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.

Training vs Education

The word training is derived from the old French word “trainer” meaning to drag and cause growth in the desired manner. Training can be defined as the modification of behavior through experience. The transfer of skills and knowledge from those who have them to those who do not or bringing about of a significant improvement in performance as a result of instruction, practice and experience.

Training can mean the process of providing for and making available to a student. It’s planning, preparing a coordinated program, course, curriculum, subject, system or routine of instruction, in a scientific, professional, technical, strategic manner that will improve an individuals performance and assist in achieving performance goals. Training can also mean to work to improve our fitness and technical performance.

So There are many different areas we consider when thinking of the term training and it’s application to us. Today I want to focus in on the idea of Training vs Education.

We should distinguish training from education. There is always a lot of controversy surrounding this and many people do not understand the difference. Some people are more education driven while others are more training driven. In my previous role as one of the nation’s leading Integration Engineers for the former Nortel Networks Inc. I had to play the role of both educator and trainer. Likewise in my role as a teacher I have to balance both roles.

Training is vocational in nature and is application and skill development oriented. Education on the other hand is more general with a wider scope. One could think of education as far transfer and training as near transfer. In education principle is the main emphasizes whereas in training application is the emphasizes. Education focuses on building our minds knowledge database and training focuses on building our usable skills. For the most part education is content driven i.e. reading, learning theory and communicating ideals.

It’s the difference between ‘know how‘ and ‘know why‘. It’s the difference between being trained to use footwork and being educated on the science of footwork. Clearly both are necessary, so this is not intended to put down the Know-How or the Know-Why.

Another way to view it is that the purpose of training is intended to hopefully gain specific skills. To build the proper neural pathways and education is undertaken in hopes of furthering our individual knowledge and developing our martial intellect. We are first educated in a specific area then we train it. Or we train it then become educated as we become ready to understand. I usually break this training process down even further into Focused Practice (Myelin building), conditioning training and application training. But that is beyond the scope of this post.

In the old days training was practiced through guilds. Students would become an apprentice to a master and worked under their master in order to learn their craft. Education has its origins in the medieval university system. Education and training is required in a balanced manner.

For example we need to be educated on the basic structure of the on-guard, then we need to train it to master that specific skill. Anyone who has trained long enough knows that if this most basic step is not mastered a student will be pledged with performance problems. We can’t build proper footwork without a proper on-guard. We can’t build proper distance control without proper footwork. We can’t build proper positioning control without understanding of powerline, nor can we apply it if any of the previous kinetic chains are broke, i.e. footwork, on-guard, distance control.

And the ‘kinetic chain‘ of martial application continues, be it timing applications, rhythm, tempo, accuracy, precision, etc… This includes understanding and proper application of both sport-specific and general athletic movement skills. If a link in the chain is broken everything above will suffer. How do we know what to train? Well that is where education comes in.

To finish off this thought on training vs education I want to use an analogy as an off-shot of the teach a man to fish vs give a man a fish quote.

Education would be learning about fish; including their habitats, types, what nutrients each one has, types of fishing rods, lures, strings, how to cast and similar skills needed to catch the fish. Training would be learning how to apply these to actually catch a fish .

Or in the case of our furry friend, education would teach us the theories and techniques required to build the rocket. Training would teach us how to survive the ride.



Inviting Criticisms

I’ve always been one to watch things fairly carefully. I consider this part of my mindfulness training. One of the things I’ve noticed that occurs more often today than in the past is that people are increasingly hyper-aware of what others think. When paying attention to all the criticisms you will find what you seek, i.e. more of it. If your a leader within your niche you will invite the same. The only way to get around this is to be completely invisible to the world.

What we say matters little


What we say matters very little as compared to what we do. We say we want to reach our peak potential, we say we want to make different life style choices, we say we hate politics, we say we want a community of sharing, we say this and we say that. We continue down the same roads doing the same things that has lead us to the unfulfilled state we are currently living. We say we want to make this year our year but when it comes to doing what needs to be done we find excuses. We say we love our art and want to further our understanding but we refuse to look at things in a more in-depth, self challenging manner and less metaphysical manner. Hypocrisy may be an epidemic, but the problem isn’t in what we say. It’s what we do. If what your doing isn’t working then perhaps you need to make some changes. Stating “I train for excellence” doesn’t cut it.