“Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string...Insist on yourself; never imitate...Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is unique...Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson on Self-Reliance
I had been searching for ‘The Answer’ since the last 7 years. My search as a runner has been for ‘The Perfect training program’. The best program, which would help me ‘Arrive’.
For 7 years, I have been searching for the best training program which I can follow like one follows religious scripture. Which is the boat that will take me across to the Promised Land?
My moment of clarity arrived at the unlikeliest of places. My search ended at my dentist’s office.
Let me explain. My dentist, Dr. Nipa Diwanji, is also a runner. She is absolutely the best dentist in India. Unfortunately, I cannot say that about her running ability. But, Dr. Nipa is a perfectionist at work and this personality trait also compels her to continuously try to improve her running ability.
Just like me, the good Doctor, is also continuously looking for the best and greatest training program to help her run faster and further. But it’s still just a work-in-progress.
As I entered her office last week, to have her look at my nagging toothache, I noticed a book on her desk: “Run Less Run Faster” by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr and Ray Moss. The book claimed to help runners train to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
I was delighted. This was the Holy Grail I had been searching for. A panacea for all my problems! This is the boat which will carry me to the Promised Land. I want to run a 4:15 at the Tokyo Marathon in February and this training program would surely help me get there!
The Dentist’s chair always reminds me of a medieval torture device. And as I settled in for an extended torture session on ‘The Rack’, I tried to distract my mind by thinking of my 7 year search for the greatest marathon training program.
The search has been unending. I have tried all the programs that are out there. I have tried out programs by Tim Noakes, Jeff Galloway, Joe Henderson, Art Liberman, Bob Williams, Pete Pfitzinger, Jack Daniels, Alberto Salzar and perhaps a dozen others suggested by every possible Running magazine.
So now, is my search at an end?
But as Dr. Nipa prodded and poked around my mouth with all kinds of sharp knives, I wondered whether the best program for me is out there somewhere or is it already inside me. To attain my goal of running faster and further, must I search outside or inside of myself?
With the help of an X-ray, the good Doctor soon diagnosed the source of my toothache. She opined that the 3rd Molar needed to be extracted. Oh! How I hate my Dentist.
As she started preparing an anaesthesia injection (which in my opinion was big enough to put an elephant to sleep), I kept thinking about my search for a perfect marathon training program.
As she started her torture session, I remembered a story once told by Osho:
“There was once a King who was searching for the greatest religion in the world. He had been searching for it since he had been a young man and had not still found it. And since he had not found a perfect true religion, the question of living a religious life in accordance with it did not arise for him.
He called on scholars, saints and philosophers to help him find the greatest religion. They came and they argued amongst themselves and found fault in every religion out there. Each claimed that his religion was the best and greatest. So the King never found the greatest religion. But he never gave up his research; it had become his play. However, as death came closer, he became restless. Now he became desperate to find the greatest religion, which could lead him to God.
One day a beggar came to the palace to beg and finding the King worried and depressed, asked the reason. The King replied, “How can you help me even if I explained? The greatest scholars, saints and philosophers have not been able to help me.”
The beggar then said, “It is possible that their greatness was in-itself a barrier for them?”
The king looked at the beggar attentively. The beggar continued to speak, “I can do nothing. In fact, I do not exist. But the one who exists can do a lot.”
The King spoke up, “I wanted to seek out the highest religion and make my life religious but this has not been possible. Which is the highest religion?”
The beggar laughed and said, “Oh King! What madness prompted you to seek out the highest religion? Life does not become religious after you have found religion; religion is found only when life itself becomes religious. Please come to the other side of the river outside your kingdom. There, I can point my finger towards religion and God.”
They went together to the riverbank. The best available boats were brought to them but the beggar would point out one fault after another in each of them. Lots of boats were brought and each one was rejected by the beggar, some as too big, some as too small, some as too plain, and some as too ostentatious.
Eventually, the king became frustrated. He said to the beggar, “Oh, great soul! We have only to cross this small river, we can even swim across. Let us forget about these boats. Let us get there by swimming across. Why waste our time?”
As if the beggar had been waiting for this, he said to the king, “Oh King! I also wanted to say the same thing. Why are you so concerned with the boats that signify different religious sects? Isn’t it best for us to swim across to God? In fact, there is no religious boat. The only way is for us to swim. Truth can be found only through our own efforts. Nobody else can give it to us. One has to swim in the sea of truth by oneself. There is no other support. Those who look for support will drown close to the shore, but those who take courage and swim by themselves will manage to cross, even if they have a little taste of drowning at the beginning.”
As the good Doctor, drilled away inside my mouth, I reflected that over the last 7 years of running, I had collected fabulous amounts of information about running and running programs. I have lots of knowledge. But knowledge is not wisdom, knowledge is just information. Wisdom leads to a transformation. I have collected knowledge on training programs, on shoes, on hydration, on hill running, on speed training and more. I had filled my mind with lots of information. Perhaps the time had now come to drop all this information. The time had come to transform myself.
I felt that it was now time to put faith in my own experiences.
7 years of running, thousands of kilometres, all over the world, has given me a treasure trove of experiences. It is time to create my own path, I need to be a pilgrim again and seek my own path to salvation. I don’t need to borrow someone else’s boat; I need to swim for myself.
I need to drop all the knowledge clogging my mind. I need to be emptied of all this borrowed knowledge; for when I drop this knowledge, perhaps wisdom may arise.
I shall find my own Wisdom!
I was pulled out of my reverie, by the sound of Dr. Nipa’s voice. “Ok Amit, it’s done!” she said.
“What have you done Doc?” I asked, barely able to speak through my totally anaesthetised mouth.
“I have extracted the third molar, it was impacted and I had to drill it out” she said.
“Speak to me in English Doc, which tooth is the 3rd molar?” I asked.
“That’s your Wisdom tooth” she answered, “I just extracted the last of your remaining Wisdom teeth”
“OUCH!” is all I could say!