When you live your life with an appreciation of coincidences and their meanings, you connect with the underlying field of infinite possibilities.
Is walking all day good for your health? That totally depends on how you walk of course. As any athlete can tell you, any mountain climber, marathon runner or long distance sailor the body condition is secondary to the way you think. When I decided to join thousands of Japanese in Honolulu for the 2005 marathon I knew that I needed a strong role model to pull me through the second half of the 42 odd kilometers. Anybody can run. Anybody can walk. But as the boxing legend of the silver screen Rocky said, you have to not just give good punches but stay standing as you keep taking them. Endurance is thus the magic word here. Not just anybody can continue walking, or running for long periods of time. As I passed and was passed by other pilgrims on the roads of Shikoku it was obvious that age had little to do with the art of continuing to walk. I met several men and women in their seventies on the road, some of whom had circumnavigated the island multiple times. In Honolulu I was astonished to see a vast majority of the huge Japanese contingent (the event is sponsored by Jal and Konami sports club) was at least my age at the time, 53. They finished the marathon too so it was not just a few kilometers for show and then off to do some shopping. The Japanese capacity for hanging in is simply stunning. But my role model was not a Japanese, since the people of this country have a DNA advantage over us white men. That is the advantage of eating very good food growing up here and then the even more important advantage of cultural indoctrination in ganbaru. I had learned many important lessons during that marathon from these die hard older men and women but the real key had been encapsulated in two words that were to help me in Shikoku a great deal. Relax and pace.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes has a rather famous cousin, two in fact who are both well known actors. Ralph Fiennes and his brother Joseph have distinguished themselves in many major motion pictures but it is not commonly known that their cousin has been described as the world's greatest explorer. Ranulph Fiennes has always been a quintessential explorer and has led expeditions up the White Nile on a hovercraft in 1969 and on Norway's Jostedalsbre Glacier in 1970. Perhaps his most famous trek was the Transglobe Expedition that he undertook from 1979 until 1982. Fiennes and Charles Burton journeyed around the world on its polar axis using surface transport only, covering 52,000 miles and becoming the first people to have visited both poles.In 1992 Fiennes lead an expedition that discovered the lost city of Ubar in Oman. The following year he joined with nutrition specialist Mike Stroud to become the first to cross Antarctica unaided. Their journey of 97 days is the longest in south Polar history.In 2000 he attempted to walk solo and unsupported to the north pole. The expedition failed when his sleds fell through weak ice and Fiennes was forced to pull them out by hand. He sustained severe frostbite to the tips of several fingers, forcing him to abandon the attempt. On returning home his surgeon insisted the necrotic fingertips be retained for several months (to allow regrowth of the remaining healthy tissue) prior to amputation. Impatient at the pain the dying fingertips caused, Fiennes removed them himself in his garden shed with an electric saw. This man definitely was a character!
Despite suffering from a heart attack and undergoing a double heart by-pass operation just four months previously, Fiennes joined up with Stroud again in 2003 to carry out the extraordinary feat of completing seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Their route was totally mind boggling and meant they ran every day despite jet lag and lack of proper rest:
26th October - Race 1: Patagonia, South America
27th October - Race 2: Falkland Islands, "Antarctica"
28th October - Race 3: Sydney, Australasia
29th October - Race 4: Singapore, Asia
31st October - Race 5: London, Europe
31st October - Race 6: Cairo, Africa
1st November - Race 7: New York, North America
Wow! Who is this guy? Or more to the point what allows his body to do that? I am willing to bet that you will not find the secret of his endurance in what he eats. If you are to find it at all look inside his head and inside his heart, the one that had a double bypass operation to repair the catastrophic damage it had received after the heart attack. No doctor in the world would dream of suggesting vigorous exercise to this man, already 59 at that point, when he decided that running seven marathons in a row all over the Earth would be a lark! The purpose was to raise money for charity and I am sure many of the sponsors might have been expecting a dramatic death to bring in even more money through publicity. So here was I, younger than him and with all my fingertips in place and a healthy heart about to do a mere one seventh of what he did and surrounded by ganbaru Japanese. What could be easier? I emblazoned his image in my mind throughout the marathon and comfortably finished in a little over six hours (much slower than his time) having relaxed my upper body the whole way and most importantly having run at my own pace. A quick calculation will tell you my average speed was about seven kilometers an hour. Knowing that such a man actually existed as Sir Ranulph was easily enough to keep me going and contrary to my expectations I did not need to fall into bed at the end but went shopping with my wife and sisters in Waikiki, then on to some night life shows. One image. One role model. One source of mental upliftment was all I needed. Health is a state of mind.
But Deepak has always known that. That is why I made the trip in 1992 from Victoria in Canada to Portand in Oregon specifically to interview him and to introduce his ideas to a wider Japanese public. I was after all a reporter of the new paradigm and part of that paradigm was the holistic health movement gaining attention in the West. As a trained acupuncturist who had apprenticed under a living master of the art, Dr. Shigeri Mii in Osaka, this was not just a theory to me. Day after day I had hands on experience with hundreds of patients whose complaints could practically fill a dictionary with their diversity. The hospitals could not put a name to many of their complaints and thus could not assign a specific drug, which is how allopathic medicine works. Complex sets of symptoms that wiser doctors now realise are mainly psychosomatic were all related to depression in one form or another. A pain in the lower back was compounded with headaches and an inability to digest well and by the way sleeping was arduous and hard to get in much quantity. But back in the early nineties it was not known that depression is the number one killer disease on this planet. It is the archetype which lurks beneath all the other symptoms and it is insidiously evil in its ability to cripple us in every way whilst never being discovered. A soul parasite that cannot be talked away with brain chemical explanations alone, this 'sick at heart' feeling is claiming more and more lives even as our medical technology gets more and more sophisticated. Doctors cannot fix it and that is the truth. What can then?
Deepak has some really good clues and so do the pilgrims in Shikoku, at Mount Kailash, at Qoylluriti, Amaranath in Kashmir, on the slopes of Mount Sinai and in hundreds of other pilgrimage routes around the world. Vigorous exercise carried out over long periods of a day has always been the fate of humans before we got mechanized. Warp back to the days before the industrial revolution and the average person in almost any country of the world moved all day long whether working in the fields or foraging for food. We are built to move and in an ironic twist of fate we may have extended our lifespans but I seriously doubt that the medical profession has increased our essential health. Though I was very happy that medical technology, advanced repair work really, sewed back the split achilles tendon twelve weeks before I had to climb a mountain in Peru, I see no evidence that the medical profession today is in any way wiser than the ancient Japanese and Chinese who knew how to put their kanji together. 病は気から・・
Deepak became a superstar, a reknowned author and now is honing in on the mechanisms that make us age and die in a comprehensive study of the human bodymind that may be one of the most sophisticated we have ever had at our disposal. And in our interview for AZ magazine the absolutely key concept that was to impact me was not food and exercise but how it is our memory that determines our health. Holding on to negative memories about sickness is the single most devastating way to ruin your health. Live and forget! Ignorance then will surely turn to bliss. By forgetting ourselves we are saved.