This week we had a birthday celebration, one day for family, one day for friends, and two days on the road for college visits. The resultant effect: I missed two whole days of training, and had three highly modified days. Missed training days are extremely bothersome to me. I obsess over how to adjust my schedule, and how to make up for the losses. Truthfully, I probably needed an unload week.
All of which underscored the extent of my attachment to training and things training-related (e.g., logs, nutrition protocols, gear improvements, results). If Training is a Practice (as it is for me), then one very insidious, and deceptive attachment is to the Training itself.
Coaches generally advise viewing missed training days as needed recovery. I try to get in every session I can, knowing I will miss some, and then those become recovery days, instead of lost progress. But that is all very intellectual. On a gut level, the missed days still feel like loss.
This feeling of loss gives us an opportunity to deepen our practice by reflecting on the nature of our attachment to training. If Training is a Practice, then it is not the goal. Only the goal is the goal. (Goals and Zen have their own ironic relationship.) Practice is a vehicle we use along the Road. Or as Suzuki mentions in Beginners Mind, it is the boat we use to cross a stream that crosses the Way. In this light Practice is further removed–not even the Road to the Goal.
I have no answer here, nor any real conclusions. Only that it is an interesting phenomenon. An experience I am thankful for, as it helps peel back another layer, another curtain between me and Reality.
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“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”
Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo
I first saw the above quote in the John Sayles movie Ghost Dog, starring Forrest Whitaker. The movie is essentially about a guy who is on a path–A self-determined path–and how he relaxes into the walk down that path, despite the forces pushing against him. He walks straight down the path despite the storm raging around him. (John Sayles and Forrest Whitaker are two of my favorite people in movies, by the way)
I was watching a boxing match last night. (Boxing is a favorite of mine, the Queen seems to think it is barbaric[?!]) There are so many life lessons to be learned from a boxing match. Last night I fell asleep watching Friday Night Fights, and woke up like 3am to Fight Night Club. A veteran, skilled, slick boxer was in against a younger, unskilled, brawler. The brawler was hitting the slick vet with headbutts, elbows, hip shots, kidney shots. He was punching on the break. He was holding and punching. Low blows. Basically, he was making the fight as unpleasant as possible. One of the analysts mentioned that, even though a boxer may win against a brawler like that, that sort of a fight will test a boxer’s will to go through that again. He’ll need to decide whether he wants to take that walk anymore.
Teddy Atlas would call the required mindset, “acting like a warrior.”
The lesson: Sometimes things will go down that you just have to decide to walk through until the other side. Your only choices will be to walk through the mess, or to quit and do something different.
I just finished reading Everyday Zen, by Charlotte Joko Beck. To me she is in the true tradition of Shunryu Suzuki. Towards the end of the book, she has this to say:
“The more we are aware of our expectations, the more we see that our urge is to manipulate life rather than live it just as it is. Students whose practice is maturing aren’t angry as often because they see their expectations, their desires, before they produce anger. But if the stage of anger is reached, it is practice. . . This very point when “I want” has been frustrated is the “gateless gate” — because the only way to transform “I want” into “I am” is to experience one’s disappointment, one’s frustration.”
Notice, if your practice fails, and you get angry, become frustrated, that actually begins the real practice. It is only there that you have the material to work with. If you always avoid anger. If you never have that mess to walk through–The late bills, the broken down car, the argument with your partner, the pissed of client–You have no material to work with to walk through the Gateless Gate.
Some times you’ll just find yourself in a struggle. And the more you struggle against the struggle, the worse it becomes. Money in your business is slow, so you start juggling accounts, you slip and the problem spreads from your business to your personal stuff. But the slow money is not solved. Or you can lay in the cut, relax and do the fundamentals your business needs, it won’t alleviate the pain of the slow money, but it will move you along the path. But you have to decide.
When the shit is raining down around you, you can dodge and avoid as much as you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a shit storm. Or you can set your mouth, and take that walk, keep moving along the path. It’ll still be coming down, but you’ll still be moving along. This is what the Warrior is. The Warrior is the person who knows that the storm is just interesting background noise. That the only thing that really exists is the Path. The storm, if it exists at all, is only there to help highlight the Path.
Are you going to Act like a Warrior. You’ve got to decide.