Extended edited version of Run&Bee column in Hindustan Times - Week 43 / 23.3.2019: To get the best from your exercise and running, be at peace with yourself

35 year old Nisha sat across me in my consultation room and coyly admitted that over a decade she had tried all kinds of programs to get her health back, but failed over and over again. And then something happened.

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She didn’t get very far with all things she had tried. Her exercises ranged from group classes, personal trainers in all kinds of gyms, running following online programs to having personal coaches and even being part of multiple running groups, doing all versions of yoga, Vipassana from being informal to organised ones over weeks, diets from low carb - low fat, to low carb - high fat, to paleo, vegan, Atkins to intermittent fasting.

She was committed to getting better but yet failed again and again. Her blood tests were normal. In her professional life she was doing extraordinarily well. Her half marathon (21 kms) finish times were the envy of most people. Her children were doing well in school. She had an ideal husband who happily volunteered to teach children and do all of household chores and let her live her life at her terms.

But she was tired all the time, of her life. She wasn’t happy even though she was popular in all kinds of social media groups and amongst her friends and family. She felt broken, both emotionally and physically. She was sad and unhappy and she couldn’t figure out why. What was going wrong? She thought she had everything. Everything that money could buy, at least.

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She had an epiphany on her chance visit to Leh-Ladakh during the off-season. She came face to face with her own self, something which she didn’t expect was around the corner. Nisha spent a few nights out, looking at the sky in all its glory. Initially, she loved the beauty but soon it started making a lot more sense to her. It suddenly sank in that she was insignificant in comparison to the cosmos. It struck her that there were a lot more stars in the Milky Way than all humans ever on this third rock called Earth, from an average star called Sun. Her mind felt an unusual stillness, something which she had never experienced before. She felt Time didn’t hold any meaning, as her mind dissolved further. Nothing really mattered, if everything was taken away in one drastic swoop.

Suddenly her materialistic achievements which others respected her for, which she literally ran after, meant nothing. It was ironical that this sense of insignificance and impermanence made her feel happy. She had always been the doer,  the planner, the one running; always running towards something, away from something, always wanting predictability and certainty. She was resisting way too much, thinking this was the way of life. She realised that she needed to let go, like our own planet, just float in the cosmos, without having any false pretence about herself.

As soon as Nisha started to do things for the fun and love of it, as soon as she waited for life to unfold, and embrace all that came along, it all started to make sense to her. It was no longer for anyone else or what they thought about her. She connected with her deeper, true self. She decided to let go of all the mind threw out to her, and decided to just bask in the experience of being rather than doing.

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Nisha resonated with the concept of ‘Kintsugi’, a Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted with powdered gold, accentuating the broken part which is now fixed. Instead of hiding the imperfection, instead of shunning the brokenness, the implication is that there is value in being broken and coming back whole, there is value in falling down and bouncing back up. The cracks add to the beauty, to the experience.

And Nisha embraced her brokenness, and saw lessons in them. Instead of running away from her problems, she started to treat her aches and pains as her own identity, and build up on those blocks rather than throw them away.

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Too often, we don’t know what to do when hell breaks loose and we break down into pieces. We are ashamed of our self. We work in overdrive to recreate a new you to conform to the society standards and expectations. Nisha decided to let go of all that and be a better version of her own self.

Even in the cosmos, or as in basic rules of physics, matter can’t be created or destroyed. All life form on our planet exists because of heavenly bodies. When we need to start using the lessons of life as lessons themselves and then we’ll improve, else it’s all a waste of time.

Now Nisha and her family take time out for physically active family vacations where it isn’t about going to some posh exotic locations or fancy western cities, but where they can spend time with themselves, getting to know each other. It could range from treks to long road trips, without a rush for getting from one location to another. She works on acknowledging when distress shows up at her doorstep, and embraces it and asks, “tell me, what are you here to teach me this time?” And goes about addressing the cracks she may find herself falling through.

Nisha has spread her learnings to her loved ones, setting an example, silently showing people her new way of life… Now they mile and smile together as a family.

Below is Run&Bee column in Hindustan Times.

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