Meditation Point #133 – Good v Evil

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The best way to fight evil is with small acts of kindness.  — Gandlaf, The Hobbit

The actual quote is “…what I have found it is the small everyday deeds or ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay.” but I like my version better.  And it holds true more often then we may like to consider.

It really is the little things in life that stay with us.  A sunrise, a smile from a passing stranger, someone stopping so you can cross the street in the rain, a kind word, a display of common decency, all of these thing recognize us and connect us as human beings, as equals.

Let me know what you think…

 

Meditation Point #132 – Crisis

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A friend of mine is going through a very difficult time.  It is hard watching someone deal with a crisis in their life when there isn’t a lot you can do for them but be there for them as a friend.  I’ve been thinking about this fact for the past week and wondering if there was something else I could do, sadly there doesn’t seem to be.  But maybe I can help them and others in a way by exploring my thoughts and feeling surrounding the word Crisis.

Our English word “crisis” comes from the Greek word krisis, which means “opportunity.”

No one wants to deal with a crisis in their life, it is never pleasant regardless of the cause.  Crisis’s come in many different forms, those we cause ourselves and those that are thrust upon us.  Some are the result of our own actions while others fault of our own.  The form and the cause mean little when you are dealing with a crisis.  When in crisis the only goal is to emerge from the crisis intact.  I think that is where the “opportunity” part comes in that the Greek root speaks to.  Many time we do not control any part of the crisis we are dealing with, what we do control is how we handle the crisis.  How we handle (or deal with) a crisis is the where the opportunity comes in, because in dealing with a big or small crisis we have a chance to grow.  A crisis can crush our self-worth and self-esteem, but it can equally impart a new belief in ourselves.

More to come…

 

The Magnificent Exterior

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The brothers praised a monk before Abba Anthony. When the monk came to see him, Anthony wanted to know how he would bear insults, and seeing that he could not bear them at all, he said to him, “You are like a village magnificently decorated on the outside, but destroyed from within by robbers.”
— St. Antony The Great (Anthony of Egypt is the Patriarch of all the Desert Fathers and of all Monks.)

I Love this quote, it demonstrates that Abba Anthony was a tough character who could not stand for fake people and people who did not know who they were. Sticks & Stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you, that is the point being made in this quote, words are harmless to those who know their worth. That last part, “words are harmless to those who know their worth” is a slight play on words, there are two ways to read it, both are correct.

I leave the rest for your reflection and comments.

Body, Mind & Soul

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When a Wise man thought about the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, “Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked men prosper and why are the just in need?”

He heard a voice answering him, “Keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgment of God, and it is not to your advantage to know anything about them.”
— From The Life Of St. Antony The Great (Anthony of Egypt is the Patriarch of all the Desert Fathers and of all Monks.)

How does this help us as a Martial Artist?  As a Christian it always amuses me how God gets blamed for everything yet credited for little.  We see things from our own perspective and assume omnipotence.  The funny thing is most of us don’t even know ourselves and what is in our own hearts, let alone to be in a position to judge the justness of a given situation.  Instead we should be focused on our actions and the state of our soul.  How often does a student look with envy at the abilities of another student thinking they are naturally better than themselves.  Unknown to them are the countless hours this student with “natural ability” practices.  What St. Anthony was driving at is, in focusing on things we can not control, we take away from time that could be spent in perfecting ourselves.  That is not to say we exclude thoughts of others, but that we do so without envy, we take lessons from the world around us without letting the events distract us from perfecting ourselves.  Instead, we to often use lessons from the world to justify our current selves.

This might sound a little high minded but it is the essence of Martial Arts training, perfection of ones self.  Unfortunately unlike the above passage, Martial Arts training deals with the perfection of your mind and physical self.  Many mistake Martial Arts training and this sense of perfection for religion.  The broadening of our senses through training can give us a feeling similar to that of a higher connection, it is a false connection.  Unfortunately many are willing to deceiving themselves as this false religious feeling elevates them to the station of God, even though they believe it a connection with some larger Universal force or power.  This is the trap of many pursuits, Martial Arts, Higher Education degrees, any practice which expands the powers of the mind and body, yet neglects the soul.

