Zen Spot #259 - Mindfulness, meditation and diminishing physical strength December 31, 2019 00:00

Do as I say

Until the age of 18, physical weakness profoundly influenced almost every decision I made. Having gotten my ass kicked every time an altercation was invited because my lack of physical strength was well documented among my classmates, I reminded the my counter combatant that I was going to grow much larger and would never forget their aggression. 

I did and I didn’t. To this day, the fury resides within.While having learned how to forgive —and being armed with the practice of mindfulness — a pilot light burns, along with a near-eidetic memory.

Arms pinned

Among my first memories, after having been allowed to play with the other children in my neighborhood, is Keith Mazzarelli pinning me to the ground, with his knees on my arms while he pummeled my face. I was six. 

Nothing I tried provided release. Completely at his mercy, I didn’t wait for him to finish. I bucked, squirmed and tried to roll, but nothing worked. He laughed. Other kids watched and, eventually each took their turn at some point in the future.

My memory is long.

The right arm

I loved playing baseball as a child and, over the course of my my youth developed an 85 mph fastball. And, while my body was weak, the mechanics required to focus the entirety of my energy into the release of a ball was gifted by the gods.

Despite not being able to bench press 100 lbs, in an environment where peers could outperform me by three times that amount, I could have killed anybody unlucky enough to take an snowball to the head. That knowledge comforted me. A warm comfort. The kind of comfort one might feel while pinning a younger child’s arms to the ground, straddling their chest, and punching them in the face until simply losing interest. I took every chance available to clock anybody who had ever punched me, never considering the fact that they would beat me mercilessly because I plunked them.

Baseball coaches ignored my talent. 

Both arms

The day I bench-pressed two-hundred pounds, when I was nineteen, felt like a release from prison. The day I benched three hundred pounds, a couple of months later, delivered equality — an equality I was determined to never relinquish. The resulting muscle came an intimidating physical power. Having grown from six feet tall and one-hundred sixty-six pounds to 6'4"/235 gave me the gift of being left alone.

The physical presence

With size comes respect, no matter how weak the character of the giant. In the right environment, the respect gets transposed with fear. Creating fear was okay with me, despite believing that no amount of physical power could keep me from ending up being pinned to the ground. I did not discourage fear for thirty-five years. I never acted. I never hit anyone  or pinned anyone to the ground, but everybody treated me like I could. 

The quality of quiet associated with meditation followed my physical size in the form of a palpable unpredictability. I was fine with the quiet.

The fastball gone

Ten years ago, during the first softball game that spring, I was playing center field. Not having thrown a ball since the previous September, the expectation that I could kill someone with a fastball remained intact until I charged a ground ball, twisted my body to prepare for the throw and violently swung my shoulder over my head, as usual. My arm almost ripped. 

In the six months between throws, I had aged enough that the fastball dropped into the 50s. Still large, my shoulder muscles could no longer complement the still reliable body mechanics. Mostly reliable.

The physical present — testosterone waning

Muscle and testosterone go hand in hand. Along with the gift of a fastball, I was gifted with the double-edged sword that is testosterone. The natural steroid drives compulsive decisions. Stupidly. Humorously. Dastardly. It provided the strength I relentlessly pursued and that which gave me hope and warmth. Sex, too. Good sex. Bad sex. Fractured.

Now in my 50s, the friend who offered a weird shelter is slowly drifting away  and I couldn’t be happier. My shoulders are smaller. I throw like a man who has never thrown a baseball. My hair is graying. My mind is more clear than ever. 

Time to blow out the pilot light. Time to move forward with vulnerability. I will miss my friend occasionally but I am mostly glad he will be gone.


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?