…Through the virtue of training, Enlighten both body and soul — Morihei Sensei

Posts tagged “philosophy

Back in Stride Again

Stream of consciousness. . .

It is 2105, and I am back in the saddle again.  Not yet literally. The amount of energy I had put into ramping up for Ironman was quite remarkable, in hindsight.  Only in retrospect can I objectively see how much energy preparing for and executing that race required.   Just a few days after the race, I was T-Boned in a car accident.  And then my work (that thing I do to eat, pay the mortgage) got very crazy.  Subsequently, my blogging, and social networking in general has really suffered.  In the vein of New Year’s resolutions, I will be devoting more effort to my online activities.  I have some blog ideas that have been back-burnered for some time.

It all works for good.  I’ve been in the gym getting strong.  I am the strongest I’ve been in my life.  Though, my cardio endurance has certainly suffered, my physical resilience has multiplied.

Topical Preview for 2015

. . . Still in stream of consciousness mode. . .

Politically, I have grown more cynical and suspicious as I see the news media and national politicians directing our focus towards distracting events, and spinning even those with thinly-veiled and misleading (at best) narratives.

My spiritual focus has been more on the mundane, than the philosophical.  I continue to prioritize practice over philosophy.  Though, I have worked to put a definition on my practice.  In the past, I’ve argued that this is a gratuitous endeavor.  Nonetheless, I have found it instructive, especially in exposing certain emotional attachments I still have to my past practices, despite the fact it no longer serves.

Certain business challenges have brought me into contact with an entire class of people whom I thought I knew, but as it turns out, really didn’t.  I knew intellectually, but didn’t really know in a tangible way, the extent to which education, or the lack thereof, acts effectively like a learning disability.  The post-Great-Recession labor market environment has left some very large holes in the labor market for my very hands-on, mud and dirt business.  In recruiting to fill these holes, I have been introduced in a new way to an entire segment of our society (a significant segment), that I had not fully understood.

In fact, in this post-Great-Recession environment, I have come to a whole new understanding of the future economic prospects, investing, effects of currency manipulations, business direction.  I have always argued that our consumer/debt based economy had a certain cannibalistic tinge to it, and that wealth and prosperity required actual production.  I feel that it may be more sinister than that.

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At any rate, it’s good to be back.  Talk to you soon.

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— Old454

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Chief Tecumseh: Words of Wisdom

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

~ Chief Tecumseh

I simply present the warrior’s words here.  They speak more eloquently for themselves than any commentary I may have in my mind.

http://www.wisdomcommons.org/wisbits/662-chief-tecumseh-s-words-of-wisdom

Additional Chief Tecumseh quotes

 

This poem was quoted, quite appropriately in the 2012 movie Act of Valor.

The abridged version presented in the movie:

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

~ Tecumseh


Emotional Compost

Originally Published on Proudland Blog:

Thich Nhat Hanh describes turning emotional garbage into compost, and using it as we tend to our spiritual gardens. In his book, Taming the Tiger Within we should not try to throw away or discard our anger, but rather sooth it, transform it into a positive emotion. Much as we take grass clippings, leaves, and banana peels and put them in the compost pile, instead of the land fill.

In the compost pile we take garbage, tend to it, transform it, and use it to feed a beautiful garden. In the land fill, we take garbage, put it out of sight out of mind, but it never goes away. It becomes a problem to be dealt with later on down the road. Organic matter which would become nutrients in a compost pile, when buried deep within a landfill, never decompose. They just take up space. Similarly, we can take our anger and darker emotions, and transform them into something beautiful. Or, we can ignore them and allow them to fester. We can feed and indulge them. Either way they never go away. They persist to become something worse. They persist to make us miserable.

We could take the analogy even further, with a karmic perspective. The planet will eventually recycle all the waste and toxins we release into the environment. Over the course of millions of years, plate tectonics, erosion, and cataclysmic events will recycle and reconstitute everything, bringing it all back full circle. Similarly, even the most mismanaged miserable lives, the most abusive and violent people, the most sinful and self-destructive souls will get the chance to come back and do this over and over an over again, even if for thousands of years, until they get it right.

With anger and hate we have the same choices we have with garbage and trash. On one hand, we can transform waste, recycle it, transform it into something beautiful. On the other, we can bury them, ignore them, or indulge them until they grow and accumulate to create more misery.

Eventually, maybe millions of years, both the polluted earth, and the polluted soul will be cleansed and purified. The question is, then: What do you want right now? Right now do you want a toxic, polluted planet? Right now, do you want violent and war-torn societies? Right now, do you want a life of suffering? Or, would you rather something different, NOW. You will get it eventually. But do you want it NOW?

