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