If your sacred book is the Torah – try reading the Koran. You will encounter a few friends.
If your sacred book is the Buddhist Sutra then take a look at the Bible. Find how the connective power of a living prayer can enhance a meditation.
If your sacred book is The I Ching what can you learn from The Upanishad? The variety of of life expresses a higher love that empowers us with positivity and guidance.
If your sacred book has become the Wall Street Journal then make a detour into the park. Take the time to try reading the bark of a red pine with your hands.
If Facebook is your bible leave your phone at home and walk with a friend in the dusk.
If the story in your sacred book is being filled with pages of habits and assumptions about what other people think then stop. Turn to a fresh page.
Find a way to elevate. For example: Breathe, smile, get amazed by an Olympic athlete, share something awesome about a medical innovation, get out in nature early one day, put down the phone and love the fact of the small node on the top of your heart that sends the electrical signal that makes it beat. Pretty cool.
The snow is falling as you would expect on an early Saturday morning – with beautiful confidence but in no hurry. The temperature was around zero and the sun was coming up on the other side of the lake so my dreamy snowflakes won’t last long. The lake felt pretty dam cold if you put your hand in there. The air was so clean I couldn’t even find a smell. The night was still intact along the pebble beach. A few pieces of plastic and water-ground glass. Even a few embers glowed in the smoky bonfire from the night before.
From nature we get refreshed and refilled with energy and clarity of vision.
Breathing in … we welcome into our lives, into our body, nature. So, with wonder, we want to be friends with you – the nature spirits. So, nature spirits, a message …
Your loyalty to yourself and service to planet Earth is admirable. Elusive to my mind is how your brilliance happens but my soul knows that accompanying you spirits, in the moment, will grace me, anyone, with your residue.
The clean way of your work is a theatre of the future overflowing with enthusiasm into today.
The gentleness of your attendance to all of us, the variety of persons we are, is appreciated. Picture: The old oak leaning over the path; the littlest rapids bubbling over the rapids in the creek; the wind’s choreographing the canopy dance of maple and elm trunks with birch and spruce branches; the fragrant minerals of mud absorbing fallen autumn leaves – We love how your agility to anchor yourself in any part of nature without judgement enhances wherever you anchor.
Nature … is the melody of the planet’s song. The fairies, gnomes, salamanders, sparks and sparkles of light quick, quickly are the libretto. We feel your harmony of this song in the moment, in the place: the lapping waves on the short pebble beach, the creaking tree limbs loving the yoga of gusty winds; or, inside the minute magnificence of ongoing photosynthesis putting to use the energy of the day.
Vonnegut’s writing put humanity on display – and it often wasn’t pretty.
Perhaps he was lazy. The closer you start to the end – the shorter the journey so the less you need to write. Perhaps starting close to the end is a story design method so the writer stays true to the intention of the story.
Each conversation is a story. Even if that conversation in a dark 30 seconds on a downtown street is between strangers, full of swearing, worrisome and in full public view. What happened was this big and tall guy darted in front of two walking women (mother and daughter) and ‘BOO!!’ he yells out of nowhere. The daughter screams back; her mother said don’t. Daughter pursued him down the sidewalk to share her fright but he wasn’t interested. He already got what he wanted and wasn’t about to listen. His sudden scare manoeuvre works to steal some good energy. In this case: Female energy; high potency anger energy; the beautiful energy of being the focus of the ‘conversation’. All of this makes him feel important and makes up for a lack of relationship in his life.
Dirty business tactics on his part. The business of energy management –
we are all in the same business of energy: give and take, diminish and elevate.
The big, tall guy on the dark, downtown street was using guerrilla tactics. And he started quite close to the end of the intention of his story – which was to steal good energy. It only took him seconds. End of story. For him.
Does that mean he is good at what he does; steal? Or that he has no art? No energy art.
What about the others in the conversation?
Still recovering from the disturbing encounter the mother was coaching her adult daughter as they resumed their journey. The residue on the daughter from the experience is anger. Next time ‘listen to your mother’.
And if her mother isn’t there next time then the daughter would do well to activate her strength of resistance. Meaning make the continuance of her life ( like the walking conversation with her mother) more important than a grown man who is blind to his own value (due to self esteem or illness).
Resist the low. Adhere to the high. You are important. Standards are important.
So, tonight when you lay your head down – wonder – ‘what is true because of you?’
What do you want to be true because of you? This is like Vonnegut telling his students to start as close to the end as possible. If you have a good day what is the energetic residue? If you have a bad day, what is the energetic residue? If you are alone? If you are accompanied?
Close your eyes and know:
Because of you there is a marriage with a sense of loving and being loved;
Because of you a woman has no fear of violence in her marriage.
Because of you a colleague knows they are valued.
Because of you nature spirits flourish.
Because of you …
Life will jump in front of you and scream ‘BOO!’ now and again. When it does, resist the low. Maintain your standards that seek the good.
How young men end up being angry young men and probably violent even though they don’t want to be.
A man by design is an authentic, brave, believing expression of the man version of human.
Alas, what you meet on the street or get into an elevator with is likely an insecure jumble of random goals, half baked intentions and unrealistic self-help affirmations.
Regardless of his facade many a man is a cocktail of doubt and aggression. In many of us men this seamlessly translates into very little self-confidence to access our natural emotional agility to be able to listen. We can listen. We listen to deliver satisfaction. However if the person speaking seeks fulfillment, instead of getting either satisfaction or fulfillment, we have conflict.
Men are great at one thing: being men. The art of Being a man is doing that one thing to get many results. Like going to work pays you money but also brings you satisfaction, admiration from your family, peace for spouse/children and life education for challenges ahead.
Society’s life education about men and women is lacking to the point of being harmful. Therefore the level of man in the world today is low when compared to our abilities and innate sentiments.
It is exactly these beautiful emotions a man has for those who surround him that he needs to shine on himself. That way each man can be his own salvation or inspiration or …
Now because women are naturally different they very often arrive at certain insights via different avenues before a man does. Women might assume that men will, and should, have complimentary insights.
Our history of interpersonal conflict illustrates that men don’t work like that at a societal level. We can create a new narrative for men.
A man connected to his natural spontaneity, vision and get-up-and-go will have put himself in the position to observe the similarities with women in the desire to grow and the differences in their expressions.
The Bridge connecting your emotions with your words
We all admit there are areas where we can improve. It’s painful to the ego but a dose of humility can keep many things at bay.
My wife told me I had become very militaristic in my communication with our teenage daughter. I had no idea. Of course I thought I was showing up to do my dad job by instilling good habits. Good intention with poor execution. The reality for my family was that I was now irritating; at best. And my approach would have become alienating if my wife had not mentioned it to me.
The point is to get more references/ education/ feedback/ input. These are the materials to build a bridge to cross from the ignorant side of the river to the other side. So there can be change from one reality to another – also known as growth:).
Change doesn’t make us wrong. It means we can grow. Especially for adult men this can be a bridge we don’t want to be seen crossing. Often we don’t know how to accept being wrong, or deal with feedback. Especially from our wife or children. Likewise we don’t know how to express ourselves. We don’t know how to say that we want to grow but don’t know how. We don’t know love can be expressed in words as well as actions. Small words, quiet words.
So to help to grow let’s picture a bridge that can help us cross from one perspective – our current outlook – to integrate a new mentality into our range of options. Your bridge can be made of wood and rope straddling high above the river. Or it can be an abandoned wooden railway bridge, made of massive steel beams or a beautifully designed stone bridge with arches.
This bridge spans the RiverofAccompaniment. The water of this river is soothing because it makes us feel welcomed. We are not alone when we take off our shoes to walk ankle deep in the cool, cool water. We switch from the side of loneliness to the other side various times in an hour, day, life depending on our emotional equilibrium.
One side of the river you look up and down the river bank and there is no one; at least no friendlies.
Having built and crossed your bridge to the other side you realize the river is the flourishing of you and others. The river is life. The river is what you make it.
You crossing the bridge may be an act of desperation because you feel left out and lonely. Paying attention to your spouse according to their need now has relevance to you. Or crossing the BridgeofStrength can be because you want to offer your spouse a good relationship.
The challenge here is manifold. However the response is singular: build a bridge through belief in action.
It’s your bridge. Build it as you wish so that others can experience the best of you. So your family can benefit from your accumulated wisdom from a history of accomplishments. Which is what you want too.
Build your bridge because you want to understand and accompany your spouse with respect. Even if you don’t really know what you are doing (be that on the dance floor or in bed or at an awkward social gathering or talking about your marriage or stages in life). But there you are looking good and participating.
It’s you leading – laterally. Which moves your marriage forward – simply in a sideways spiral – meaning you won’t be alone.
There is a swampy bit near the end of our walk in the park ravine where our golden retriever just loves to romp around chest deep in the muck. No doubt the muddy water would be cooling on a hot day but this is April. In Ontario. In a few nooks of shade there can be found caches of snow. Vestiges of a long and beautiful winter. So a dog wouldn’t be needing to cool down too much but for her there is so much exploring to do following the scent of the local fox, rabbit or squirrel.
As she emerges happy as can be now mud black on all four legs her next stop is the slow running river we cross to get back to the parking lot. She trots into the water and takes a few gulps as I take off my shoes and socks. She can sense what is coming up. She plays around a bit more and I get her by the collar now myself knee deep in the more than chilly spring water. It is invigorating for about a minute and turns to numbing soon after. So I scoop water onto her with my free hand. She absolutely hates baths but puts up with them in the river or lake. I get her looking clean but the swampy smell will only become apparent when we are back in the confines of the car.
She is panting and happy. Me rolling down the window to get some fresh air while recognizing the elongated buzz in my feet from the shallow yet still intriguing rocky cold river.
The water, the river, the flow – all them participants in the physical cleaning, mood healing and soul rejuvenating that we experience without fail.
Another river that catches my attention and awe is the River of Changes.
The River of Changes constantly runs through our life bringing challenges and opportunities.
From one grassy bank of the river we can observe in confusion with a victim mentality. Meaning we feel we are not the author of our life nor do we have the resources to be so. Sometimes we do nothing and get stuck in the habit of making this our personal outlook.
Other time’s we are
Moved to grow. That means thinking what we want and what we can do about it. So.
How do you get to the other side: where there should be a different way of looking at the river. A different story for our life. Do we: use,Helicopter, drone, swim, ferry, canoe? All are viable options. However that means all your energy is invested in the focus required to stay afloat in the hopes of getting to the other side where apparently there is another way of looking at things. Looking at the same river, same flow, same current from another engaging perspective. Will you make it to the other side? Will you tip over and put yourself into danger. Do you have any passengers in your canoe? Maybe attempt a crossing and you just turn back as it is difficult to read the currents and avoid the rocks.
Not worth the risk. The uncertainty.
Or you can build a bridge. A bridge you build with a pillars made of bricks of communication. Held together with the mortar of the Three Understandings (what, why, how).
A bridge designed to withstand the current of the river of change. What do you call that Bridge? The bridge that takes us easily (once it is built)from victim mindset to proactive?
From viewing the water of change flowing in one direction to the opposite direction. Without making anyone wrong or bad. What help do we need?
My teacher Elliott taught Xing-yi in the park. It was $10 a class or pay what you can. I think at least half the class took the second option. Most of us were 20 something new arrivals in Taos, New Mexico working in cafes or construction waiting for ski season.
This class was my first exposure to martial arts. Elliott was an awesome instructor. I remember he asked if I had any experience – ‘no’. He said that was usually better because I didn’t have any habits to overcome. I went for a few months that autumn and never returned.
However you could say I had been into martial arts most my life.
What is meant by that is illustrated in the following brief writing.
Bruce Lee was the man! He was the whole Hollywood package. Taking Kung fu to the people.
Martial Arts, if we break it down, could be said to be the Art of War at an individual level companioning the pursuit of peace at tribal level.
Fighting happens. We need to protect ourselves. Our community and at the same time each one of us. Because of the energies involved in the physical or strategic battles it can be very hard, coarse, adversarial, debilitating, draining. That does not mean it is artless. The very stress of the fight, battle and struggle calls for specific skills. If we can activate our skills of self management in war then we have the way to move beyond it. Fighting is a way to communicate what we value and is not a form of communication in itself. Meaning we are fighting for something. For safety or peace or integrity or dignity.
Mars was the god of war from Ancient Rome which speaks to the tribal level of martial managment. The Chinese masters have brought forward with dedication through the ages the forms and sequences of self management of the energy of the red planet. Today we are equally tasked to manage what energy we attract, process and how we dispose of it. We dispose of energy in so many simple and natural ways: conversation, sleep, digestión and organ function in the body.
Said in a conceptual sense, Martial Arts are the system of cleaning, garbage and recycling. So in reality we could say planetary/environmental stewardship is a martial art. At which by majority we have been failing as a group. The human arts of these natural systems are qualities like: forgiveness, making important things important, humour, elevating vision, curiosity plus humility.
On a development journey Martial cleansing activity (yoga, tai chi, aikido) combines very well with the planetary arts of Mercurial vision or earth perception (topics covered in this series).
The art is of thinking ahead. Of engraving mental and emotional pathways in conjunction with life sequences of movements to process life in the moment. Thus maintaining focus on the journey without being sidelined by one’s own reaction or intrusion by bullying. These are forces that cannot grasp the need to hold the apparent contradiction of something in them and not pass judgement.
Think about these three levels of engagement of your natural Martial art:
Low – not letting yourself get damaged but not being the author of your own story.
Medium – using what comes at you for you – think aikido.
High – using what comes at you to elevate your art of perception that powers your red art.
This is a mental model for understanding what you seek with your language and actions, intentions and vision.