Saturday, September 5, 2009

168/246 -My Inner Lenny Mintz

Thursday Off --

In the day 241 meditation, Gates talks about how sometimes his best practices happen when he decides to take it easy. He explains that, ordinarily, he is ruled or guided by an inner coach. That coach is sort of an amalgam of his high school sports coaches and his army drillmasters. When he decides not to try so hard, sometimes an amazing thing happens and his practice simply opens up for him.

The coach from my past, the one who drives an inner voice that I would be much better off without, was a particularly nasty, bitter little man named Lenny Mintz. He first coached me in 9th grade football, and then again he coached varsity basketball.

For me, the keynote for the football season came when Mintz gave a long speech to the team praising one player for being the only one on the team who had never missed a practice. He basically was telling everyone how noble and dedicated that was, and what slackers and degenerates the rest of us were. Every day before practice, I went to the locker room, deciding whether I was going to go to practice or quit the team. And every day, I went to practice, without missing one. So after this speech, when I got a chance to be alone with him, I said to him: "You know, I never missed a practice either." He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I was talking about someone who made a difference to the team."

Later, coaching basketball, he would have us do sprints until a few people had to run into the lockers to puke. When they would come back out, wiping the puke off their chins and pretending to be ready to go, he'd make sure to tell the person how worthless they were, how they didn't deserve to be on the team and should probably just quit. He took some delight in running "offensive foul" drills, which were basically an excuse to let players knock each other to the floor.

A friend of mine, who was an excellent player who could have played top notch college ball, broke his arm before his senior season and missed all but the last two games. In one of those two games, largely because of my friend's amazing play on defense, we beat the number one team in the state that year. Mintz refused to give him any help in getting a college scholarship, because my friend "ruined his (Mintz') season" by breaking his arm and missing most of the season. Why should Mintz help my friend when my friend hadn't done anything for Mintz?

That was the main coach I had in Junior High and High School. And unfortunately, he's been a big part of my "inner coach" for years and years after that. Very often, when on an exercise program, I can hear those encouraging words: "You suck. You're worthless. You don't deserve to be here. I don't even know why you even try. Why don't you just quit, already."

And yes, I have known for years and years that he was just a petty little man, not worth my attention. In fact, I didn't even go out for basketball in my senior year after having played varsity in my junior year, precisely because I no longer wanted to have anything to do with him. But even with that knowledge, he managed to worm his way into my mind.

One of the things I love about yoga, and Bikram in particular, is that this my inner Lenny Mintz almost never says a word while practicing. That's one of things I love about the dialogue. Listening to it makes it a bit more difficult to carry on an extensive inner monologue. It shuts Mr. Mintz up.

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