Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Weight and Lifting

After the 7,000 pound lift, Guru began lifting people up, literally.

A disciple named Unmilan fit Guru's sitting calf raise machine with a platform so that people -- like professional wrestler "Hillbilly" Jim Morris, me, and the young daughter of a disciple -- could stand on it and be lifted.

Unmilan also fit Guru's one-arm press rack with a similar platform. Over the remaining years of his life, Guru would use this simple contraption to lift hundreds of dignitaries -- from Nobel laureates to heads of state.

Guru didn't just lift dignitaries, though. He also lifted disciples. It was around the summer of 1987, shortly after I had returned from my two weeks on the Peace Run, that Guru made an unusual request: he wanted all disciples to be weighed on a certain day.

I don't remember, now, exactly what Guru originally had in mind, but it was tied into his lifting in some way. In any event, he wanted all of the local disciples to get weighed on a certain day. Then, we'd all have about a week before we'd weigh in again. In the interim, he wanted us all to lose weight.

I didn't take it seriously. As was my practice at the time, if I detected that Guru was making general comments to the disciples that didn't apply to me, then I would generally ignore such comments. In this case, I was as fit as a fiddle and as light as I had ever been. On average, I was running seven or eight miles a day. I didn't need to lose weight.

Nevertheless, I weighed in like everyone else, deciding to step on the scale first thing in the morning on weigh-in day (we could show up any time that day to be weighed, as I recall). I didn't do anything different the following week and wasn't concerned at all at the end of the week when I stepped on the scale again. This time, though, I weighed in after dinner. The result: I had "gained" four or five pounds.

I use the scare quotes around the word "gained" because I hadn't really gained any weight. I had learned long ago, during my high school wrestling career, the vagaries of daily weight fluctuations and also how to manipulate my weight on short notice (as anyone who participates in a sport with weight classes does). The fact was, I had weighed in light (first thing in the morning) and weighed out heavy (after dinner in the evening).

That didn't seem to matter. Before that night's function, one of my friends started giving me shit for having gained weight. I was a little agitated by this, but still didn't think much of it until Guru arrived at Progress-Promise and the function started. He wasn't happy either -- not just because of me specifically, but with the disciples as a whole, who hadn't lost enough weight. It must be said, however, that Guru looked at me directly a number of times and made it clear to me that he was disappointed.

Guru then announced that there'd be a do-over, and this time he expected more of an effort. The following day, we were all to weigh in again. So, despite my increasing agitation, I put my old wrestling know-how to use and decided to weigh in heavy after dinner the next night. Then, for the next week, I went about my business as usual -- no dieting. As luck would have it, there was a half-marathon scheduled for the following Sunday, the day we were to weigh out.

I ran my best half-marathon ever that morning (1 hour, 21 minutes), went home and showered, and then went to Progress-Promise to get on the scale before eating breakfast. Lavanya was the official scale operator. I stepped up. The result: I had "lost" 11 pounds. I then headed straight for Lucille's for a huge breakfast -- happy I had gamed the system.

That was just it, however. It was a game. I've already written about how earlier that year, Guru had warned me -- unfairly I thought -- about getting too friendly with Jayanti. While I was unaware of it at the time, that experience had put a small crack into my Center-oriented personality.

The weight loss experience made that crack even larger.

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