In India, there is an elephant-head god named Ganesh. He's a beloved deity, much celebrated as the “remover of obstacles" in the Hindu faith. Every Hindu taxi driver has a little dashboard altar dedicated to Ganesh, and if ever there was an occupation in need of such extra insurance, it must surely be Indian cabbies!
I was reminded of Ganesh-and obstacles in general-while watching the movie “Murderball" recently. Though the title suggests a special-effects bacchanal of mindlessness, the film is a poignant, funny and supremely uplifting story of a group of quadriplegics and their quest for the championship trophy in murderball, also known as quad rugby.
It's produced by an MTV-related company, and the edgy music, grainy clips, and “Real World" dialogue are familiar to younger audiences. What's remarkable is the bracingly honest look at the unmentionable parts of life as a quad-hooking up, having sex, and finding a passion that is bigger than the wheelchair.
Some misconceptions are clarified. For example, a quadriplegic isn't necessarily a numb-from-the-neck-down wheelchair dweller. A quad has limited use-and this can vary widely-in all four limbs. The murderball team is comprised of young men with a range of physical challenges. Some are missing a muscle while others might be missing an entire limb-or several.
To level the playing field, each player is assigned a certain number of points corresponding to their limb usage, and each team can have a total of only so many points on the field at a time. This seemingly crass but supremely fair point system characterizes the general approach to the game-dude, we understand you're “not all there" but let's maximize the parts that are.
What resonates with viewers is the utter normalcy of their lives. They want what everyone wants: good friends who aren't afraid to tease them, a chance to fall in love and find intimacy, and an opportunity to overcome their obstacles, both physical and mental.
Lance Armstrong didn't loll about in his hospital bed bemoaning his missed Tour de France opportunities-he focused on surviving cancer. He did the hard work of recovering his strength, and he overcame a gigantic mental obstacle-the idea that a cancer survivor could never complete (let alone win) a Tour de France race.
The murderball team members have all overcome the same set of obstacles. They survived their traumatic injuries or illnesses and their dismal prognoses. They trained hard and transformed themselves physically and mentally.
They compete in a raucous, alarmingly brutal game in which the primary technique is to slam into your wheelchair opponent, sending him sprawling onto the gym floor. They don't wear helmets. After all, they figure, what's going to happen-they might become paralyzed?
These guys are in it for the joy of blasting through their barriers and finding a sense of camaraderie among those who are doing the same.
Murderball players never wait for a door to be opened for them-they remove their own obstacles, whether mental or physical. They've become extremely mindful of the differences between real limitations and those that we place on ourselves.
We can learn a lot from their passion and fearlessness.
Maya Talisman Frost has taught thousands of people how to pay attention, and her eyes-wide-open approach to mindfulness has been featured in over 100 print and web publications around the world. Through her company, Real-World Mindfulness Training, she offers ebooks, ecourses, playshops and private sessions to help people learn how to play with mindfulness. To watch her awared-winning one-minute movie, “The Wow of Wonder, " visit her website at http://www.Real-WorldMindfulness.com/movie.htm