A.J., Proudland Landscape, LLC © 2007-2010

Related Post:  Do Anything Important Today?


Training, Mysticism, Concert & Discord

Martial artist practicing solo kata

Are your daily activities, training, and practices working in concert or discord to move you along your path?

Martial artist practicing solo kataI’ve been contemplating the interrelatedness of training and how that compares to my premise of the interrelatedness of all mystic traditions, and how that relates to the specific idea of warriorship.

A couple of distinctions:  My view of training is a little specific.  There is learning, practice, study, exercise, and training.  Training involves all the others in different ways depending on the exact thing you are training for.  However, there lies the key:  One needs to be training for something.  If you are not preparing for a specific event, then you are not training.  You are simply exercising, or practicing, or studying.  It is when one puts an event on the calendar, and commits to that event, that training begins.  This is an important distinction especially in relation to mystical practice, because it raises the question of Why are you doing this? What is the purpose of your actions.

I have raised this question of What are you training for? in relation to real-life emergencies.  Here I would like to extend this idea of training to mystical practice.  I have approached connections between running and mysticism, also, running and warriorship.  However, these discussions have focused on more physical trainings like running & swordsmanship–easily associated with warriorship.  But what of other trainings, like meditation, or reading?

Again, a distinction. My sense of mystical practice is global in that it should encompass all the realms of our lives, from the mundane, to the profane, to the “spiritual”.  It is not enough meditate every morning, and then be a stressed, distracted wreck all day.  How does your meditation inform your mundane, put food on the table activities.  And how does the insanity of soccer car pools, and rush hour traffic enhance your spiritual practices.

Which of course, brings me back on topic, to how our activities intertwine to move us along, or distract us from, our path.

The interrelatedness of trainings. I recently ran my first triathlon.  One of the most striking aspects of the preparation, was how training for each event affected my training for the other two events.  On top of this were the additional layers of preparing my equipment, and preparing for the transitions between events.  These latter two were surprisingly stressful, and the time I spent on them in preparation, ended up saving me precious minutes during the competition.

More interesting here is how the equipment and transition preparation only had meaning in the context of transitioning between events.  In other words, training for three different disciplines to be executed together created its own unique set of additional preparations.  This is what training in the real world is like.

Another example, is business, particularly a small-business owner, who must wear many hats, and execute those tasks more or less simultaneously.  One can study accounting, and study a specific craft, and study marketing.  One can even practice each one of these as a profession.  But when one runs a small shop and must execute all three sequentially, and simultaneously, the entire affair is transformed.  In this transformation, each task can be elevated by the others, and make the whole operation better.  Or they can detract from each other, so that none are done well.

This is how it is in life.  The catch is that we are often unconscious of this interrelationship.  We run from event to appointment, and move from task to task, but never stop to see how they relate to, elevate, or detract from each other.

Each of the unique facets of our lives come together to create unique confluences, like the triathlon transition.  What are the unique confluences in your life?  How can you layer the facets of your life to move you along the Path?

It is like this in spiritual practice as well. We meditate.  We pray.  We practice kindness.  We follow truth & integrity.  How are these elevating each other?  Then we layer mundane life on top.  We need to eat and stay warm, so we work.  We need to work, so we do what our jobs demand of us.  Our kids need growth experiences, so we sign them up for sports, or dance.  They need to get from school, to soccer, to dance, do their homework.  We need to get up in the morning, work, cook dinner.  We try to practice Spirit.  But how does all of this enhance the circle?  Does it enhance the circle?  What are we trying to do?

The idea of training, remember, points right at the questions of Why and For What? In preparing for a triathlon, a typical training schedule is six training days a week.  Whereas my typical running schedule may have three or four running days alone.  Then layer on sword training, and gym workouts, and that alone is a lot.  Thus, in triathlon training one becomes very sensitive to what is beneficial and necessary, what is superficial, and when one needs to rest.  Additionally, one strategically layers each training so that it elevates the others.

If we look at life itself as training, then there is a lot to be learned from the triathlon analogy.  We need to pay special attention to how the different aspects of our lives work together.  Do they enhance our lives more together?  Do they come together to detract from our progression?  Are we spending energy on superfluous activities which could be just let go?  In short, are your daily activities, training, and practices working in concert or discord to move you along your path?

It seems that I often end with more questions than answers.  That may be just as well, as we’re each unique with our own individual path.  Who am I to lay down hard answers?  Though, I have probably laid down more than a couple such answers in this very piece alone!

Please comment.

You can find me on Twitter!  At Twitter.com/Old454.


