I sat in the dentist’s office, leafing through a magazine waiting for Jules to finish having his teeth cleaned.
In the magazine I saw a photo of a woman running up a long set of stairs that lined a vertical mountain cliff.
In the accompanying interview, she said that when she needs to relax, she goes for a trail run, the longer the better.
For most people, relaxation means sitting on the couch with a book or a drink, but somehow this fabulous woman had re-wired her mind to view hard physical activity as relaxation.
During this week I also thought about a book that I had read by a Tibetan Lama who was giving a talk in Aspen this week, about “Turning The Mind Into An Ally.”
It is possible to pick and choose our thoughts and to train our mind to become our best friend, so that we can enjoy an active, strong, and beautiful body.
I believe that being active and doing physical work are paramount for our well being and that we should not “slow down” with age, but instead learn to have a beautiful and clear mind that guides our body to live and move without pain.
It is possible to be vibrant and physically active and to re-wire our minds to classify our physical activities as lots of fun.
Once while we were traveling in Sikkim, we stayed in a farmhouse located at the top of a very steep hill.
Our car dropped us by the road below, and we climbed up the steep path to the farmhouse.
By the time we got there, my calf muscles were throbbing with pain.
We were welcomed into the farm house with warmth and kind hearted hospitality.
Over lunch, which we ate in their simple kitchen, we mentioned that they must be in very good physical shape in order to live so high up a steep hill.
We were told that the patriarch of the house, who was over 90 years old, owned a store in the center of the village, and that he climbed up and down the steep trail from his house to his store four times per day, every day of his life.
He went to work early in the morning, climbing back up at noon to eat lunch at home, and then after lunch he walked back down to the store and early in the evenings, he climbed back home again.
I asked why he did not take a lunch with him so he would not have to walk all the way up and down such a very steep trail, and they all looked at me as if I were crazy.
Why should he avoid coming home to eat a hot cooked meal with his lovely wife?
Why should he avoid the beautiful mountain hike back home and instead eat alone in his shop?
I had to agree that he walked like a young man.
It saddens me that so many people in our societies who view themselves as elderly make arrangements to move into one level ranch houses to avoid climbing stairs.
They install and use elevators and avoid all hard physical activity, which actually contributes to their unnecessary deterioration.
When we ski, I can always tell if a person skiing is elderly, even though they are covered from head to toe with ski clothing, a mask, goggles and gloves with no skin or face showing.
In our area, some of the elderly are very skinny and fit, so how can I tell that they are elderly?
It’s because they move haltingly, as if they are afraid to fall or make mistakes.
I noticed that when I fall, if there is no residue of anger or angry thoughts in my mind, my fall is easy and even fun.
I think of stories I have read about babies falling from five story buildings or from a moving van, and not getting hurt.
Since they have no internalized anger, they fall softly and are unhurt.
But if someone carries inner anger, he might pull a muscle, break a bone or get hurt.
People carry lots of unexamined anger.
The other day while skiing in Beaver Creek, I went to the toilet.
In the stall next to me, a women dropped her ski glove on the floor.
“Oh, Shit! Shit!,” she said in a voice dripping with anger and pain.
Can somebody really get so upset over dropping a ski glove?
No, she was carrying this anger inside, and it came out in this small and meaningless circumstance.
On another day, when we went skiing in Vail, we first stopped to have brunch at a local cafe.
In the line at the cash register, I stood behind a woman who had come to pick up an order of doughnuts.
They brought the box with her name on it to the register, but when she opened it there were only eight chocolate doughnuts with sprinkles instead of the dozen she had ordered.
She said that they were for a kid’s birthday party, and that she had ordered twelve.
As it turned out, they had no more of that particular doughnut, but they had an array of similar doughnuts that they were willing to give her for free, since they had made a mistake.
Whatever the two workers and the owner said or suggested to placate her did not work, as she remained angry and absolutely fuming.
I thought to say something to ease her heart, but her eyes looked like those of a very angry woman who had NO intention of letting go of her anger.
She was RIGHT, they were WRONG, and she had a RIGHT to be angry.
Even when they offered to give her the whole box for free, she wouldn’t let it go.
