Ultimate educator (life)

Recently, I said that this walk across America is not a pilgrimage of suffering.

Which is basically true… except when it isn’t.

Well, what I meant when I said it is that I am not putting myself out here to hurt, nor do I seek after or find nobility in my pain. My intention is to heal and find wholeness.

Healing often requires hurting, but there is a huge difference between that kind of a pain and then the categories of pain that derive from making choices that violate the laws of the nature (like if I try to take flight from the top of a building, gravity may intervene in the coldest of ways).

So far on this journey, I have experienced the burn of healing to a slight extent. My heart has begun cycling through processes of renewal and reform, but I suspect the richest of that will come much later.

In much greater amplitude at this juncture, my pain has sprung from my choices.

Like, the choice to walk that extra five miles when every cell in my body is like, “Dude, please just sit down.”

After not being a dude who sat down on several of those occasions, my body ardently resisted my will.

In simple terms, the pain was incredible. And cumulative.

Resting in the bivy for a few hours didn’t cut it. In some ways, laying down made it worse because when I got back up my joints were stiff and I shuffled around like an old school zombie. Except zombies don’t feel pain.

I rested up in Kalamazoo for a few days with a friend from high school and his wife. What wonderful hosts they were! And the break gave my body a chance to heal up.

This whole thing reminds me of when I relapsed last September and ignored the voice that said, “Please stop.”

That voice is in there for a reason. It knows a thing or two. I ignore it at my own peril, and that applies to walking across the U.S. just as much as it applied to dumping another handful of pills down my throat.

After pulling myself back up from that relapse last year, I learned to be more receptive to indications of my limits.

And now it is time to learn to do that again in another context.

When an inner urge or voice asks me to rest, then it is time to rest! No ifs, ands, buts, etc.

Well, OK. I wrote the previous sentence several hours ago, and have already ignored the voice and kept going once or twice.

This is hard work. And it’s one of the reasons I am out here. Self-mastery.

Life gives constant free education. 24/7. It’s up to the student to choose to engage in it and take advantage or that or not.

I have spent a lot of my life oblivious to this. Not grabbing onto those opportunities to learn and grow.

Just making the same mistakes over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

(That last sentence is ridiculously redundant, much like my life often has been.)

There will probably be more times when I am oblivious to my opportunities to expand and grow. But right now, I’m cued in.

Sometimes it is difficult to see the value of life’s little educational moments. Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things if I slow down? Pace myself? Does that have to do with my ultimate growth as a human being?

Let me put it this way:

In Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi trains Daniel to fight by teaching him mundane chores. Wax on, wax off.

Pacing myself on this trip is the mundane chore. It’s boring. I want to go, go, go. Like Daniel wanted to kick ass, so he was frustrated with painting the damn fence.

But the lesson spills over into every other facet of my existence. By mastering my boundaries, every area of life affected by my boundaries is instantly transformed. By learning to rest, I learn to thrive.

By learning to say “no” to the part of me that would push myself to bloody feet and physical uselessness, I can strengthen my ability to say “no” to other things.

Also published on Medium.