Monday 15 August 2011

Swim But Don’t Get Wet

On some days, when all is going well in my life, I wake up eagerly early in the morning and am rearing to go for a run.  On some other days, when something is bothering me either at work or at home, I am not so motivated.  As my eyes open in the morning, the problem wakes up with me and I feel burdened.  On those days, I don’t feel motivated and excited to face the day. A heavy weight rests on my mind and shoulders. 
We are too engaged in the marketplace of life. We almost always ride a roller coaster of emotions. 
The Zen masters say, “Walk in the river, but don’t allow the water to touch your feet.” Be in the world they say, but don’t be of the world.  Be in the world, but don’t allow the world to be in you.
That is easier said than done.  Walk in this river of life but don’t allow the water to touch your feet? That’s hard because I normally get drenched!
I understand that the Zen master is talking about a meditative mind.  The mind that is able to step back and look at every situation as an unattached observer.  But it is so difficult to just be a ‘witness’ to all that is going around us.  We are too engaged in Life to step back and simply look at ourselves from without.
I am simply too affected by the ups and downs of everyday life.  But I have evolved my own formula for facing the very few small and insignificant problems that I have to face. 
Firstly, I am happy to admit that I have been incredibly blessed and don’t have any real problems in life.  I am a happy man.  My family and I are in good health and we are a close, tight-knit unit. 
So, when I really think about it, the problems I face are actually inconsequential in the scope of things. They are not problems at all. 
But oftentimes I am self-centred, selfish and want everything in life.  I want only good things to happen to me.       
The biggest disappointment I have faced in my life till date is not finishing the Comrades Marathon twice (in 2009 and again in 2011). (That this is the extent of my life’s tragedy actually shows the blessed life that I have enjoyed)
Yet, when I did not finish the race, I was, for short period of time (a few split-seconds) heart-broken, sad and depressed.
In running as in life, there are three keys to rebounding from a set-back. 
The first is to quickly find inspiration. Some find inspiration within themselves, some without.
The second key is to count ones blessings.  No matter how bad the situation, one always has something to be grateful for and so one must never forget those good things. 
And the third key is to have a never-say-die attitude and to find some good even in one’s failure.  There are some people who are able to see the bright side of every situation, no matter how bleak.  

There are two stories that I try to remember whenever I face some disappointment:

The first is from a short cartoon film made by Pixar called: Boundin'.  The plot of the cartoon goes like this:

A young sheep out in the American west has a wool coat that he takes much pride in.  He keeps dancing all day long and showing of his beautiful woollen coat. His prairie dog neighbours across the stream join in as do a burrow owl, a rattle snake and little fishes in the stream. Life is good and he is very happy.
One day a man comes and takes him away in an old car. You can hear the lamb being shaved and then he's dumped into a mud puddle during a raining night. 
The lamb, shaved of all his wool looks pathetic and sickly!  He is devastated and depressed.  Everybody starts laughing at him. He cowers under the sagebrush to get out of the rain just as a wise American jackalope comes onto the scene and gives him some good advice.   
The jackalope tells the Lamb:
“Now sometimes you’re up and sometimes you're down,
When you find that you’re down
well, just look around.
You still got a body, good legs and fine feet,
Get your head in the right place and hey, you're complete!”

Sometimes, I simply have to remind myself of all my blessings. 
However that day in May 2011 at the 67 kilometre mark, when I was lying semi-comatose on the road between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, after failing and bailing in the Comrades Marathon, I was heartbroken, depressed, and in state of shock.
And as I waited for the Ambulance/Bail bus to pick me up, I remembered the second story I love. 
A little school kid once went out alone to play cricket.  He threw the ball high in the air and shouted, “I am the best batsman in my school” then swung his bat as the ball came down...swish... he went but missed and the ball went...plonk...on the ground.
Undeterred, he picked up the ball again, threw it high and shouted, “I am the best batsman in Mumbai” then swung his bat as the ball came down...swish...he went, but missed and the ball went ...plonk...on the ground.
He took a deep breath and undeterred picked up the ball again, threw it high and shouted, “I am the best batsman in India” then swung his bat as the ball came down...swish...he went, but missed and the ball went...plonk...on the ground.
Undeterred, he picked up the ball again, threw it high and shouted, “I am the best batsman in the World” then swung his bat as the ball came down, ...swish...he went, but missed and the ball went ...plonk...on the ground.
Picking up the ball he shouted, “HECK! I AM THE BEST BOWLER IN THE UNIVERSE”
2 Did-Not-Finishes out of 3 Comrades Starts!
In those first few uncertain seconds after lying down on the road to wait for the ambulance/bail bus, what did I say to myself ?

I smiled while I thought: 
Very often, it is not the event which shapes our life, but out interpretation of the event!


  1. Hi Amit, it is always inspirational to read you. I came across something similar recently "Trust yourself! you can do a lot more than you think"

  2. when ever I think of you I think of RUNNING........You are a true motivation for every Runner

  3. Hi Amitbhai, Just an hour back my niece sms'ed me and asked "mama I just completed reading 'Dare to run'as suggested by you it was simply wonderful .. please suggest another such book" to which I replied " Li dream a similar dream n try to realize it" ..... Life as I have heard is like a game of hockey at times you move forward at times backward you dribble you stumble you fall you get up again but stop not till you reach the goal... regarding swimming but not getting wet ... 'Samsar ma sarso rahe punn mun mari paas j samsar thi lopay nahi tey maan Maro das [Narsinh Mehta].... also the Lotus Sutra of Buddhism ... regards deepak

  4. Amit, you inspired me to run comrades and it has been a joy running along side you. It is not the destination that matters, but the journey. The finishing line is a little artificial, especially for for a crazy dude like you who plans to complete it more than ten times just to get a green number instead of a blue one! Keep running my friend. Best. Danny

  5. Dear Amit , It is so important to start a race at the first place . Finishing is important as well but one needs to start it . It was only 5 years back that I started running , ran few marathons , and then thought what next . Came across your book which implanted a dream to run a comrade. Its only while running I feel as you rightly said "Walk in the river, but don’t allow the water to touch your feet". I really look for your inspiring words to keep me going . I hope to be besides you in the coming mumbai marathon.

  6. Amit,

    Love reading your posts - I don't follow blogs and find most of them devoid of meaning. But not yours - Keep writing, sharing, inspiring and running.


  7. amit its so well written...always enjoy whatever you write...keep it up....