Today my pop wants to talk about karma. He can’t wrap his head around the fact that rods hold his hips together and every movement, every shift in his bed, brings about an insurmountable amount of pain. I’m a good man, he says, and I nod, because in this we agree. What did I do to get here? For a moment he’s sincere, solemn, and I lean in close, squeeze his hand as hard as I can and ask him if he’s okay, do you hurt? Squeeze my hand so I can feel how much it hurts, I tell him. His eyes well up and he turns away from me because I’m close, because we’re guarded, because our tears rarely exist amongst other people. I say, no, pop. This isn’t about karma, this is life. This is just what happens. If we want to talk about karma, let’s talk about the fact that you can stand up after surgery, that you will be able to walk up the stairs with your groceries. Let’s talk about the people who love you, who come to visit. Let’s talk about how much of this very expensive surgery has been paid for. That’s the karma, I tell him. There’s a quiet nobility in leading a good life, and having health given back to you, having loved ones to shoulder your hurt–this is the world giving you your due.
We talk for a time. I spend hours next to him trying not to cry. I’ll save my tears for the train ride home because he needs me strong. He needs me to tell him this: that you have to believe that this pain, this bed, this sadness to which you’re attached is temporary. That every day is another step forward, literally. Another day that you’ll experience less pain. You have to believe in all of it, otherwise fear will be the only thing you’re tethered to, and fear doesn’t desire the forward steps and climbs out of darkness. It wants you petrified, alone, standing right as you are, never moving forward, but always, always inching your way back. Fear cradles you, never wants to let its grip on you, go.
Don’t let fear in, pop. Don’t do it, I tell him. Because there’s something really fucking beautiful on the other side of it. You just got to get there.
On the train ride home I thought about fear. This post wasn’t what I’d intended. I’d planned a perfunctory story filled with funny anecdotes from my third week of burning, and then it occurred to me that there was a reason I don’t want to share inches lost, a before-and-after photo, and all that jazz. It somehow doesn’t feel right, it reduces what I’m doing to simple maths, a subtraction of inches, when this challenge is about something entirely different. I embarked on this journey because Brooklyn BodyBurn is intense. The machine induces fear–even amongst the fit and brave–and the method never gets easier, rather it’s a koan that reveals new aspects of itself just when you think you’ve mastered a shape. In this way, the method reminds me of yoga.
When I first started taking classes at Brooklyn BodyBurn last year I couldn’t have conceived of doing this more than once or twice a week. Why would I subject myself to such torture? When I invited friends to join me, they fled in opposite directions. We used words like intense, scared, afraid, we’re going to die on that machine, etc, and even as my body grew stronger, even as I made deliberate changes to my diet, I still thought, could I do this?
I took on this small journey because I didn’t think I could. Part of me was curious about the other side of this kind of fear, what it would look like, what shape and form would it take, and I’ve one week left and what I’ve learned is this: I’m stronger than I think I am. Our thoughts deliberately frame our actions, and I can use words like fear or scared, or I can simply say that today, I’m just going to do the best I can. I’m going to show up for myself and refuse to be owned by an emotion.
What’s the worse that can happen? I have to come down to my knees during an exercise? That I have to rest more between reps? Is this what we’re afraid of, our ego? Resting? Not powering through?
Whether it’s BodyBurn, my work, or me sitting next to a man I admire, respect and love, I have to keep asking myself, over and over again because it is a life practice, what are you afraid of?
What happens when you move past fear? What happens when you land on the other side? That’s the place I want to be in, always. The other side of fear.