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Kung Fu in 5 Easy Steps

“I know Kung Fu”, said Neo (The Matrix).  Wouldn’t it be great if we could just “jack-in” and upload knowledge directly into our brains?  Is it upload or download?  I don’t know.  But, a four-year degree is completed in an hour with no effort.  Martial Artist, Yogi, or pianist.  Just sit back and relax.  Hmm.

The technology for jacking-in like Neo doesn’t exist yet.  Or … does it?  I can’t keep the timeline right.  In the meantime, here are five easy steps to becoming a Kung Fu master:

Step 1: Don’t train in Kung Fu.  It takes way too long.  Lots of work too and you could get hurt.

Step 2: Watch Ip Man I and II.  Three sucked.  And, maybe some Kung Fu YouTube videos.  It’s pretty much the same as earning a black belt.

Step 3: Do some calisthenics and stretching at least once a week.  Not a requirement.  Just a suggestion.

Step 4: Subscribe to Kung Fu magazine to make sure you’re aware of the most up to date way to do a front kick.  It’s always changing.

Step 5: Buy a black belt online. Now you’re official. And don’t forget to put that Kung Fu sticker on your car window, so everyone knows.

Congratulations!

Neo was right.  He did know Kung Fu.  But, knowing isn’t being.  Being takes more than just knowledge.

It takes hard work and time.  Actually, that’s the literal translation of Kung Fu. It takes heart and soul.  It’s passion, belief, diligence, perseverance, feel, discipline, practice, and immersion. We must embrace the philosophy and approach.  It has to be in us if we’re to effectively employ it outwardly.

‘Ever hear a really good blues guitarist do his thing?  Yeah, it’s like that.

The knowing of Kung Fu is not Kung Fu.  We must be it.

Photo by Charlein Gracia on Unsplash

That Time I Met My Childhood Self

One night, in Yoga Teacher Training, our instructor took us through meditation.  Nothing unusual, but this time, we were to go back and meet our childhood selves as we are right now.  I never thought of doing this before and I thought, “Oh, this will be a fun experiment.”  Maybe, I’d give him a high-five and ask him how school is going; that sort of thing.

But, then I saw him and it hit me in an unexpected way.

There I was; eh … me.  He.  We.  Whatever. When I came up to him, I immediately realized that the high-five thing was a dumb idea.  Neither one of us said anything, but he knew who I was and just looked at me with no judgement.  Just observing me, with a welcoming expression.

And this bothered me, because it was like I wanted him to judge me.  I expected it.  He should, dammit!  I felt unworthy of his acceptance and it made me uncomfortable.  Then it made me sad and I did my best to hold back the tears.  I was among my classmates and they can’t see me like that.  You know?

That kid was awesome.  He was naïve, innocent, and okay.  I felt like I fucked that up and that he should push me or punch me or something!  But nothing. He was cool.

I wanted to give him all the excuses about life, reality, circumstances, and survival.  I felt like I should vomit explanations: The first time I saw my parents have one of those fights where they throw shit; and then … the twentieth time.  All those fights I got into.  That time I saw my first dead body.  I was way too young to see a bullet-riddled bleeding corpse.  That time I got jumped and beaten in the projects.  Oh, and that other time and what I had to do to make it home.  That time my cousin died in his sleep.  That car accident.  That time I had to decide to put my mother in hospice and then have her cremated.  And then my father as well.  Or, that time I had two guns pressed into my skull by bank robbers?  Are you kidding me?!  Fucking bank robbers!

And … you know; a bunch of life, multiplied by decades.  I lost my hair.  His hair.  Sorry kid.

But, he just looked at me with that face.  Like … as if he liked me.

So then, I realized where I am now, which is a pretty damn good place.  It took a lot of work, sacrifice, loss, pain, setbacks, eating ramen noodles, self-responsibility, letting the bad shit go, striving for the good things, loving and being loved, and trying to be a better version of myself this day than I was yesterday, multiplied by decades.  I have a soul to protect.  I’m grateful for that, every day.

He saw me.  For real.  All of it.  And he’s proud of me; eh … himself. Us. Whatever.

Thanks buddy.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Can You Make My Daughter Taller?

Sometimes, the problem isn’t the problem and solving for X won’t get you to Y … or, why.

Finding the right solution takes care.  Care to question linear thinking, to step back, observe, process information, allow for imagination, trust your instincts, and try to connect dots.  Then you have to be so bold as to trust yourself for what you came up with and run with it and make adjustments in the field in real time.

About ten years ago, I got a call from a friend who was working with a client and said he gave the guy my cell phone number, because he was looking for someone to work with his daughter and after listening to him, he thought of me.  Of course, I started asking questions and he said he’d rather let the guy explain it directly to me.  Um … okay?

So the guy called and told me about his daughter.  She was fourteen years old and 5’,1”.  All of her friends at school were taller than her.  And then, he says this: “Can you make my daughter taller?”  Yeah, I know.  Before I responded with science, I stopped myself and asked if we could all meet.  Not sure why I did that.  We met at his home, which turned out to be a multi-million-dollar mansion.  Not too shabby.

He greeted me at the door and as we entered the living room, there was his lovely family.  Awesome people.  I sat on one sofa facing the other where his wife, daughter and her older brother sat, while he took the chair to the right.

