I can only get two days of kyudo this week.
Just like last week.
I can’t study Japanese like I used to.
What the hell am I going to do on the rush hour train to aikido tonight?
I can’t save money like my friends.
All the complaining.
This is not OK.
I am “bad“.
But I won’t be able to relax?
Shutup. You’ll have skills.
I’ll be tired.
Then drink coffee.
But what about having fun?
Drink at night.
What about something new?
Schedule it in.
The other weekend I went out drinking all night with the other English teachers after a seminar. I realized how amazing some of them realy are, especially one. He’ll be leaving soon, and it disturbs me that I totally overlooked his presence. I wish I could have hung out with him more. There’s just no time.
The other morning I slept in with my girlfriend and had all morning and afternoon to hang out, and we did. I struggled to relax as my mind searched for ways to make the day useful.
I’m waging a war with life and it’s costing me everything: My health, my sanity, my friends, and anything else that isn’t part of my megalomaniacal scheme to be different, better, or worthy.
The stagnant gargantuan summer humidity has dissipated across the sea. Now, red autumn razors fall from the sky. The early night breeze slices eyes and I see that I have never been here before.
There is so much of me I don’t need. Collections of habits and modes of thought I’ve been reluctant to let pass. I’ve just been collecting and adding them together, conscious that it is too much, but negligent of the results it will bring. Well, it’s time for a revolution. Not just a reformation, but a complete turning upside down of the central mode of thought. Until now the idea has been to fill every second with something contributing to my betterment. It’s been a year. If I actually upgraded skills as I had planned, then I guess I have them. What I see now is that what it really did was create or reveal a lot of monsters. What I have learned is that it cannot go on like this. Now I understand what needs to happen: relaxation, enjoyment, Truth, being.
How does that sound? A bit too much like the New Age section in Barnes and Noble?
Well, lets get back to budo.
If there is one most fundamental and ultimate principle I’ve experienced in my martial arts experience, it’s …
But relaxation alone won’t get things done.
There’s focus. It’s in a look. The spine is straight. There is tension. They eyes are open, focused on everything; the essence of looking is found in just “looking” itself. No extra anything is being used. Deep breathing.
I didn’t really talk about budo there, but how about here. I have never had a teacher tell me to tense up before a technique (with the exception of kiai, but even that isn’t a simple tensing of muscles, or even contradictory to relaxing). If there’s one most commonly used phrase from all of the budo teachers I have ever had, it is “relax.” Looking now at any budo skill I employ, all of them would be instantly improved by more relaxation. In fact, it seems that what martial arts are trying to teach us is that it’s about relaxing and then putting things in the right place in time. If I could learn to do this in the martial arts, it would help my daily life, and vice versa wouldn’t it? That’s the idea at least.
Then there’s “fun”. I remember listening to my coaches in sports give long explanations on strategies and the need to give it our all, but they always finished with, “And don’t forget the most important thing to do out there is have fun.” I didn’t think much of it then, but it’s starting to make sense.
Fun is really why I continute to put so much time and effort into martial arts. I perform my best when I’m having fun. But it’s not just that immediate feeling of fun, it’s also propelled by interest. If you are interested in something, and having fun, then you are already in the best possible position to progress. Interest is what really allows me to practice consistently. Practicing consistently is what leads to progress. Progress is what I want. So I must follow that small gem of “fun” if I want to get what I want, or perhaps good things I’ve never even thought of.
Let’s go back to relaxation for a second. Relaxation isn’t merely the physical relaxation of muscles which will enhance the physical movement required in martial arts, it opens up one’s awareness. If you are full of stress, then that is all you have. If you fill your mind completely, then whatever it is you filled it with is all you are going to see. How are you supposed to react to violent physical threats if you can’t see them coming? How can you experience anything new at all for that matter? It’s the same with our bodies, if your arm is tense and you want to throw a punch, you first have to relax your arm and then move it. This is a big waste of time and energy. However, if the arm is already relaxed, it can freely move to it’s target. Economical action of the body, and mind, are what allow for survival and growth.
With my new adoption of relaxation and fun, I’ve been playing my Nintendo 3DS on the trains. The other day I was playing the new Super Mario. It was frustrating. In video games you operate within a limited world of places you can go and things you can do, etc. You have to do just what you’re supposed to, but why do you do it? The answer usually is because you want to, because it’s fun. Otherwise you just wouldn’t play the game. This human life is just like that! But it operates on a much broader scale; one we are submerged in and cannot escape from.
So why do we do what we do? Because we like it? What about it do we like? How do you know?
There is so much in my life that I don’t have to do, but I do anyway. A lot of those things I am convinced are needs … but how do I know if I really need them or not?
By seeing them.
Seeing is separating yourself from yourself, creating a space in which you can breathe and see. From that space you can see patterns and causes and effects more clearly, you can see better what is really needed. Seeing is the key.
In order to see we must wait. In order to wait we must be patient. In order to be patient we must relax.
In order to wait we must be OK with not-doing, not-having.
This runs contradictory to myself, and every human being I suppose. This not-doing, not-having, not-needing self. If there’s space, then you fill it. Space is nothing. “Space is waste!” they say.
But this seeing is wisdom, this separating ourselves from ourselves. This is a good thing. And yet, it is still a small picture, because we are one and everything, we really can’t separate ourselves from ourselves. So, the commonality is being. Just being itself. This being is “us” no matter what, in a direction of absolute honesty, absolute survival. No matter which “ourselves” we are looking at or thinking about, I believe this is true. We can do it well, or we can do it not well. I’m not sure how to explain it, but something is better when our wise effort is utilized.
I’m rambling into the pits of things I cannot accurately describe. But do you see what is the logical result of this discussion? Do you see what action is needed to put things right? That action to see, to relax, to be?
But I’m not going to say zazen anymore because it is a very specific word with a particular practice and image, and I don’t follow it exactly. But the basic idea is the same. What I do is sit; sitting Zacky Chan style. Perhaps I’ll describe it in a post in the near future, but for now, this is fine.
This is the revolution: A dropping off of the need to need all of these things that I really don’t need, and in that fertile ground that is left, sitting. From there, seeing those things that I want in my life, and seeing what kind of routine follows, which is certainly not empty.
So here is my fall routine.
-kyudo and aikido
-read what I like (English fantasy novels and Japanese manga) and play Nintendo 3DS
-write on the blog
-have my own personal martial arts routine
-have a Japanese study routine
-fill up every second of time
-do extra eikaiwa for money
-buy food and drinks just to distract or energize myself