Warrior’s Path facing Ginnungagap

We don’t want to underestimate the utility of establishing a bounded relationship with the warrior’s ethos; attempting to live with at least some nobility in relation to the virtues while aiming at the highest ideal.

There is nothing about it that is trivial or weak. It orients us towards some aim. It takes courage and discipline, which strengthens us and its exactly what we need when facing Ginnungagap: the chaos, darkness, uncertainty, frontier of the utangard in life.

It is this acceptance of facing the unknown and challenges -learning and thus bringing innangard (order) – that defines our warrior’s path.

Life’s going to kill you

Sitting here thinking..

In Zen aspects of martial arts we learn life is suffering. Period. This is reality.

The question is what do you do about it?

Strive to overcome it in a way that benefits you and those around you.

Destiny is the discovery process in which we find out how well what we are doing overcomes that suffering.

But you have to commit to the journey. This requires faith. The faith that I can follow a path that leads to enlightenment, which means simply to reduce suffering.

There are reason, real reasons, to follow this path and reasons not to follow this path. But you can’t know the reasons, truly know, why to unless you do it.

It’s like marriage. If you get married but somewhere in your mind you think you might leave then you aren’t truly married. In marriage one of the rules is you don’t get to leave. Of course there are exceptions that comes up but that’s not the point. The point is there are some things you don’t get to do unless you are all in.

Which brings me to my next point. In life you are all in. Whatever you decide to do with your time, fact is life will kill you in the end.

So the question is what are you going to do with life? As the sand of your time runs out what do you want to do with it? Might as well spend each grain of sand on something worth wild. Why not go all in and reach your potential in something?

When you get married and have a child, for example, the meaning of life is revealed. It so obvious because it’s right in front of you. You can try and over analyze it. That’s your choice. But that’s putting the cart before the horse.

The simple answer is to live properly. If you had your crap together it would be better for you. But as a consequence it would also be better for your family. Then as the ripples expand it is better for your local community. And even further as the ripple crosses the pond it benefits humanity as a whole.

It’s your choice.

The ways I’ve always done things

Thinking on the ways I’ve always done things. I notice when I slip from it things always go down hill. When it slips you have to fix the culture.

My philosophy:

“Be a magnet for responsible and disciplined people not a net for the undisciplined and uncommitted.”

It comes down to filtering people out. You have to make sure they are willing to put in the work and time.

Cut off times – give people ‘X’ amount of time to get it together or they should move on.

Homework assignments. This tells you who wants it and who doesn’t and who will go that extra mile. I’ve always found it interesting that the people who ‘won’t’ do homework assignments always ask for workout programs, nutrition programs etc.. aka they want others to put in work on their behalf but won’t put it in themselves.

My time is valuable to me, in fact it’s the most valuable thing I have.

This has nothing to do with whether someone is ‘bad’ or not just whether they are a fit for what we do or not, want to invest our time into or not, surround ourselves with or not.

There is only so much time to give.

The old cliche is true.

“You either find a way or find an excuse.”

Most will find or justify an excuse but at the end of the day they didn’t put the work in, they didn’t improve.

It’s really rather simple.

The Rare Gem

Many people come and go in martial arts. Some stick around yet never truly commit or they only half heartly put forth effort, while others move on. The reasons are many – ego, to many things going on in life, to many side interest.


Occasionally you find that rare gem. The student that quietly shows up and focuses for hours to master that one technique, that one skill.  They listen intently and work hard to apply. They stay late, shows up early while everyone else is busy doing other things. They are there alone working; spending hours drilling over and over; paying attention to the smallest detail. They are there not to show off or stroke their ego, rather mastering.

1000 reps, 5000 reps, 10,000 reps – over and over.

You sit and observe as they are busy self talking themselves through what they need to work on; never quite satisfied- highly coachable.

This is GRIT in action, this is focus manifesting and gratitude realized.

They are truly a rare gem.

Desire vs Active Will

There’s a difference between desire & actively willing something into existence.
If you say you want ‘X’ yet you spend your time doing ‘Y’, then what you are saying through action is exactly opposite of what your words are saying. The same existence you are currently living is what you ‘actual’ desire because you are putting in no actions to change it.
Big difference between desire & actualizing your vision.
What do you spend your time on? What kind of information do you consume? What action do you take with what you have consumed?

A Disconnect of Bravery

“People glorify all sorts of bravery except the bravery they might show on behalf of their nearest neighbors.” ~ George Eliot

We are way to concerned with what is happening at a national or international level. Right living starts at home and with our own innangarths.

Courage & Bravery is something we should push for in ourselves. And we should pretty much leave everyone else alone. The world needs more people ‘doing’ the little things..

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

The Phoenix

The Phoenix (Ancient Greek: φοῖνιξ phoinix)

The power of creation comes in birth and growth. But at times in order to create something must be destroyed to make room. In this way we create the space needed.

Looking truthfully at the life we are living we can see if it is working or not. It’s easy to be critical of others but it takes the focus off our own lives and what may not be working.

The power found in destroying comes when it’s focused on burning away what isn’t working in our own lives – habits, mindsets, lack of clarity. From this new space we have created in our minds and life we can breath new life.

The phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its former self.  Life after all is about progress and we will redefine ourselves many times throughout our lives.

Boy becomes a man, a man becomes a husband, a husband becomes a father, a father becomes a grandfather. One generation gives way to the next, passing on lessons and skills – legacy.

Despite what’s happening around us as society seems to limp along, we can create our own world. The world we build can be built on the foundation of traditions, rituals, real meaningful relationships -innangraths with a focus on brotherhood and sisterhood.

