Monday, May 5, 2014
Some people say the best workout comes from repeating a single movement thousands of times and others use a duration of time to indicate they have finished a good workout. We can make progress through training forms, sparring, hitting a heavy bag, research or even meditation, but how can we know how much progress we've made? Everything becomes evident given enough time, but the results of most training can't be seen by the eye for at least weeks. As you gain a deeper understanding of many skills you will discover that mamy forms of development can never be seen, but only felt.
Progress is the ever elusive objective that can fill your heart with joy when it's present. It can also leave you at the end of a workout feeling not as competent as you wish to be. If I could put a time lapse on my life you would see the different dojos and schools that I've trained in. You would also witness hundreds of people of all kinds coming and going like the tide as the days turned into years. As a child there were many people that I thought I would grow old training with, but I came to find that most people, not even martial artists, are a match for time.
No matter what skill you choose to develop, you will only be able to develop it on your own. We have teachers, training groups and different inspirations, but no one is going to be able to put in the work for you. You will spend time improving the techniques of any craft in the isolated areas inside of your mind. You will have to overcome pain, discomfort, frustration, sickness, emotion, injury, and most importantly time on your own. They say time isn't real, but what is more real than the space that separates us from the person that we aspire to be?
Every now and then we can grasp onto a superficial reason that can act as fuel to help us continue the occasional unpleasantness of training. A small foothold on a mountain that can give you enough leverage for just one more step. Training partners, movies, inspirational people, weight loss, and even a spouse can give you the motivation that will help you through a few more months of development. As beautiful as it is to momentarily have something to pull you through, those reasons will also fade. This is why people who lose weight, often gain it back or new year's resolutions rarely last a year. The truth is the journey of becoming a stronger person isn't something that can be measured on a scale. You may start with a friend, but progress is a road that can only be walked alone. Most times on that road not even you yourself will be able to determine whether you are coming or going.
It doesn't matter what martial arts style or hobby you do if you can not continue to do it. It doesn't matter how good you look because we will all eventually fade as worn fabric. Most people fall off the path because they believe that it is a physical or even a mental challenge. Yet the true transformation of self can only be activated and maintained through the spirit. The spirit is often confused for the mind because the mind is so connected to the spirit. Just as the mind also controls every movement of the body. When your body aches, your mind tells you to stop, but your spirit gives you the strength to push passed the discomfort.
How do we strengthen the spirit? The body is physical and we feed it with solid foods. We treat the physical with something that is physical. We strengthen the mind with knowledge. We can not eat food to strengthen the mind. The mind is fed with books, stories, media and information. The mind discriminates what it takes in, just as the body does not consider all physical objects to be edible. However the spirit is affected by all things that it comes in contact with without discriminating the edible and inedible. Everything that the mind and body digest can become a part of the stomach of the spirit which is called "Faith".
Faith is something people often relate to religion, but there is nothing that we use more in our day to day lives. When you work for a company, you have faith that they will give you money at the end of the month. All of society has faith that the form of currency we use represents a standard value. We have faith that basketball games are not rigged or how else could we enjoy the outcome? There is also negative faith. You can have faith that you will never make enough money. You can have faith that your loved one is cheating on you. Faith is the building block of creating anything including all forms of progress. Therefore it is imperative we understand the direction that our faith is pulling us not only so we can continue training, but so we can create our desired reality.
The most common issue with strengthening the spirit is a communication problem between the mind and the body. If the mind fails to communicate properly with the body, it can lead to paralysis or mental illness. If the spirit fails to communicate with the mind, it will lead to foolishness that disguises itself as wisdom. This malfunction of the system generally occurs when we confuse the mind with the spirit.It is essential that the spirit drives the machine and the body and mind act as helpful companions.
When the weather is unpleasant and both my body and my mind feel exhausted, the only way I can make myself train is to say in faith, "I'm going to have a good workout." I speak in faith against both my body and my mind until it realizes itself in the sharpening of my techniques and physical martial arts progress. Sometimes my mind will help me and say, "That felt great"..other times my mind is an opponent and says, "You still suck." If you give into your mind, which is often contaminated by dark media, you will find your faith moving you in the wrong direction. Even when you are doing something great, you can have faith against yourself and that is why most dojos empty out month after month.Your body can also fight against your spirit, telling you, "Today we are too sore." A bad diet and a late night sleep will do its best to fight against the goals of the spirit. But even when you are exhausted you can speak in faith into your machine. There is a time for rest and a time to train, but every decision should be made by the spirit. The spirit has the power to refresh the mind and heal the body unless the spirit is weaker than the other two components. The spirit will strengthen depending on what form of food (faith) we feed it with.
If the majority of your faith stems from the root of knowledge then your spirit is endanger of weakening because knowledge can create an overpowering mind. Just as a student of medicine is endanger of becoming sick as they learn of the different numerous viruses. Through worry, the mind contaminates the spirit and eventually convinces the machine to adopt a faith in sickness. A pain in the body may start as something very minor, but worry can strengthen the faith in the physical problem causing the ailment to grow into something truly problematic. If your spirit isn't strong enough to resist the body and the mind, your progress will be limited by mental and physical borders.
If you base your faith in your personal experience then you will never be able to see anything other from what you have already learned. This can be especially dangerous if based on a negative experience. A man who believes women are not loyal will continually create a reality that will attract women who are dishonest. On the other hand a woman may continue to welcome abusive men into her life.
There are some people who don't have their faith based in anything and consume the sands of their environment. Sand represents endless and overall meaningless distractions, that will always leave the individual craving the next great form of entertainment. Yet the more entertainment he/she finds, the more thirsty they become, always dissatisfied and looking for the next greatest pleasure. A drug of the spirit is far more powerful than drugs that affect the mind and body.
Of course their are many other forms of faith, such as faith in government, technology, medicine, mother nature, even martial arts...but most of these can be pulled into the same category of "faith in our perception" or "faith in self". It always sounds so good when we say BELIEVE IN YOUR SELF. It's made thousands of bumper stickers and self help books, but this of course will not last.
When I was little, my brother used to believe that if he was strong enough, he could sit on a blanket and pull straight up on the two edges and elevate himself into the air. He did push ups and pull ups for months before he realized that gravity had a different plan. That is much like basing your faith in yourself. We can not choose the moment that we are born and we rarely choose the moment that we die. If we do not have control over the two most important moments of our life, how can we really put faith in our ability alone?
The bible defines repentance as the renewal of the mind. When I train, I meditate on the promises that existed before I was born and will be around after I leave. As I practice in the rain, I praise who made the rain and gave me the strength to dance with the rain on this day. Christ says that we should take his joy. That is what I do when I wake up and my joy tank is on empty. I put my faith in the One who made all things. But more importantly, He puts His faith in me. "Those who love God will be blessed in all things."
Faith is exactly the same as internal arts. You must be connected to the ground in order to control your energy. If you are standing on an unstable substance such as sand, it is only a matter of time before you lose your footing.