I will leave you with that to ponder, to comment upon, and hopefully, to stimulate awareness.

Life is Fragile

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Given that this is the anniversary of the Sept. 11th attack, I thought this image would be appropriate.

This is a sticker I found from when I was a kid, a long time ago.  But it reminds me of what we any of us that were old enough probably though on 9/11, life is fragile.  As time recedes we tend to forget these lessons, we tend to forget that life can change in an instant.  Honestly we live in a very safe society, but that does not mean there is no danger or we do not need to be vigilant in our protect of the fragile life we hold so dear.  So remember to handle your life and the life of others with care, because life is fragile and none of us know how long we will have it.

Happy Thoughts

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To think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral down into ever increasing unhappiness.
To think good thoughts, however, requires effort.
This is one of the things that discipline – training – is about.

James Clavell, in his novel “Shogun”

I read this book as a young man and have to say it is still one of my favorite novels.  At the time I was training very hard in Karate and this novel steeped me even further in the history and culture of old Japan, brutal, savage yet elegant.  Today I teach students in the art of Karate and hopefully Life.  I am an avid observer of the world and I see increasing negativity in general.  One of the aspects of how I train my students is control of themselves and their minds.  The above quote goes to the root of my teachings (though I never connected the two) in that we control nothing in the world without first controlling ourselves.  Negative thoughts are destructive to yourself, your world and those around you, it is like a disease.  Our thoughts are ours to do with as we please.  Yes our thoughts can be influenced by the things around us.  That is why it is a bad idea for an Alcoholic to hangout in a bar with his/her friends.  Ultimately though we have ourselves to deal with, the environment or situation we are in are only as influential as we let them be.  This all sounds so easy but it is a lifetime of work and practice and failure to become proficient at.  The world is dynamic but our inner world’s are infinitely more dynamic, to infinity and beyond!  But like any lesson it starts small, baby steps, with awareness.  We cannot change or control anything we are unaware of, become and observer of the world.  First we need to see the small things most people never see.  We can find perfection in the small things, the cut of sunlight through a cloud or the beat of a butterfly resting on a flower, or even the silence of being totally alone in a room.  Some of the things you will notice may make you uncomfortable in a strange way, that is your body fighting awareness the way you fight waking in the morning (if you are like me!).  What does this have to do with not being negative?  Everything.  You could start by focusing on not thinking negative thoughts, however your success would be short lived.  You have to have something to fill the void left by the negative thoughts you eventually will banish.  Why?   Because your brain never stops, it is always churning away, in the computer world we call that paging.  Paging is moving information into and out of usable memory, if you page to much you can’t do any useful computations or make any useful observations.  Observing the little things in the world require you to stop thinking so much, to quiet your mind or in computer terms to limit or stop paging so we can take in new information.  As you do this you are increasing your positive memories and thoughts and reducing your negative thoughts without trying to force it.  You will eventually get to a point where you will be able to control what your brain is processing positive or negative and more importantly know when you are paging negativity because you are more aware.  Awareness is one of the keys to good thoughts with its byproduct, happiness.  As an observer you often find yourself in a calm state of acceptance like someone watching a play…but that is a topic for another discussion.
‘Stop and smell the roses’ are words of supreme wisdom which few of us ever understand until it is to late.  Stay positive, train hard, train often.

The Debate is OVER!

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Are you an Over or Under?  I am an Over and a militant one at that!  Turns out I am in the majority, not that it mattered 😉

Here is the proof…

Can’t

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Words spoken by others are powerless unless we give them power.  “Sticks & Stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you”.  I’ve spoken and written on that in the past.  That is not the topic today but it is an important backdrop.  While we should be thick skinned when people speak hurtfully or hatefully towards us, this is only half of the equation.

Words do have power.  Words can define our being and our existence.  The words we use, think and in some sense feel can affect us both mentally, physically and spiritually.  Can’t or Can Not is just such a word.  One of my students reminded me of this last night.  We were working on a new block drill which he was having a hard time with.  In trying to correct him he got frustrated and said “I Can’t”…and that was the end of it.  You see, “I Can’t” turned into he couldn’t because he believed it and more importantly he quit with that proclamation.  It didn’t matter that I knew he could.  It didn’t matter that he knew how to do the block already.  Through his proclamation, “I Can’t” he made the possible, impossible.  He changed the state of his mind from positive effort to negative reservation of defeat.  I spoke to him about this and having no affect had him sit out the rest of that drill to reflect.

