Monday, June 25, 2012

Diane Van Deren: Stay in the moment

There is a theme that I see with all awesome people.  All awesome people stay in the moment.  They live in each moment continuously pursuing their goal.  What makes us go wow when we look at these people is not only at their achievement, but also their tireless persistence to get better at what they do.

Diane Van Deren is one such inspiration.  She is one of the world's greatest ultramarathon runners.  She ran and won many 100 mile races that last over 24 hours, and even 300-mile race where she had to run several days with 1hr sleep in between.

Diane Van Deren in her most peaceful environment
where she can lose herself in the rhythm of her own feet.

What's even more amazing is that she was able to accomplish all these after her lobectomy.  She literally underwent surgery to remove kiwi-sized tissues from temporal lobe to cure her epilepsy.  Surgery left her with short term memory loss and lost sense of time and place.  She was not deterred by her loss.  Instead she recounts her first race after surgery as celebration of her life.

Here's Radiolab's short segment about Diane Van Deren's story:

What's interesting is how Diane responded to interviewer's question about how surgery affected her.  She said that losing the sense of time place was definite disadvantage.  She recounts using ribbons to compensate for having lost the sense of direction.  But what she said next is quite interesting.

One advantage [of surgery] would be time.  I can really get lost in time.  Basic awareness of time is lost.  I kind of forget how long I've been out there.  Stay in the moment.  I get a rhythm in my mind [of my shuffling feet and breathing sounds].  That's all I have to hear.  That's my music.  Nothing else in my mind.  That's the flow.

She's talking about how to be in each moment.  Not be weighed down by how long she has been running, not concerned with distance remaining, she just takes each step along with her breath in the present moment. That's all there is to it.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Maybe this gift of getting lost in time is in fact the greatest gift that she has.  Doing something in the moment for the pure enjoyment of doing it.  That's the secret to becoming really awesome.

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