Ra – Shell’s Thoughts on “Hell-Bent” by Benjamin Lorr

mona book 2A couple hundred pages into Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr, a friend is telling the author that he’s not sure when he realized, “You are surrounded by people who are in silent compliance, acting like everything is okay, when the situation is totally out of control”. He is alluding to his Guru’s behavior towards women, a behavior that includes a different kind of harassment and sexual abuse. I have to admit that I have been waiting for this moment since I started the book. I don’t know much about Yoga in general, but I had heard Bikram’s name before and I knew about a couple of lawsuits that have been intended against him by a number of women. As a consequence over time he would mention Bikram, I would get a little upset. Why was he talking about that men without mentioning all his ugliness? It seemed like nothing else mattered. The book wasn’t about Bikram himself, I knew that, and at the same time I had trouble focusing on anything else. Once I realize that the author had chosen to respect a form of chronology in his book, mentioning those behaviors later because he himself learned about it later in his journey, I felt slightly better.

Now about everything else in Benjamin Lorr’s book. I think I have had a glimpse of what the author describes when he talks about people experiencing some form of transcendance through physical pain. Only a glimpse though, a tiny tiny sparks. The first time I climbed a really high wall in an indoor climbing facility I reached a really unpleasant moment in the middle of that wall where I felt that I was done, that I couldn’t go higher and that I physically couldn’t push on my legs or on my arms to reach whatever I needed to reach to keep climbing. And then I was going again, propelling  myself further up. I remember the feeling of exhilaration that followed it was really strong, a blast of adrenaline. But I also remember the physical exhaustion that I was feeling a second before and that shift from one extreme feeling to another was completely unusual. I think I was understanding that the wonderful way I had felt only happened because of the extremely unpleasant situation that preceded it.

I never pursued that kind of experience as a way of life. But I’ve witnessed it around me and it’s fascinating. Mostly because I don’t have that relationship to effort and pain through a discipline. My friend Daniel does. He wants to run around the world and he trains endlessly for that. He documents all of his training expeditions through photos, comments, and videos. you can know where he is and where he’s going at all time. Recently he was in Sweden. He mentions painful cold, freezing water and wind pain and tiredness and other joyful physical experiences in a very matter of fact way. He mentions them, alludes to their unpleasantness but he doesn’t complain about them – he needs to run from point A to point B and you can’t do it in a comfortable way, that’s just impossible. I’m still trying to understand what drives him in his constant effort. Did I say he’s running to raise awareness on violence against women?

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