Overcoming Pain & Adversity

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By Frank Curreri

Overcoming Pain & Adversity With

I talk about things, like I have a chapter in a book that I’m writing which is my first book but like I call it my Mandala moment. Nelson Mandala moment. Nelson Mandala spent 27 years in prison. To create the king of kings, you wouldn’t think to put a man in prison for 27 years. Basically a convicted felon, and he’ll come out and be the king of kings. All the world leaders will want to pick this guy’s brain and have him over. You just wouldn’t think that that’s the way you produce that. But the fact is a lot of adversity is the best teacher, and pain and suffering really is a great teacher for the small percentage that can make it through, keep their sanity and come out the other side. It breaks a lot of people. But then you do produce a Mandala.

I didn’t realize that for a lot of my life, but now I look and I’m like if I had known that I would be so injured, emotionally, physically as a martial artist, and in life, if I had known, I would have been an orthopaedic surgeon. I’d have so much knowledge of the human body. I had at age 19 a bypass surgery. I have a scar that runs from here to here, a very thick scar, almost lost my right leg. I have a fraction of a normal person’s pulse in that leg. Everything I’ve done athletically in Jiu Jitsu competing against world champions, competing at the World Championships, competing at the Pan American games etc, everything I’ve done has been basically on one and a half legs. I have a fraction of a normal person’s pulse, I have a titanium plate in my neck, here C6, C7. A neck that was just on fire when I would work as a journalist, just sit at your desk for hours and hours and my neck was just on fire. So I had shoulders coming out of the socket, nose just broken, you know cuts here, fractured cheekbones, I’ll go on and on, an ankle, blood clots, so when you go through all that, it’s mental anguish, it’s fear, it’s a lot of things. You dance with pain, you dance with fear constantly. But the one thing I learnt is especially when I had my titanium plate in my neck I thought, first of all my neck is on fire. I’m not a guy who likes prescription drugs. I’m not a fan of any of that. I’m not a guy who’s gonna run to drink booze to decrease a bad day, to cope with a bad day. So I thought, man I’m like 32 years old, my neck is on fire, I really can’t even work for more than an hour at a time. What’s it gonna look like at 50, 55, 60? I’m not even gonna like that life. What I decided was, you know everyday I woke up and I was afraid of how my neck was gonna be on fire, and I thought, I’m just gonna stop paying attention to it. I’m just not gonna put my awareness on it. Yes, that pain is real. But some of that is psychosomatic so you expect pain and it won’t disappoint you. It will show up. You have to in some ways not pay attention to it. If you take somebody who’s really obese and you put him on a treadmill, they can run further a lot of times than they think they can, but they’re just thinking with each step how miserable it is. That’s why people wear headphones, so they can not pay attention to how miserable it is, they’re paying attention to the beat in their ear. It’s the awareness of “This sucks, this is horrible”, and if you had to run 5 miles to save someone you love, even if you weren’t a really fit person, that run would not nearly be as painful, because when you’re running, you’re thinking about getting there and helping them, or saving them or whatever. You’ll make it there, you’ll run that 5 miles, most people will, even people who are out of shape and who don’t think that they’re really up to running 5 miles, or even think they can run 5 miles. It’s just the perception of pain, versus if you just tell “We’re running 5 miles today.” There’s no great motivation, they’re just going to think with each step how miserable that is. And all that is is awareness. It’s where you choose to put your focus, I learnt that’s what a lot of pain is. Bruce Lee used to say “You’re as tired as you think you are.” If you’re in a middle of a fight, I learnt this as a martial artist cause you’re miserable, you get these 200 pound guys landing on you feeling like concrete, you can barely breathe.  But if you’re focussing on that and how tired you are, you’re halfway to broken, you’re three quarters to broken. You gotta be thinking “I’m getting out of here”. That’s where your focus has to be, that’s where your awareness got to be. Guess what? You’ll get out of a lot of bad spots with that mentality. You’ll do things you didn’t think you could do, cause you put your awareness there instead, and you’ll feel a hell lot less pain, over the long term, if you have something that’s chronic or ongoing, you’re gonna feel a hell of a lot less pain if you wake up and you’re not so aware of it and so afraid of it, over time you diminish it and you’ll be able to cope a lot better with pain. That’s what I found.

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