Through this we find Frith – peace of mind, purpose, interdependence, shared struggle and order within our kindreds.

Practice Doesn’t Always Work

Practice has a lot to do with finding what works and more importantly what does not work, whether that be in life or the training hall. Often I see, especially in the first 5 years or so of training, people get discouraged when things don’t work during practice. As Martial Warriors and ultimately Warriors of Life our practice is a practice of truth, whether that be in combat, our relationships with others and environment or our relationship with ourselves.

People often relate things to happiness and joy and believe this to be the ultimate goal of practice. I believe for the Martial Warrior it does encompass these things obviously but the practice itself has to do more with being honest and facing what stands in the way self perfection.

If everything in practice always worked there would be no need to practice. Our practice wouldn’t do us any good. I find it useful to think of practice as being so meaningful because most of the time things don’t work. It’s when it doesn’t work that true learning begins. It’s because we lack perfection that we practice. So don’t get discouraged, it’s during these times that our practice has the potential to reveal the most meaning. The key is to be honest in looking at why it’s not working. It’s also important to realize the process of self honesty can be the most difficult, but that it’s necessary to maintain a sustainable continued growth.

The Mind of Form

I’ve recently began re-reading the Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts by Issai Chozanshi “The Hayseed Taoist”. Issai Chozanshi (1659-1741) was the pen name of Niwa Jurozaemon Tadaaki, a samurai of the Sekiyado clan. This is truly a wonderful book filled with little gems of deep meaning. One that I am particularly fond of is the tale the “Transformation of the Sparrow and the Butterfly” which offers insights into transformation. The lesson in this particular tale is that principle has no form.

In this tale we read about how the sparrow envies the butterfly, for the butterfly has transformed from a simple limiting caterpillar into a wonderfully free-flying butterfly. The sparrow is consumed with thoughts of how it expects to transform from its current free-flying state into a lonely clam, with no power of movement and forced to exist in the cold sandy filth of the ocean floor, having no eyes to see and no ears in which to hear.

The butterfly scoffs at such worries, and chides the sparrow for trying to project its current mind into its future form. The butterfly says:

The butterfly further expresses that when the sparrow metamorphoses into the clam he will only know what it means to be a clam and thus will fit in perfectly with that form.

There are many different correlations we can make with this tale. One of which is that having our minds stuck in either some future or past place is of little use. This is because we are not in those forms. These states do not allow us to apply mindfulness in life or in our practice. If we are thinking about the next attack or the next exercise or the next rep then we can not be truly present in our current form. I have discussed this in a number of training sessions that we must be able to flow from an opponent’s attack to their next. Only by not becoming stuck are we free to respond to each appropriately. When we are stuck, we will never be able to achieve Wu-hsin (No-Mind, Mushin, Wu-wei). Instead we should stay in the present moment because this is the form we are currently in, when this form passes we should flow freely to the next.

Wisdom of Acceptance

It’s been a while since we have had a tea time conversation. Yesterday I spent the day rerunning the water pipes for my washer machine and had the inspiration to write on this topic.

I’d like to touch on the topic of acceptance and self-acceptance. Most people feel that the more they strive to change things in their life the more things get done and the better life goes; whereas if they simply accept themselves and life’s situation then nothing gets accomplished.

Although acceptance may seem counterintuitive it has the potential to transform those things around you. I appreciate this quote from an Buddhadharma teacher named Ajahn Chah:

“Try to do everything with a mind that lets go.

If you let go a little you will have a little peace.

If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.

If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom.

Your struggles with the world will have come to an end.”

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to change someone else? Even your own child can not be changed unless they choose to do so. A little acceptance goes a long ways towards transforming relationships. And by relationships I mean relationships with our own lives and those around us.

By learning to cultivate self-acceptance, and tolerance towards others and their differences, I have become far more understanding, patient, empathic, balanced, and open-minded. All things we could use more of in the world.

A Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna once said:

“Contentment is the greatest form of wealth.”

Contentment and acceptance should never be confused with complacence or indifference. Cultivating contentment means learning to appreciate what is given rather than focusing on what may be missing. Acceptance implies the kind of openness that allows us to meet life as it is – Stoicism.

Acceptance does not mean condoning undesirable deeds, injustices and inequalities in life. It means to see more clearly what is, just as it is, and how and why such things work the way they do, before we try to engage. When we calmly observe and investigate the causes of such situations, and understand that nothing happens by accident the truth reveals itself, whether we like it or not.

By cultivating patience and acceptance we will have the mental clarity to examine inputs before responding in the habitual unconscious stimulus-reaction loop which runs our lives most of the time. This is what I like to refer to as running on auto-pilot or sleep walking through life. We allow our habitual responses to dictate and direct our lives without even knowing it.

Practice taking a moment, which the late Master Buddhadasa called “temporary nirvana.” Breathe once and relax, enjoying a moment of mindfulness and reflection before responding; observe without judging. If emotions are high there is a likely chance you will say something in a way you might regret later. Instead take that time to calm the mind and develop Wisdom in your approach. Remember it is during these moments we are afforded the opportunity to grow into more balanced and self directed human beings. I often find that I really enjoy this time between action-reaction.

Being able to apologizing later for a lack of self control has in it a form of wisdom; however without a fundamental change it simply becomes an excuse and has little to no meaning. When there is a lack of wisdom or understanding and a response will only further an unproductive situation I prefer to simply sit with the situation; doing and saying nothing. It’s important to remember that by doing nothing we are doing something.

Acceptance is not becoming static to life rather it’s becoming ecstatic and engaged in reality. Seeing past our own prejudgments and the realization we are responsible for our own lives. Through acceptance we can dive into life in a much more balanced state of being.