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

Posts tagged “stalking

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.


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


Habits: Stalking negative emotions

My favorite book on dealing with negative emotions is a compilation of meditations by Thich Nhat Hanh, Taming the Tiger Within:  Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions (2004).  He has several themes dealing with negative emotions.  He continually recommends honesty and openness with your loved ones about how your feeling.  (study indicating that this is a physically healthy practice).  He also recommends being gentle with one self.   He recommends reminding yourself, and meditating on, the things that make you happy.  Much of his recommendations fall under the practice of Stalking.  The practice that I touch on below is a first step in the process of Stalking.

“It is very helpful to see yourself in moments when you are angry.  It is a bell of mindfulness.” ~ p. 27

“One of the main causes of our suffering is the seed of anger inside of us.”  ~  p. 5

Notice that each of the above quotes asks us to step outside of our heads and observe (in this case our anger), our difficult emotions.  This stepping outside of our selves is a critical step in the process of Stalking, because in doing so we create some space, however momentary, between our emotion and any subsequent reactions or impulses we display when we feel this anger.

Thich Nhat Hanh doesn’t say that negative emotions are habits, but I contend that if not the emotion, then our subsequent expression and behavior is.  Further, I contend that much of our subsequent reactions are inhibitors in our life.

If we hope to restructure our reactions and impulses away from regrettable behaviors, the space Thich Nhat Hanh points to is necessary to be able to later reconstruct events and discover the lynch-pin behaviors.

Remember, typically in a habitual sequence of behaviors, there will typically be a point where we shift from mindful to auto pilot.  I discuss this sequence in my earlier post.  After an argument, or a rough weekend, or some other set  of negative emotions, once the sting has subsided, it is important to retrace events in our mind and find the one behavior or reaction which if we didn’t do, could have turned the tide.  Or once we did do, things went down hill.

A couple of weeks ago I had an especially hard day.  In looking back I can see that I had several opportunities to meditate and organize my thoughts and game plan, but I always felt rushed and put the planning off.  Had I taken five or ten minutes to make a couple of lists, when the crisis of that day peaked, I could have fallen back on those lists.  Going forward I have resolved to remind myself to set down and scratch out a couple of lists when the though occurs, and not put it off.  Since that weekend, I have had one such opportunity, and I didn’t make great lists, or give myself quite enough time, but I was able to better organize my thoughts, and operate with a better game plan.  Things still didn’t work out as well as they would have if I had focused more, but not as bad as they would have had I only the seat of my pants to work with.

Similarly with anger.  I have had a couple of chances to practice creating some space, and interrupting my impulse to escalate arguments, even when clearly invited to do so by my fellow antagonist.  This issue of escalation is interesting.  Often, in an argument, our fellow antagonist is more comfortable with an all out irrational confrontation instead of calmly addressing the points actually on the table.  We must be careful of this desire, and resist the temptation to bait people into it, and to take the bait when so deliciously offered. Some space and observation is required to see the bait coming and to resist taking it (or resist throwing it out there).

There are several specific techniques we can use to build more productive habits surrounding negative emotions.

  • cognitive restructuring
  • logic
  • humor
  • communication
  • avoidance
  • timing

I will not go into detail here.  It is most important to first practice being the observer to our emotional expression and reaction.  This simple (not easy) act of creating space and observing will often point the way to what action we can take next.



Your comments are welcome below. . .

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Hard Days

Hard days, are . . . well–Hard.  By extension they are generally unpleasant.  By extension we generally try to avoid them.  The irony is that these are the days we can grow from.  That make us better.  That make more Hard Days less likely.  By extension we should actually seek out more Hard Days.

This is a major principle in training, particularly when it comes to endurance sports.  But this is true to all aspects of our lives.  Hard Days give plenty of fodder to analyze our stalking (the process where we monitor our own behavior, step by step, from a detached point of view).  Stalking is a key activity in growth because it provides the vision to see, in this case, the small things that made the day hard, and which can be changed.

The principle in stalking is to detachedly dissect our internal reactions, and find the key reactions that a particular sequence of behaviors pivoted on.  Sometimes, these reactions and choices were several days before the experience of hardship.

