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

Posts tagged “spirit

No Purpose

Zen calligraphic depiction of Mu

There is no purpose to my training.  There is no real end-goal to all of this.  People ask why I train.  Last night the question came up with one of our surrogate daughters (as I call them).  This time it was in the form of  “Why do you triathlons?” We were discussing Ironman.  The answer was “Because it was the next step”–Which doesn’t really answer her question.

The question of Purpose implies in part a practical purpose.  My training and competing does have some practical side benefits.  There are several very real real-world reasons I train.  However, these are not compelling enough in themselves to justify what I do.  Therefore, in honesty they are not Why I Train.

I have asked this question before.

Training has many practical benefits.  I have actually needed it in the real world.  Survival is a huge  one.  General health.  Improved mental functioning.  Ability to keep up with my kids.  Respect amongst my peers.  Social outlet.  Fun. Improvement in my other purposeless activities (rock climbing, camping, hiking, fishing).  It is a tool on my spiritual path.  But none of these, even surviving the coming apocolypse, is really compelling enough.

I’ve been reading the “E-Myth” Series of books, by Michael E. Gerber.  In E-Myth Mastery he tackles this question of Purpose, Passion, and Vision (his distinctions).  Gerber concludes that once something is reduced to purpose, practicality is attached, and the original vision is killed.  This is something experienced in business all the time.  Artists talk of how earning a living from their art, killed their art.  I am going through this in my business right now.  My artistic vision has been compromised by the practical needs of operating a business.  Consequently, I find my passion waning.

Walking back to the soccer fields last night, approaching from above, I was able to look out over the whole complex spread out under the lights.  I was struck by the sheer numbers of kids working hard at something, which, for most of them, will yield no practical results.  There will be no soccer scholarships for most.  Most will not play on the top state and national teams.  Even for those who play on top teams, or make their competitive high school squads, the real practicality of it all is hard to define.  There are much better ways to finance a college education than pouring all the time and money we do into sports.  We put a massive amount of effort and resources as a society into sports.  All of which only yields “practical” results for an improbably narrow slice.

Why do we do this?

I believe it is a primordial longing that compels us.  Our obsession for sports embodies a longing for a Human state lost thousands of years ago.  I’ve talked about how the Warrior class developed as human society became more organized.  How the Warrior class is an embodiment of some of our most powerful Human evolutions.  The Warrior is a link between Civilized man and Natural man.  We long for this connection.

There is no Purpose to my training.  I am compelled by a calling from time before Reason, a root deeper than Purpose.


Training the Vehicle

In the gym lifting yesterday, I had an epiphany.  An article tweeted by @EastTriFitCrew drew the analogy of  your body as a vehicle you train and prep for race day–a vehicle that it is then up to you the driver to drive for the race.  I found this analogy striking at the moment, a great distinction between your body, training, and your self who must actually execute on race day, mechanical malfunctions, inadequacies and all.  It is similar, but not exactly, like the guy with the $5000 bike, the bike alone won’t make him go fast.  (I also appreciate the role of the self as the observer)

However, in the gym yesterday, it occurred that this analogy can be extended further, and more meaningfully to Practice and life in general.  We practice for what purpose?  It is not an end in itself.  Nor is it for the purpose of the real side benefits–reduced heart rate, longevity, improved health, better focus–but to prepare ourselves to navigate this life, many of whom’s ultimate goal is to not rinse-and-repeat next life, but ultimate freedom from Samsara.

Practice that only aims for the side benefits, falls far short.  Yoga, zazen, tai chi–whatever your practice, there are many side benefits (so readily marketed to us now), but what is the point if you don’t then use that improved vehicle to navigate this life.

You are the driver.  Your body is a shell.  You will eventually shed your body, your mind even.  Until then, to what use will you put them?

Training is my Practice.  It is what actually keeps me functional in this life.  For me the vehicle and driver analogy is perfect.  My truck with 316,000 miles on it–I do the maintenance so it will remain functional, and continue to help me navigate around town.  I don’t do the maintenance just so it will look nice, or people will think it is cool (though some actually do think it’s cool).  I practice so my mind and body will remain functional (sometimes even at peak performance), and I can use them to help me navigate this universe.


Trust the Training

Confession:  This post is inspired by Lauren Hanna Foster’s recent post Trust the Practice.  I saw a tweet/retweet with the titled and was led to read the post, mostly by its recollection of a refrain from my past “Trust your training.”  The implication being, if you’ve put in the work, when you need it your training will in turn work for you.  Regardless whether you intellectually understand it, or emotionally agree–you have trained, your training will carry you through.  In a survival scenario, or in a grueling race, rely on your training.

Lauren’s post isn’t about life or death, but it is about Showing Up and Putting in the Work.  If you show up, the Practice will carry you through.

I encountered this yesterday.  After a day of barely dragging myself through, I had a soccer practice to run in the evening.  The last thing I wanted to do was go out, down to the fields, and pretend to be highly motivated for my girls.  Funny thing is, though the mere act of getting there was a struggle, once I hit the fields, the sluggishness disappeared.  No pretending.  I was highly motivated.  I left practice elated and feeling good, so good in fact I didn’t remember how shitty I felt going in, until I read Lauren’s piece.

This is how it is with Training, too.  It’s on the schedule.  There are always other, more pressing, things coming up.  There is always a crisis, some reason to not go.  But once you get there (if you can manage it), all the excuses melt away, and all the terrible things which will happen, don’t.  And your sense of dragging through, quickly fades.  Time recedes, and before you know it, the session is coming to a close.  Oftentime, the session comes to a close too soon, and we want more.

Now, for me, Training is my Practice.  My monkey mind, lower self, nafs, whatever you call it, seems to try its best to throw me off track.  It’s arguments are intellectually compelling, emotionally powerful.  It’s too cold, you have too much to do.  But the logic and emotional power never hold up in the face of simply Showing Up.

Trust the Training.


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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


My Temple

The Mountainside is my Temple;

The Shoreline is my Masjid;

Deep in the Woods, I kneel,

The Shrine surrounds me

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— Jalal

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Awesome images: Gregory Colbert

I saw this post on Gregory Colbert today.  Colbert’s photography work is amazing, visit his site and photography: Ashes & Snow.

Read the whole post

image of girl dancing and releasing a hawk in flight

Gregory Colbert image -- http://ashesandsnow.com