Letting Go

Dominick Cruz

For those who don’t know this about me, I must admit that I am a huge fan of mixed martial arts (MMA), and particularly the UFC. I know that for some this seems controversial because of the violent nature of the sport. For the sake of avoiding an argument and distracting from the intent of this article, let me just say that I believe that two consenting adults should be allowed to engage in a contact sport, and that although, yes there is no doubt that it is brutal and violent, they are willingly participating. Having said that, in my opinion there is not any other sport like it, the physical and psychological demands of the sport are extreme with absolutely no room for error. It is the purest form of competition out there, one that requires an athlete to absolutely live in the “now”.

Because I’m a fan of MMA, I’m also a fan of the Joe Rogan Experience,  which is one of the most listened to podcasts around. On the latest episode, his guest was Dominick Cruz, the former bantamweight champion. His story is quite inspirational and made me reflect on many things I’ve learned over the years as a holistic healer.

While at the top of his career back in 2011, at the age of 26, he tore his ACL  and MCL (two ligaments in the knee) while in training for an upcoming title defense against Urijah Faber. These types of injuries are devastating for any athlete and the recovery takes a minimum of 9 months. He had to undergo a second surgery in December of 2012 because his body rejected the ligament that was obtained from cadaver tissue, resulting in another tear. After a long rehabilitative process and 2 year hiatus from the sport he had an opportunity to return in February of 2014, only to suffer from a tear in a muscle within his groin, causing him to have to withdraw from the bout. He finally returned in September of 2014, defeating Takaya Mizugaki. This win put him on track for another shot at the championship against T.J. Dillashaw, but in December of 2014, he tore his ACL for the third time, keeping him sidelined for all of 2015. Many people at this point would have called it quits, but Cruz learned a lot about himself through all of these injuries, allowing him to heal at a deeper level and grow as a person. Finally, in January of 2016, Cruz faced T.J. Dillashaw and reclaimed his championship belt.

What did Cruz learn throughout all of this that allowed him to persevere and get his career back on track? In his interview with Joe Rogan, he really opened up on what he learned about healing at a deeper level. What he disclosed was that he had to learn how to detach from identifying his self as a fighter. You see, when he was a young champion he was on top of the world. At age 26 he had risen to the top of his sport and enjoyed all of the money and accolades that go along with being a champion in your given sport. When he injured his knee the first time, he tried to push forward and fight through the injury and subsequent surgery, thinking he could power forward and get right back into the action. When his body rejected the cadaver ligament, requiring the second surgery, his world imploded and her spiraled into a severe state of depression. He had completely defined himself as a fighter, and without it he didn’t know who he was. He realized, during this period of time that he couldn’t train or fight, that he had turned off or ignored the emotional, spiritual and mental part of himself by being completely obsessed with being strictly in the physical body. The depression forced him to ask tough questions of himself, causing him to seek professional help for his depression. When he discovered who he really was and got in touch with the emotional, spiritual and mental part of himself he learned that he was a complete person, even if he wasn’t an MMA fighter. In the podcast interview he said, “Now I can fight with a peace of mind knowing how good I am without fighting and how great I am with it too…me attacking those challenges, coming back and winning and getting my belt back, that could only happen because I let go of control of the things I couldn’t control. Once he accepted himself and learned to love himself for who he “really” was, he was able to let go of the need to be a fighter and the true healing really began.

To truly heal ourselves we must learn what it means to be physically healthy, and spiritually healthy. Dominic Cruz is an elite athlete, he knew how to stay on a specific diet for optimal nutrition and he knew how to train his body physically for peak performance. But, what he didn’t know how to do at the time, was heal himself spiritually. In order to do so, he had to detach himself from the outcome of his MMA career and not define himself only as a fighter. You don’t need to be an athlete to learn from this, many of us identify ourselves through our work and careers. Once in a while things happen, business fail and careers end. For many, this loss is to great to deal with because they don’t really know who they are outside of their careers.

The lesson to be learned is, our careers don’t define us, our possessions don’t define us, even our relationships don’t define us. The only thing that defines us, is ourselves.  If we can learn to detach from this idea of how we identify ourselves and the value we attach to that identity, then we can get in touch with who we are at our deepest core, our true self. A book written by Eckhart Tolle called “A New Beginning” illustrates techniques to living this way, it’s a wonderful book and I highly recommend it. Living in the moment is challenging, but if it can be achieved, even for moments, it is the true way to living a spiritual life.

Take time to check out the podcast of Dominick on the Joe Rogan Experience and to read Eckhart Tolle’s book. I think you will gain insight that will benefit you in your own life. Remember, true health is a balance between our physical bodies, our chemical intake (diet), and our thoughts and/or spirituality. All three must be cultivated and maintained on a regular basis for true health to be present. Don’t worry about things beyond your control, what is meant to happen will happen. Accept the present moment, even if it may appear to be a negative experience. It is within these perceived negative experiences where we can learn the greatest lessons about ourselves. Lessons that help us grow, learn and evolve as human beings.

About the Author Dr. Brendon Bradley

I am a board certified chiropractor practicing in Bakersfield, CA. I graduated in 1995 from the esteemed Southern California University of Health Sciences. Also, I have taken many postgraduate study courses on diet, health, nutrition and corrective exercise. I maintain an active practice, helping people achieve and maintain an optimal state of health.

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