I enjoy the discipline. Like the Marine grunt, I enjoy suffering. The stricter the diet, the harder the workout, the longer the day, the more comfort I deny myself, the more pain and discomfort I feel, the happier I am. When I suffer I know I am living at the outer edge of my abilities, my talents, my will. How often do we feel that exquisite sharpness? The sharp edge of who we are and who we will become? How often do we avoid the reckoning? Getting used to loving the pain and discomfort is one of the most significant mindsets we can achieve. We know the good life is not easily lived. We know this in our bones. But how many have the strength and will and endurance to see that life through to its logical end? To know peace whether in pain or in pleasure? To understand that nothing befits us more than suffering, and in accepting it, transmute it to ecstatic joy.
Studies have shown that if we maintain an exercise and diet regime for at least six months the success rate for maintaining a life-long healthy lifestyle goes up dramatically. But how many do this? Why do they not see it through? Why do people quit after only a few days, a few weeks, a few months? Partly it’s because their mindsets aren’t calibrated to the life they are attempting to live. They throw their bodies into a program without ever preparing their mind. And it is in the mind that the war is fought. As Telamon of Arcadia wrote in the 5th Century B.C.E, “It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.” We study too much and do too little. We read countless fitness magazines with countless exercise routines and rarely put any of them into practice.
Make no mistake about it: you are in a war. The war is our training. The war is our art. The war is our dreams. The war is our state of mind. The war is our spiritual practices. The war is our relationships. And you shouldn’t wish for anything less than war. War is right. War is noble. War is what we’re here for. And we should feel nothing less than humility and joy to be fighting and suffering and striving. What higher joy is there? What else is worth our time? If you find yourself against incalculable odds, completely outnumbered, your back against the wall, thank your lucky stars. It’s in this place warriors are born. Superheroes are made. This is where we discover who we truly are. No warrior ever found himself in times of peace. No one ever evolved in paradise. Peace dulls our wits and as well as our swords. Our paradise is war. It’s only on the battlefield in that crucible of fire and suffering that we recognize our best selves, that we discover who we really are. Steven Pressfield writes in Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae, “The Spartans say that any army may win while it still has its legs under it; the real test comes when all strength is fled and the men must produce victory on will alone.” This is the kind of war we want and the kind of war we need. We have to be taken the very brink of death, not always a physical one, but the more meaningful one, to the death of our old selves. And learning to love suffering is how we get there.