Later in the class we were doing bag work, a standing side kick to be specific, and I corrected something he was doing wrong.  After a couple of corrections he began to say ” I c…” I was ready for him and abruptly cut him off and admonished him to not finish that statement.  I then helped him focus, reminded him of the correct technique, distracted his mind and within three attempts he was doing it correctly!  Unlike the first drill, I had stopped his negative statement before it became his truth and in doing so helped him succeed.

Hopefully all of my students learned from that event.  I commented on it to drive the point home.  The power of “I can’t” or “I don’t know” or negative statements like them are underestimated by most.  Often people use them as an excuse, for it is easier to say “I can’t” then to try and fail.  Some are so afraid of failure that they would rather never try then to admit they are lacking, in that way they can always fantasize that hey could have, would have or can ‘when they are ready’.  This is perfectly normal among children, it is part of growing up, dealing with fear and personal limitation, however left unchecked it can handicap the adult they will become, leading them to a life of mediocrity filled with missed chances.  ‘Should of, Could of, Would of’ is what they will see when they look back on their life.

Words are powerful.  But the power resides in ourselves, what power we give them, how they affect what we believe about ourselves.

The following quote isn’t in perfect alignment with my above thoughts, but it does speak to staying positive and always giving everything your best effort, regardless of how things seem or the opinions of others.  It may take you more attempts then others to accomplish something but I guarantee if you stay positive and keep trying you will accomplish more then most.

If successful people have one common trait, it’s an utter lack of cynicism. The world owes them nothing. They go out and find what they need without asking for permission; they’re driven, talented, and work through negatives by focusing on the positives.
– Mike Zimmerman

Is Your Jar Full?

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When things in your life seem almost to much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar……and the beer.

A Professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.  When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.  He then asked the students if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.

So the Professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly.  The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.  He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed it was.

The Professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else.  He asked once more if the jar was full.  The students responded with an unanimous “Yes.”

The Professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty
space between the sand.  The students laughed.

“Now,” said the Professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions – things that if everything
else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.  The sand is everything else – the small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first”, he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.  The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.  Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Play with your children.  Take time to get medical checkups.  Take your partner out to dinner.  Play another 18.  There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal.  Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter.  Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

When he had finished, there was a profound silence.  Then one of the students raised her hand and with a puzzled expression, inquired what the beer represented.

The Professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked.  It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend.”

— I couldn’t have illustrated it better myself since the sad truth is most of us spend all our time dealing with the sand in our life.

True Enjoyment

ktadmin Posted in A Zen Thing, Diet, Fitness, Quotes, Recipes and Health Facts, State of Mind,Tags: , , ,
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“True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body;
the two are united.”
Alexander Von Humboldt

Given the recent posts on diet and exercise I thought I should find an appropriate quote to exercise your mind as well.  As a Martial Arts student you should have figured out by now that your mind and your body are connected.  Check, that was easy.  But which is stronger?  I mean can your mind get you off the couch and make you exercise?  Can your mind stop you from eating those fatty brownies your co-worker brought to work?  If not then your mind and body are not on the same page.  Think about that.  Your mind isn’t in control.  Isn’t that one of the first lessons you learn when you become a Martial Arts student?  That your mind is not in control of your body.  In this case your body is the spoiled child who just wants what he/she wants!  Give me those brownies…or else!!  Because your mind is not in control, your body wins, eat the brownie.  Oh, your mind thinks it’s in control!  You are an adult, you can eat what you want, you are hungry, you are stressed, you will exercise this off later, and the seductive list of excuses goes on and on…  They are excuses that make your mind feel better for letting your body run the show.  Your mind is deluding itself so it doesn’t have to face reality, it isn’t in control!

Luckily we Martial Artists learn to control our bodies, to master them, to help the mind to take control.  So prove it, find true enjoyment by uniting the two with the mind in control and the body in motion…exercising!

As always have fun, stay safe and be well.