Stalking can be applied to Easy Days or Successful Days as well, except we are usually not motivated to dissect and change these outcomes as much.

Hard Days are uncomfortable, unpleasant, painful, agonizing, miserable–take your pick.  The trigger our inherited survival avoidance mechanisms.  And they need to be absolutely sought out.

-Old 454

Please feel free to comment below.

Also, find me on twitter:  Twitter.com/Old454

Persistence Hunters: African Kalahari Kudu Persistence Hunt — Video

Breaking Habits: an introduction to stalking.

Habits.  What are they?

Studying and dealing with our habits provide rich material for personal practice.

Habits are function of the mind.  The brain and mind are hardwired to automatically and continually form habits.  They are sets of conditioned behaviors, triggered by certain conditions.  They are functions to streamline repetitive actions.

Habits benefit us because they circumvent thought. Thus, they aid survival by allowing us to respond to conditions instantly with complex set of  actions.  They also streamline repetitive and redundant activities, freeing the mind to focus on higher forms of thought.  Similarly, they allow us to be more efficient in all activities.

However, habits are also a detriment, precisely because they circumvent thought.  We respond to certain stimuli without thought.  Certain conditions present themselves, and we find ourselves responding, often in ways we don’t actually want to.  These responses serve to keep us locked in negative patterns.  Habits layered onto of habits become very complex, and difficult to unravel.  Our energy becomes tied up in their maintenance.  Thus, we don’t have enough residual energy to devote to breaking the cycles.

These habitual behaviors and thought patterns are our primary loss of Freedom. Our mind automatically forms habits.  We lose Freedom from conditioning we didn’t choose.  Beginning in infancy we are conditioned by society, family, school, relationships, and work into certain habitual patterns.  Freedom is slowly circumscribed without our awareness.

We can reclaim this Freedom.  As adults we can choose to form or break different habits. But this is not easy. Conditions arise & habits fire off before thought engages.

How do we choose Habits?

Stalking is a method we can used to begin to break old habits and choose new ones.  Virtually all behaviors and actions are composed of habituated components.   It is not simply a matter of forming new habits.  We must deal with the old habits which are occupying space and energy

Stalking at its most basic is paying attention to oneself.  Specifically, observing oneself from a disinterested perspective.  To break habits, me must first pay Attention. When you do something, look and see what were the conditions immediately before that.

The classic example is smoking cigarettes.  Before you light up a cigarette, there will be a whole chain of events.  The urge, certain conditions that trigger the urge, thinking about buying a pack, thinking about going to your spot, unwrapping the wrapper, opening the matchbook, etc.  For different people, interrupting one item in that cycle will break the sequence, and make it at least a lot easier to not light up.  Maybe its buying the pack.  If you can resist the urge for the five additional minutes it takes to get home, the urge to buy will pass.  The more times you do this, the weaker the urge becomes.

At any rate, the same can be done with any habit.  For example, Arguments–what is the sequence of events leading to an argument?  There will be a point of no return, where the pull of the drama is too strong to resist.  What single thing can you do before that point, which will kill the sequence?  Maybe its as simple as walking away, or driving away for twenty minutes.  Whatever it is, do not rely on willpower alone, e.g. just keeping your mouth shut.

Before you can think about it, you go off on someone. What immediately lead up to that? You can only control what you do.  You can not control what other people do.  What did you do?

Of the actions leading to a habit, What is the one action you could do differently that would change the entire course of your behavior?

Next, you must create the space to give you time to change that one action, before the Habit fires off. There are many methods to do this.  The best methods for me are meditation and paying attention. As you pay attention more, you’ll see things coming more clearly

At first, you’ll see yourself falling into the trap, where before you’d wonder how you ended up here again.  Eventually, you’ll be able to interrupt the sequence. Sometimes success, sometimes failure.  Persistence will yield more success.

The other piece to the habit puzzle, is to replace the old habit.  Nature abhors a vacuum.   You must always be working on choosing new habits.  This is a subject for another post, however.  Continual study and practice are the keys, though.

I’ve used this method on several habits. Physical habits are easier to address than mental habits.  As hard as it is, quitting cigarettes is easier to address than arguing with  your partner, or making poor financial decisions.