that slipping is not an option.
Did you know that on a Fight Club DVD, after the standard copyright warning, there is actually another warning that appears on the screen for just a second? It’s a warning from Tyler. It ends with:
“Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity, you will become a statistic. You have been warned”.
Extreme racing is how some choose to claim their humanity.