This is the kind of uncalled-for anger that we carry around, which is so toxic to our loving minds. This anger affects our beautiful and perfect bodies, if allowed to nest in our minds over a lifetime.
This unseen anger will age our bodies, it will make us get hurt even when the injury or fall is minor.
Anger will blind us to the love and unity that is at the very core of the Universe and that makes up our minds and bodies.
Many people believe that physical activity, like running, is helpful to rid ourselves of that unseen anger, and that physical activity can be very healing for us.
When a person is injured, after the wound is healed, it is recommended that the person start physical therapy and exercise the injured muscles, in order to aid in their recovery.
In the same way, people of all ages and especially the elderly need to welcome physical activity as therapeutic.
Hiking and climbing stairs, as well as hard walks up steep trails, need to be viewed as a joyful part of physical therapy and as an essential part of a wholesome life.
Sports and physical activity are important in developing strength and endurance.
During ski season in Colorado, we do not pay for a ski valet to store our skis closer to the slopes, even though we could easily afford to.
Instead, when we go skiing, we park in the garage, put on our ski boots and walk carrying our skis and poles to the ski slopes.
Often this involves climbing up and down a few sets of stairs.
We NEVER take the elevator located conveniently next to the stairs.
One day as I was walking carefully down the wet stairs, making sure not to slip in my heavy ski boots and with my skis on my shoulders, a man passed me by nearly skipping down the stairs like a graceful gazelle.
Immediately I was overcome by a desire to be like him, so balanced and carefree.
I noticed how my own mind was imagining dangerous scenarios of possibly slipping and falling, which were actually making me walk more slowly and carefully…(fearfully?)
I noticed that if I commanded my body to walk with balance and grace, but quicker and with agility, my body followed this pattern of thinking and obeyed it well.
I was able to go up and down the stairs with a straight back and with much more ease.
On another day I noticed that I was breathing quickly with short breaths as I walked to the slopes.
I also noticed that I was perceiving the walk as “difficult” and that my mind was cheering me up with positive messages like “You can do it girl! You are strong!”
When I got to the slopes, I rebalanced my breath and felt good, but it still felt like I had done something hard, only that I had done it well.
The next day, I noticed the exact second in my mind when I started perceiving the walk as difficult, and I stopped it right then and there.
I stopped any thought of difficulty from arising in my mind.
I took a deep breath and walked tall and strong, resolute NOT to feel as if I were doing something hard or difficult.
Like magic, it worked too.
My breath was not short nor laborious, and I did not feel like I was doing anything hard.
Later that day I realized that I was MAKING IT SEEM DIFFICULT by my own expectations.
When I no longer expected it to be hard, it simply wasn’t.
It was easy.
My breath was normal and I was not sweating, and everything was so easy and simple.
I continued this same experience of deciding not to perceive difficulties, and to block pain the minute that I sensed that it was arising in my mind.
The very second that the suggestion of pain arose in my mind, I made an inner resolution to change my mind and to choose to focus on ease and joy instead.
As a kid, I used to be able to sit in the lotus position, but never for a long time.
In the lotus position, you cross both your feet on top of your thighs.
Every morning, Jules and I sit and meditate for 45 minutes.
A good way to encounter my ego with its many moans and discomforts, is to sit with a straight back in the lotus position for forty five minutes without moving, asking my mind to be serene, focused and silent.
I can do it easily with my legs folded under me, but it seemed impossible that I would be able to do it in the lotus position.
After all, I haven’t been able to even cross my leg into the lotus position in decades.
But after my victories at nipping pain in the bud, I decided to start meditating in the lotus position.
I put one foot on my thigh and was hardly able to bring the second foot on top of my other thigh.
I used both my hands to lift my feet into position.
Almost immediately after the meditation bell rang, I heard an inner voice protesting that this will never ever work…….I would NOT be able to keep this painful position for forty five minutes without moving….why even try?…
I immediately commanded my mind to be quiet and cooperative.
I reminded my whole being that my reality is ONLY SPIRIT, and that my body is an energy field, held in my mind…..
I reminded my mind that I do not even have a “physical body”…. But ONLY a spiritual-joy body made of light, vibrations and energy.
