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Exploring the Human Heart

--by Lance Armstrong (Jan 24, 2006)


I thought I knew what fear was, until I heard the words 'You have cancer'. Real fear came with an unmistakable sensation: it was as though all my blood started flowing in the wrong direction. My previous fears, fear of not being liked, fear of being laughed at, fear of losing my money, suddenly seemed like small cowardices. Everything now stacked up differently: the anxieties of life -- a flat tire, losing my career, a traffic jam -- were reprioritized into need versus want, real problem as opposed to minor scare. A bumpy plane ride was just a bumpy plane ride, it wasn't cancer.

One definition of "human" is as follows: 'characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines, especially susceptible to weakness, and therefore showing the qualities of man.' Athletes don't tend to think of themselves in these terms; they're too busy cultivating the aura of invincibility to admit to being fearful, weak, defenseless, vulnerable, or fallible, and for that reason neither are they especially kind, considerate, merciful, benign, lenient, or forgiving, to themselves or to anyone else around them. But as I sat in my house alone that first night, it was humbling to be so scared. More than that, it was humanizing. [...]

Epilogue: Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually, it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with? Facing up to that question, and finding a way to go on, is the real reward, better than any trophy.

By now you've figured out that I'm into pain. Why? Because it's self-revelatory, that's why. There is a point in every race when a rider encounters his real opponent and understands that it's himself. In my most painful moments on the bike, I am at my most curious, and I wonder each and every time how I will respond. Will I discover my innermost weakness, or will I seek out my innermost strength? It's an open ended question whether or not I will be able to finish the race. You might say pain is my chosen way of exploring the human heart.

I don't always win. Sometimes just finishing is the best I can do. But with each race, I feel that I further define my capacity for living. That's why I ride, and why I try to ride hard, even when I don't have to.

--Lance Armstrong
Seven Time Tour-de-France champion, cancer survivor


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5 Previous Reflections:

 
On Oct 2, 2008 Frank wrote:
Pain: There is a Yoga pain place in our being, that Lance has a good perspective on. It is that strength one gets when one loses consciousness of not just the pain but even the body. Its almost being beside oneself or outside oneself and the pain is an extraneous force. In an experiment in this philosophy, one day we exercised for 20 minutes and concentrated on the pain, then a week later, doing the same exercise, but this time concentrating on being aware of our entire body and the pain as just a part of it. The difference...first time 25 minutes was my limit. The second time, 60 minutes and still going.

On Oct 1, 2008 Ntevheleni Robert wrote:
I am really inpired by all this messages that I have read. It is indeed inspiring. I have learnt that irrespective of whatever the problems that i may be facing, there is hope as long as long as i am not concentrating on the negative part of it but to the positive side.

On Sep 30, 2008 Ganoba Date wrote:
The rewards that come from out there, be it others or the future, are whimsical. They are subjective and hence short lived. They are also relative, hence if the reference point is changed, there value is drastically altered.
it is thus always advisable to let the core of our being the ultimate guide. Then winning-losing, starting-finishing, name-fame and all such dualities appear jaded.
then we can truly live gloriously.
People come to realise this truth through some personal tragedy that reminds them of their vulnerability. for Armstrong it was cancer, for others it may be something else.
In giving so much importance to the message (cancer in this case), we are missing the originator of the message. the creator of the universe, the source of all power and wisdom.

On Sep 30, 2008 Apollo Mukhwana wrote:
What Armstrong says is true... What matter's is to finish and not the medals. You see in life we meet alot of obstacles but that doesn't mean we are not going to get to where we are going.

So giving up is not the solution to our problems. We need to accept the truth about our situations but that shouldn't be the yard stick for our happiness..

We need not to focus on the negatives of our situations if we are to live the next minute happy... When need to have hope by searching for solutions that will bring joy to us...

By the way I have also realised that if we do good for others in situations like ours or worse than ours is a great source of joy...

Remember you're not the only person suffering with that... someone else is actually worse off than you...

Cheerer up today because your joy is coming...

On Sep 30, 2008 Greg wrote:

Never ever bet against this guy. With nothing left to prove, he continues to prove to the world that the heart and the mind working together can overcome any adversity. His most telling (and inspiational comment) to me is when he explains he doesn't always win..just finishing is the best he can do that day. He inspires people to finish..to keep going..to not let up..to push and conquer whatever fear lies in their hearts and souls. I gave up on sports figures being heroes years ago when so many fell short through being human and showing what they truly were underneath the public image. I hold Lance Armstrong in a special place because he breaks the mold of the typical athlete and goes to a higher level. He is still human but through his interests and endeavors beyond cycling he is making a huge difference in the world and in the lives of people he doesn't even know. He relieves other's suffering by his work and dedication to Livestrong. When he is on his bike, that image is what people  See full.

Never ever bet against this guy. With nothing left to prove, he continues to prove to the world that the heart and the mind working together can overcome any adversity. His most telling (and inspiational comment) to me is when he explains he doesn't always win..just finishing is the best he can do that day. He inspires people to finish..to keep going..to not let up..to push and conquer whatever fear lies in their hearts and souls. I gave up on sports figures being heroes years ago when so many fell short through being human and showing what they truly were underneath the public image. I hold Lance Armstrong in a special place because he breaks the mold of the typical athlete and goes to a higher level. He is still human but through his interests and endeavors beyond cycling he is making a huge difference in the world and in the lives of people he doesn't even know. He relieves other's suffering by his work and dedication to Livestrong. When he is on his bike, that image is what people can see to make them want to do their best just to finish. Winning isn't about first place, a trophy, a medal as he says. Winning is finishing, of keeping hope alive in the darkest of moments, of doing something to relieve another's burden or helping someone who suffers more than you. When I overcome adversity, when I "finish", when I help others, I say very quietly to myself "Today, I was Lance."

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