Hadn’t I just posted that you don’t have a bad back from deadlifting, you have a bad back from not deadlifting? Now here I was, supine, moaning, and calling off of my shift because it was all I could do to roll over without tears streaming down my face.


By Ty H. Phillips

I have a strong back.

In fact, I have always prided myself in my back strength, so when I was hurt last week doing what I always do, I was a little frustrated. Now, before I go on, allow me to quantify that statement. I do have a strong back. I am no Eddy Hall (world record deadlifter with an 1100lb pull) but for a 40 year old guy who only weighs 243lbs, I am very near the 700lb mark once again. So, better than average but far from the top.

That being said, injuries happen.

It was a long week. I had worked almost double the hours we usually work and in my trade, industrial plumbing, that is saying something. The work is exceedingly physical, dirty, and by the end of the day it’s all I can do to shower, let alone train; yet working with the barbell is where I found myself. The pulls were coming up easy, fast and my body que’s were on point. 400, 500 and 600 all came up fast and easy. I knew I had one more good pull in me before my energy was totally sapped, so I loaded the bar to 660lbs and grabbed it. It came up fast, the lock out was strong and on the way down, I felt a small twinge.

I chalked it up to fatigue.

That evening as I was prepping to go to my second job (bouncer at a local bar) I was doing a load of laundry and as I stood up with a dropped sock, it was all over (but the crying). I was down for the count and in an immense amount of pain. Hadn’t I just posted that you don’t have a bad back from deadlifting, you have a bad back from not deadlifting? Now here I was, supine, moaning, and calling off of my shift because it was all I could do to roll over without tears streaming down my face.

The truth is, I don’t have a bad back. I had an overworked and overstrained back from doing too much. Ego had gotten the best of me and I was chasing a number instead of listening to how tired my body was.

Strength training is very much like the path of Buddhism. It is forthright, simple and yet we can easily find ourselves askew and off kilter. It feels okay so it must be okay, right? Wrong. More often than not, we use this line of thinking in order to justify a desire. Weapons, violence, war, political ends, dietary intake, relationships or what have you. It feels good and I am still practicing the path so it must be okay.

The truth is, it’s not. This is attachment guiding us, not wisdom.

Attachment is the root of suffering. Now I hear everyone drawing breath, “What kind of horse crap is that?” “Are you asking me to be cold and emotionless?” Actually no, I’m not. Non attachment doesn’t mean anything of the sort. In fact, it is the opposite. Non attachment is life affirming and expresses a sense of wholeness that we do not possess while directed by attachment (addiction).

The end result is pain.

I was attached to my numbers last week. The pulls already came up easy. The joy of the lift was there but my attachment wasn’t done. The end result—I was hurt.

Quite often our attachment directs our practice not the other way around. What we want is somehow reflected in what we feel the Buddha actually taught and said. Ironic isn’t it? I hear endlessly that the Buddha was a capitalist, and practicing harder  smacks of christianity, or other nonsense that justifies the practitioners ideology and not the path. I do this as  well and that’s my point—attachment.

It would behoove us to take a serious look at our end game. What is it we are actually doing? Does it ring of political ends? Ideological ends? Sexual or otherwise just self serving ends? I am not saying these things in themselves are harmful or even wrong, but there is a difference in the path and our personal attachment to ideology.

We all have desires. This is animal nature. We all have things that we need to have and experience in order to survive and thrive as a human being but much like my desire to get stronger, fitter, healthier drives me, it was not entrenched in wisdom last week.

So, a week later, I found myself doing rehab work and rehab weights (50% and under) and here’s the kicker. I was happy. One reason was that I was upright and pain free, but during the process of training, I found myself concentrating on the movement again, the experience and zenlike quality of deep union with the moment and remembered.

That although the end-game may be enlightenment (or a 700lb plus deadlift again) it means nothing if we are not present and wise during the moments that get us there.


Photo: (source)

Editor: Dana Gornall



Ty Phillips

Co-Founder & Columnist at The Tattooed Buddha
Ty Phillips is the co-founder and director of The Tattooed Buddha. He is a father, writer, photographer and nature-lover. A lineage in the Celtic Buddhism tradition, he makes attempts to unite Anglican and Buddhist teachings in a way unique and useful to those around him. Ty has contributed to The Good Men Project, Rebelle, BeliefNet, Patheos and The Petoskey News. He is a long term Buddhist and a father to three amazing girls and a tiny dog named Fuzz. You can see his writing at The Good Men Project, BeliefNet, Rebelle Society.