Monthly Archives: June 2012

Know When to Rest

Even Tigers Must Rest

Softly, the old master placed his hand on the shoulder of his student. A slight smile crept into wrinkled cheeks and a few words of encouragement were spoken in a tired and quiet voice. His student’s face held pride, hope for the future, but also overwhelming excitement. After a slow step backward, the master then bowed, eyes down. The student followed suit, lower. They turned as a pair toward the rest of the class, who were watching and waiting intently.

After the closing of the class, the senior instructor waited for each junior student to leave the mat. They took their time, joking and talking as they collected their possessions. His successor waited with him, patiently following his mentor’s lead. After they were all gone, the master got to his feet and smiled once more at his student, before making his way to the side of the mat, paying his respects, and stepping away from the space he’d built.

There are more opportunities than can be counted to adjust one’s path. Whether you’re trying to change a bad habit, are writing a book, training for a half-marathon, doing drugs, walking a dog, teaching a class or having a shower, there will always be a number of little chances to change your course and start doing something different. Whenever you reach the end of a page you’re reading, you can choose to keep reading, or you can place the book down. We are faced with those kinds of decisions countless times in our lives, in big and small things, and each time it happens, we decide whether to continue,to stop completely, or perhaps, just take a rest.

Sometimes, continuing is the last thing in the world we want. Sometimes, it’s the only thing in the world we want. Most of the time, it falls somewhere in the middle and we have to make a choice based on what we think is best. Of course, sometimes, we don’t even notice that we have a choice. Habits are strong, our attention is fickle, and the opportunity for change is often subtle. It is a valuable skill indeed to pay attention to the opportunities of change and make decisions.

I have now been writing in this blog for over a year and at this moment, having taken a temporary step away from the martial arts, I must decide whether to continue to write in it, or take a rest. Because I will have a number of other things to write about over the course of the next few months, I’ll be resting my martial arts writing habit for the time being.

There are numerous benefits to taking a rest from that which you enjoy. Obviously it’s a good idea to take a rest from the less enjoyable habits one might have built up, but even for those things that you love, taking a break can remind you just why you started loving it in the first place. We can sometimes forget those reasons when we get caught up in the day to day requirements of our interests. Not just that, but our interests can also tire us – we spend countless hours investing in them – a process that can be incredibly tiring. If one doesn’t take the time to restore and reinvigorate, then one can risk resentment, exhaustion or even disgust with what was once a boon.

No matter what it is you’re interested in, what you do, you’ll have a relationship with it. Relationships require maintenance. If you don’t take time to assess the status of your relationship, and take appropriate action (be it a rest, an abandonment or another kind of action), then it is my prediction that you just might end up somewhere you never wanted to be.

So take care with the things you love. Don’t forget why you fell in love with them in the first place. Take a rest if you need it. When you come back, you’ll be in a much better place.

 “Resolve to be thyself; and know that he who finds himself loses his misery.”

~ Zen Saying

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Why to Let Go Of The Past

Let Go Of The Past

The Samurai’s sword sat across his lap, his left hand clasping the saya lightly and his right palm resting on the tsuka. His eyes were closed, his breath measured, his mind clear. His legs were crossed in front, and his spine was straight. His meditation was coming to its natural close; he felt relaxed, calm and ready to continue on his journey. Slowly, his eyes opened, looking out toward the countryside. Silently, he gave thanks for the world he lived in, then stood up and brushed the dust from his rear.

He looked around to ensure that he was leaving the space as he had found it, then attached his katana to his hip, along with his wakizashi. He walked on.

Lately I’ve been preoccupied with the idea of letting go. In only a few days, I’ll be leaving the life I know in Canada behind, to travel, find a new space in the world and let go of the past. It’s not that the past was particularly painful (at least for me), but our attachments to the past, its people, its places and its activities can often blind us from seeing what’s possible for the future.

As I sort through my possessions, deciding just which of them I’m going to hold onto and which I’m going to let go, I realize that I’m very attached to the history that they represent. They remind me of friends, of relationships, of moments in time, of lessons learned, of lessons ignored and my past hopes for the future, for what is now the present. All those thoughts take up space, and if you don’t make room, they’ll keep your brain full. The only way we can evolve is by letting go of the unnecessary, to give ourselves space to grow, and to fill that space with new thoughts, new experiences, new lessons. Whether we like it or not, the past has changed us already. We are all the people we are today because of our past decisions, good or bad. So the more time one spends living in the past, thinking about attachment, thinking about what could have been, or what was, the less energy we have for what is happening right now.

And right now, I don’t have those things anymore. They’re in the past. Some of them were beautiful, some of them were ugly, some were life changing, some innocuous. The one thing they have in common is that they are now gone. Right now, I have a whole different set of things to focus my energies on, again, some beautiful, some ugly, some life changing, some innocuous. I realize that any energy spent on the past is energy I cannot spend on the present, and on building for future presents.

So I am trying to let go of those attachments. It’s difficult. There is a lot of resistance. You end up spending a lot of time just sitting, thinking about what was. Perhaps it’s that we as humans try to justify our actions, that we so greatly desire meaning for our lives. Maybe it’s just me. I think that the reluctance to let go of those things is useful, as it ensures we keep what has worked for us in the past within reach. Those attachments are comforting, they’re familiar, they’re understood. But, ultimately, they’re only useful for the version of you that’s already come and gone. As I said, you’re already who you are.

A fantastic yoga instructor told me yesterday, “where your attention goes, your energy flows.” The question becomes where you want your energy to flow. Toward the past? Toward the things that are now gone, that cannot change, that cannot be affected in any way, or toward the future? Toward any one of an infinite set of possibilities, toward dreams becoming reality, toward your next challenge, your next chapter, and perhaps what could make you happier than you ever thought possible.

Red pill, or blue?

 ”Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

~ Andre Gist

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