I commanded my chakras, the energy centers of radiant light in my body, to move into alignment, to balance my electrical body, and to eliminate ANY AND ALL pain.
I was able to sit for forty five minutes in the full lotus position without moving a muscle and without feeling ANY pain.
My mind had conquered matter and I felt such joy…. as if I had entered a new and brighter reality.
It contradicted ALL my previous beliefs that you need to “build up” the flexibility of the body OVER TIME.
I went from zero (not being able to sit in the lotus position) to forty five minutes, in ONE meditation sitting.
During the past week I have been able to repeat this experience and to sit in the full lotus position for forty five minutes with no pain, almost every morning and evening.
I feel that I have achieved a new level of understanding pain, and have broken through a major inner barrier.
I have entered a new era of working in cooperation with my mind.
I noticed recently that my mind has become more fluid and easy, less rigid and less painful, and much more friendly towards me.
The human mind is such an awesome tool, if used for its intended purpose to elevate us along our spiritual journey.
How helpful it will be to have my mind so cooperative, when I am climbing the mountains of Shikoku, Japan….
I think about all the hundreds of stairs up to the Buddhist temples in our upcoming pilgrimage, and I hope that I will be able to stop pain and inner frustrations from arising….
Yesterday we went for a walk in Basalt, near Aspen.
We have not driven in that direction for nearly a month, since an avalanche of boulders cascaded down the Glenwood Springs Canyon, and the road has been closed for repairs.
I wore my barefoot five finger Vibram shoes which are actually like walking barefoot, but with a sole on the bottom of the foot.
It still feels like you are walking barefooted.
After two hours of hiking, my legs and feet started hurting.
I reminded my mind that pain is a CHOICE, and that I do not have to choose pain.
Surprisingly, the sensation of pain transformed itself into a feeling of vibrations.
I felt as if my thighs and leg muscles were vibrating in wave currents.
It felt so new and so strange, that all thoughts of pain evaporated from my mind.
After three hours, only the bottom of my feet hurt a little.
I expected to have leg pain the next day, but as I am writing this the day after, I can honestly say that I feel as if I had rested at home and not hiked at all the previous day.
I was introduced to the knowledge that we have an astral body many years ago.
Now I am delighted that I can actually step into this reality and experience it.
Once when we visited an old Tibetan Bon monastery, the monk told us that they call this astral body – a “Rainbow Body.”
As we toured the old monastery, the head monk talked about the rainbow body and our guide translated while I took notes, writing quickly in my notebook.
The Rainbow-Joy-body is mentioned only in sacred texts of Tibetan Buddhism.
It states that the Rainbow Light body is the astral body which can be realized, experienced, and that ultimately we can dissolve our physical body into it.
The Rainbow light body is the energy-body of a fully realized person.
In Tibetan Buddhism, this body can be realized in three ways:
1- Through the practices of Anuttara Tantra- purification and understanding of the true nature of pain and suffering.
2- Through the practices of the Kalachakra Tantra- The Kālachakra tradition revolves around the concept of time and cycles, or Chakras, from the cycles of the planets to the cycles of human breathing.
It teaches the practices of working with the most subtle energies within one’s body on the path to enlightenment.
The Kālachakra Tantra practitioner becomes aware that everything is timeless, not time-bound.
Time is seen as the wheel of life, without beginning or end.
3- Through practicing Dzogchen- the perfection of Self Realization or Deity Visualization.
After the ego identity has been dissolved, one rests in the natural state of the innately luminous pure mind.
One may perceive the rainbow body as the transformative “Sambhogakaya” or the enjoyment or joy body, which serves as a template to transform the physical body into its highest rate of vibratory form.
The physical body is governed by this template, and it can be dissolved into it once the pathways or channels have become opened and strengthened.
Our time in the USA is soon coming to an end.
We will say goodbye to the lovely mountains of Colorado and fly to New York and Boston, then on to New Zealand, and then on to Japan for our three months of foot pilgrimage.
From Japan we will return to the USA but only for a short month.
We will then travel to Kashmir, Ladakh and Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas in India for two months, and then on to Singapore and back to New Zealand.
A busy year awaits us…
I am SO excited and I hope that I am ready….