Was reading my Twitter friend @ZenDirtZenDust‘s recent post about where your real teachers are found. And it got me thinking about this connection between our daily busy ness (training included) and where we are really trying to go in life.
Why are you doing the things you’re doing? I know I’ve asked this question before, but it bears re-asking. And re-answering, if you have even ever answered it.
This is one of the tasks of the Warrior. To craft this connection between your mundane daily life and your Ultimate Goals. It is often an attitude adjustment. You can go to the gym to get ready for beach season, or you can go to the gym to keep your depression in check. Same gym, same workout, same time. Totally different trajectory.
Right now, Stop and answer these questions.
- Of all the things you did today, which of those addressed your top lifetime goals? Did any?
- Of all the things you did this week, which were directed right at your Most Important Values and Priorities?
There are many people in this world whose Most Important Focus in life is legitimately finding enough food to eat for that day. But there’s not many of those people in the United States–some, but not many. Similarly with paying the gas bill, the car note, laundry, grocery shopping, finishing that proposal and all the myriad pressing, but not Ultimately Important activities and stressors in our lives.
Just a question.
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.
For me training and Warriorship are intimately connected. Some training may seem obvious, such as Shinkendo, sword training, and other martial arts. However, one training which holds a particularly strong connection to Warriorship for me, is running. Several aspects of running that make this connection. One is the nature of what’s involved psychologically with long distance endurance running. Another are the types of goals and motivations one needs to maintain endurance training over time. And a third, on a more mystical level, is the ancestral connection between running and our ancestral Warriors. For me, the convergence of these facets makes endurance running an ideal physical training for the Warrior.
Fundamentally, long distance running involves overcoming pain and discomfort and willingly causing oneself to be subjected to such over long periods of time. The clincher is that the runner grows to enjoy this. As a young man, I was required to run fast, and long virtually every day, and I always say hated it. However, this is not true. I did, in fact, hate running. But I learned to love the residual side effects. The performance boost it gave me in other activities, the sense of calm I was embewed with for the remainder of the day, the clarity, the pride. This type of self-imposed discipline, coupled with a developing affinity for, and enjoyment of the discipline, is very closely aligned with the discipline and development of a Warrior. Whereas much of the discipline experienced in society is enforced from without, the Warrior’s discipline is built from within, within the construction of his personal architecture.
The goals a runner sets and adjusts over time, as well as what motivates a runner, are very akin to the Warrior. I always say if you’re not training for an event, you’re just exercising. The point is that there needs to be a point. There needs to be something you’re moving towards, and getting ready for, that is outside of yourself. It’s not enough, for example, to do it to look good. Also, a runner needs to adjust goals over time, initially as one’s ability increases, the goals will become more challenging. Runners will encounter setbacks, bad race times, injuries, illnesses going into a race. These will put don Miguel Ruiz’s mantra into perspective, “Always do your best.” Your best will fluctuate. Also, as you get older maybe, the physical challenge will give way to other goals, and payoffs. Critical to the Warrior’s development is the experience of setbacks, and the adjustments required to deal with, and overcome those setbacks. Sometimes, we must be water and, overcoming means adjusting goals. Sometimes, as water it means just wearing those obstacles away. Regardless, setbacks and their impact on goals are critical to the Warrior’s development.
On a more mystical level, the runner and the warrior are linked by millions of years of human evolution. Humans are built for long distance running. Anthropologists frequently point to our several physical shortcomings, but the ability of humans to cover long distances continually, and relentlessly is, not unique, but rare in the animal kingdom, and singularly unique amongst primates. Additionally, running constitutes the first form of human hunting. Today this is referred to as persistence hunting. On its basic level, running prey down for miles and miles, until the prey succumbs to exhaustion. Historically, this was an all hands-on-deck affair, practiced by males and females. It is still practiced in certain parts of the world today.
The best runners, as time went on, developed into the core of warrior societies. Running is still today, a key component of training soldiers, the one-dimensional cousins of Warriors. The soldier experiences all of the above described aspects of running during his time in training. Running becomes a purposeful activity, especially to the light-infantry soldier, whose job description includes potentially finding himself literally running for his life.
Whereas Warriors and soldiers are not the same. The experience of the soldier in running as an integral part of their training points to the kinship between Warriors and running. The psychological challenges, the peculiar morphing natures of a runners goals and motivations, and this visceral, ancestral connection underscore the connection between Warriors and running. They point to the usefulness of running as a training activity, and as a key in unlocking the mystical doorway.