So, yesterday my brother-in-law put on a smile and went for a swim.
I’m told the waves were pretty big. Dark and heavy clouds reflected from across the sky chopping the water all up in grey. As for my brother-in-law, well, he’s not really much of a swimmer. So he’s been cutting local pool laps for about a year just for this swim and travelled nearly 3000km to get to this warm grey beach. Meaning that despite the menacing backdrop, he pulled a cap on his head, took a deep breath and dove with his smile into the rolling sea.
After he swam for a bit, 3.8k to be exact, he got on his bike. He rode along a scenic beach road, which apparently I’m told is a nice drive. It was humid and raining as he pedaled his smile from Cairns to Port Douglas. Once there, he came to a witch’s hat only to turn around and pedal back again. It took him 6 hours and a puncture to ride the distance twice in wet lycra. The only constant in the grey headwind being himself, his breath and his smile.
When he finished his ride, 180k to be exact, my brother-in-law went for a run. There was much cheering and clapping as he high fived his crew while taking his smile back to the open road. Fuelled by his steady diet of chewable caffeine and cherry tomatoes, he continued to put one foot in front of the other as the stars put away the daylight. It was pitch black when he finished his run, a marathon to be exact. They gave him a medal that said “Ironman”. It had butterflies on it and he put it around his neck. Then he stood there, for just a moment – spent with everything he had:
His body a little bit broken,
His breath a little bit caught,
His smile spread wide across his face..
Think uijayi breath, savasana and metta mediation.
Our bodies are capable of some amazing things. From climbing the mountains of Everest you have trained a year for; to climbing the stairs of your own home after a stroke. We all have the capacity to do great things and to do powerful things.
Especially when you give the accolades of your effort away.
When our bodies are subjected to stress, our brain organises for the release of adrenaline. This hormone is released from our adrenal glands and prepares the body for it’s “fight or flight” response. It increases our heart rate, diverts our blood towards major movement muscle groups and opens our lungs so we can take the biggest breaths we can. In doing so, our bodies can either move forwards and take the stress on, or run away from it as fast as we can.
But when our bodies are subjected to stress and we do so for someone or something else – be that your diagnosed son, your doctor who saved your life or the unseen and unheard people in our community – our brain releases two hormones in response to the bodies subjected stress. This powerfully intelligent hormonal cocktail is made up of adrenaline AND dopamine.
Dopamine is our “feel good” hormone. It stimulates the pleasure centres in our brain. This makes us experience feelings of bliss and euphoria while we have more energy to remain more focussed. With dopamine on board, our brain actually entices us to fall in love with that which we are doing by thinking of the person or the cause we are fighting for. It spurs us on to go harder when it hurts and to keep going when we want to stop. It makes us fall in love with a magical physical expression for the moment despite our own pain and our own hardship.
We achieve our goals by helping the needs of another.
We fulfil our dreams by wishing for the dreams of those beyond ourself.
We open to hope as we bring awareness to the unseen and the unheard.
My brother-in-law completed an ironman yesterday. He trained for a year every dawn to compete and raise awareness for his son. For my nephew – who before he was even born – was diagnosed with Barth’s syndrome. Meaning for my brother-in-law, every time the sea hit him, he thought of the drugs his lad takes every day to survive. And every time his tyres slipped in the rain he thought of the monitors across his son’s tiny chest. And every time his legs felt like jelly on a hill he thought of the exercises his son must do to make is little legs walk strong. In fact, overtime when my brother-in-law wondered why the fuck he was doing anything at all –
he thought of his son with a smile and just kept going.
We all have the power to be heroes. We all have the potential to do amazing things. And our bodies are primed chemically to be more responsive to experiencing love in each moment when we offer the accolades of our achievements away. We are hard wired to perform better at whatever we do when we do it from a place of love. With an intention which is selfless. With an awareness that with action, we serve. Whether your an ironman for a day or a man who just does his own ironing – when you increase the awareness of something unfair and you do so from your deepest heart,
it is your love that will keep you going.
My brother-in-law is still wearing his medal today. Probably because he can’t actually lift his arms up to get it off and over his head. This mornings’ breakfast may in fact be possibly the best meal of his life. Because I know my 5 year old nephew will sit beside him, making jokes about the limping waddle his dad now has after a day of smiling through an ironman race. Then they’ll all go to the beach together.
A little barth boy wearing his dad’s smile.
And my brother-in-law wearing his undies on the outside.
(If you wish to donate to further research for Barth’s syndrome, check: