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Every kid has a dream. Some want to be fighter pilots. Others want to be firefighters. A few among both sexes just want to be fighters. And hardly anybody does it better than Ronda Rousey. Did, before she got whupped. I am more of a lover than a fighter. So I dreamed of Ms. Right. I haven't found her and may never. I also dreamed of perfection, which ironically is a more realistic goal than romantic fulfillment since being perfect depends on nobody but yourself.

First it was physical perfection that I sought. I wanted strength. I grew up idolizing the Incredible Hulk as played by former Mr. Universe Lou Ferrigno. He-Man was my favorite cartoon. Fittingly the super-hero's name was Adam. When my parents took us to see Rocky III at the age of 9 I fell in love with Sly Stallone's physique, which was only topped in Rocky IV by Dolph Lundgren's. 

I had real life heroes too. The Loyola High School senior wide receiver Jimmy Klein was so ripped that when I watched him play intramural Ultimate Frisbee every muscle quivered and glistened in the sunlight. "I want that," I said to myself, then a sophomore. And so around 16 I began lifting weights. With compound movements like bench press and military performed at Gold's Gym, Venice, I developed slick slabs of muscle, which I fed with protein shakes and frequent small meals high in quality protein. Playing high school soccer assured that cardio was also a fixture in my workouts. Endurance training is great to keep the skin thin and achieve that really lean, shredded look. As the greats say, you want to be "ripped," or "cut." My strength peaked at the age of 19 when I benched 275 lbs twice. I couldn't get any stronger without gaining weight, and carrying 185 lbs on a 5'10'' frame made me look really muscle bound. So I started running more, lost some weight and actually achieved a more aesthetically appealing look, more proportional. Not many bodybuilders who can bench almost 300 lbs also run marathons in under 3 hours. I didn't do these feats at the same time but still I patted myself on the back and moved on. And did I mention that in high school I was voted best body? So, done and done. 

Body, mind and soul is total development. So next I turned my attention to my mind. I had already been an honor student in high school and earned high marks in philosophy electives as a UCLA undergrad. But I wanted to be top of my class in a graduate program, so I enrolled in medical school. While my roommate was island hopping to scuba dive, I read Robbins' Pathologic Basis of Disease, all 1,200 pages, as closely as a born again Christian reads the Bible. I earned straight As in the medical school basic science program and gave the commencement speech. Next I focused on my soul, however odd this may sound. 

Something strange happened when I did, however. See, the soul is already perfect. It is timeless, ageless and spaceless. It is truly infinite and immortal. All you have to do is strip away the imperfections, thoughts and worries and attachments that the mind superimposes on the spirit and simply be what you truly are. And here too much physical and mental development can actually be a hindrance on the spiritual road. Identification with a muscular body causes you to mistake yourself for the flesh-and-blood vehicle you happen to inhabit to get through life. This is as ludicrous as someone who thinks he is the car he drives, however fancy it may be. It's hard to remain fixed in inner joy when you are constantly thinking about your next meal, and eggs produce flatulence so fetid as to distract even the staunchest spiritual adept. So I went vegan. And a mind that is overly analytical cannot escape a world of thought. It is trapped in a fictional realm of worry and anxiety and problem solving, which renders the thinking man incapable of simple being, of enjoying the bliss of pure existence. So I had to detach from my pristine physique and distance myself from my analytical mind and become as a child in nature.  

This is Self-realization in two senses of the term. To realize means to make manifest. To realize your dreams (of becoming realized), for instance. So you are clearing away all that is not spirit to let shine what you truly are. Realize means also understand at a deeper level. As in "I realize that you love me." Thank you for loving me. I love you too. So Self-realization means gaining a greater understanding of the immortal spirit that you are. And while we're on the subject of who you are, it is not the lower self, the body/mind complex that you are realizing but the pure consciousness that in the East is called the Self.

This I have come to find is the hardest part of being perfect, and the longest to achieve. How to be what you already are in a society that tells you to do do do? But I am learning. Or unlearning. And these words help me understand what I am not. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you. May they be among my last.


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