Relative thoughts on Morality

Morality is relative.  Good and Bad do not exist objectively.  Most people have a deep-seated aversion to this idea.  Many people feel that their sense of Morality is The Moral Law.  I find this extremely interesting because, just like religion, one’s morality, more often than not, is an item of pure circumstance.  A function of the accident of being born in a particular culture, in a particular geographic region, of a certain ethnic group, and a certain socio-economic class.  These are choices infants do not make.  Most people never veer from this set of accidental circumstances.  Yet, we take pride in these accidents.  We take ownership of the mere chance that one was born to a Christian couple, in an intact household, earning $150,000 per year (for example).  Or we,  take ownership of being born in a land with no trees, almost no work, where the average annual wages for an entire family are less than a laborer in Atlanta’s single pay check.  Each yields its own unique set of consequences, morals, opportunities, which we had no part in.

I digress.  Surveys of history, cross-cultures, even within different ethnic sets in the same society, will reveal differing moral codes.  What are we to make of this?  Some have made the case that, while there are variances, basic principles are universal.  I would say that this is the case only in the most general sense.  Even within the same moral code, morality becomes relative.  Murder is bad.  But what is murder?  Is all killing bad all the time?  What if someone was holding a knife to your daughter’s throat?  What if there was a really good, higher purpose for them holding that knife?  What if you thought someone was threatening another’s life, but after you killed that person, you found out there was no threat?  In all these cases, within the same moral code, the answers become relative.  Morality is relative.  There is no getting around it.

Why then be moral?  Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of moral relativity because they feel that people will not be Good without a rigid clearly defined Law.  Where did this idea come from, that people need hard directives?  It didn’t come from reality.  The jails are full of people who were brought up with delineated ideas of Heaven and Hell.  In fact, many people serving life terms in the prisons, did what they did, with the clear understanding that it would get them killed, or locked up for life.  Hard moral lines did not prevent them from doing it.

Morality is a set of rules derived by men from observing the behaviors of people walking a Righteous Path, and the resultant benefits.  Warrior culture has been developing since the beginning of mankind.  The Warrior class developed from the nature of early human hunting practices (see my earlier post).  As the Warrior class developed and began to come into conflict with the Warrior groups of competing human groups, they had to address the present fact of death and dying.  This eventually lead to certain pragmatic mystical concepts which guided behavior of the Warriors.  Warrior culture adopted these pragmatic mystical practices based on centuries of trial and error in terms of their objective benefit.  As society become more sophisticated with stratified levels of leadership, the idea of codifying these practices as a means of benefiting the larger society developed.  But the members of the larger society did not have the objective reality of death to put everything in perspective.  Thus the rules of morality became divorced from their pragmatic applications.

Concurrent, leaders realized that they could control the larger society by implementing and conditioning subjects to a moral code.  This opened the door for convenient rules that prevented people from disrupting the standing of the ruling classes.  For example, rules of morality that defined classes and made ideas of transcending class immoral (an extremely common rule throughout stratified societies).

Thus morality developed from a practical reality of men and women dealing with the ultimate reality, to an abstract set of rules for an entire society, to a subtle, but powerful means for ruling classes to solidify their power.

Comfortable or Uncomfortable?  Warrior or not?


My Teachers: A List

This is a list of my teachers:

  • My mother–a saint in my eyes, especially because of her faults
  • My father–piece of shit that he was.
  • Malcom– for showing me a possibility of how to be, when I had no hope.
  • Dr. Reisch–for hazing my ass intellectually, and laying the foundation for my intellectual investigation.
  • Marvin–a counselor at Elmhurst Boys, who gave me a visible example of how to behave.
  • The boys of Elmhurst Boys-with and amongst whom we hustled, fought, stole, smoked, drank.
  • The boys of Lefrak City–who taught me how to take a beat down.
  • Celeste–with whom I learned the possibilities of intimacy & the lunacy of relationships.
  • Those sons of bitches who cut me up, and left me for dead that night in Brooklyn.
  • Sheikh Ali–who taught me spiritual insight.
  • Karriem–my Brother. I’ll miss you. Didn’t get to say goodbye.
  • Dr. Sampson–who did her job when others just wouldn’t.
  • Eddie–who taught me to man up.
  • The NCOs of the Ranger Regiment–who forced me to meet the Warrior.
  • B.I.B.–because of the shit we went through. Those who know, know.
  • My wife–who has been my mirror, whether I wanted her to be or not.
  • My children–who can count the lessons?
  • My business–for bringing me brutally face-to-face with my shortcomings.
  • Daisy, my dog–because she just is. She is a Warrior.
  • Tomiko, my dog–for making me eat my words, and winning me over, despite peeing all over the place.
  • Sugar, my cat–who first showed me what loyalty might look like.
  • My wife’s Grandfather–who was a Real Man. May I ever live up to his example.

That’s it for now. A starter list. I will probably amend the list as time goes on.