It was abundantly clear that they loved their children very much and just wanted their daughter to be happy.  They told me they saw doctors, nutritionists, and personal trainers, but now out of desperation and a chance phone conversation with my friend, here I am.  Reasoning with her and reassuring her wasn’t going to work.  We humans are emotional creatures.  Even though we process logic through the neo-cortex, what drives us, comes from the limbic system and that part of the brain doesn’t give a shit about your logic.  Sorry, Doc.

So after about twenty minutes, her father looked at me and asked, “Can you help her?”  That was the question; “Can you help her?”  The word “taller” wasn’t in the question.  I paused, looked at his daughter, then back to him and his wife and said, “I think so.”  We scheduled our first session for that coming Saturday morning.

As I drove out through the guard gate, I thought, “What the hell did I just get myself into?  Why did I tell them I could help?”  On the way home, I just stared out the windshield.  When I got home I pulled out all my books and notes from my martial arts training, my textbooks on kinesiology, physiology, nutrition, and athletic training, as well as articles on puberty and how that affects hormones and growth.  I even had a book on yoga at that time, but I was no yogi.  Still not.

I sat there for hours on the floor, surrounded by books, science, and logic.  Then for no real reason, I picked up one of my martial arts books and as I skimmed through it, it hit me; “This girl isn’t short.  She just sees herself as short.”

I put together a routine that incorporated ancient martial arts exercises with whole body and mind functional training.  Lots of breathing and concentration.  I approached her as a human, not a project or a problem to solve.  It was more about her interconnectedness, mind, body, and soul.

Even though the training wasn’t easy, I kept the atmosphere light with wit and humor.  I’m a comedian at heart.  She began to open up more, engage in what we were doing, and ask questions.  She even smiled and began to joke around as she applied herself more and more.  Ah, there’s a person in there and she’s pretty cool.

We trained out back by their pool.  An amazing setting.  I would always park in the driveway and carry my mats and gear around the side yard to set up.  But one evening, as I was unloading my gear, her father came out to meet me.  This was unusual, as I normally just met everyone out back.  As he spoke, he got a bit glassy-eyed.  He thanked me, handed me a bonus check, and said that they’ve seen some incredible changes in their daughter; that she seemed happier and more confident.  Not taller.  And he hugged me.  Did I mention these people really love their kids?  Awesome.

I ended up training the whole family and they enjoyed having that time together in one space.  They were busy people.  And as far as her getting taller, time took care of that naturally.

Sometimes, the problem isn’t the problem and solving for X will not get us to why.

Cheers.

Photo by allef.viniciusa on Unsplash.

Am I Worthy of My Soul?

I was watching an episode of The Story of God with Morgan Freeman recently, and he was talking with a religion scholar about good and evil.  The scholar went on to say that we need the belief of the devil or hell as a deterrent to evil behavior.  As if we need a threat to be a good person.

I have a different philosophy. I don’t follow religion.  I don’t do church.  I do believe we have a soul and this body is just our human form for this experience in the grand scheme of all things.  I don’t know how it works or what happens before or after death.  I simply don’t know.  By the way, no one does.  Having said that, I do believe in the concept of a soul.

Our soul is ours to care for, respect, manage, and grow throughout this universal journey and if I do bad things, that is a dent to my soul.  This is the most valuable thing that is us.  Our soul is us.  If I treat it like a shit pick-up truck, driving it through mud, never cleaning it, broken windshield, not running on all cylinders, bent frame, and blowing out black exhaust, then it is what it is.  Shit.

Nothing wrong with a pick-up truck and it’s quite normal to drive through some mud once in a while.  It’s built for that and in this existence, mud is hard to avoid.  We can’t, nor should we avoid it all.  That would be exhausting, miserable, and quite boring.  But, we must take care of our truck, eh … soul, if it’s going to continue to perform well for, I don’t know; maybe … eternity.  Again, I don’t know.

Some souls are just broken or their connection with the human form was botched from the beginning.  Back in that same episode, Mr. Freeman met with a man, a life-sentence prisoner, who murdered and raped people.  This man said that he should never be freed from prison, because he knows he would do it again.  He said that he has no sense of remorse or empathy like most normal humans do and he knows that.  He knows he’s not right.  His truck is a lemon.

But, for the greater majority of us, our soul, mind, body connection is in proper working form.  However, there are some of us who do bad shit anyway.  I guess they either don’t believe or don’t care about things like heaven and hell.  Who knows?

For me, I don’t need a threat called hell.  I don’t respond well to threats.  Wrong approach with me.  I think this is true for most humans.  I also don’t need the excuse of a devil if I do something wrong.  As a responsible human, my thoughts and actions are mine; demons be dammed.

I don’t need the promise of heaven either; like a carrot hung out in front of me.  I don’t like carrots.  They make my stomach hurt and taste like dirt.

No, I simply respect and love my soul; Atman, as we refer to it in yoga.  I don’t know whomever/whatever created it, but it’s mine and I do my best to keep it clean and in good working order.  So, at least when I say “Namaste”, I feel good about my soul being worthy of greeting yours.

Namaste.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

Wabi Sabi

Pure driven snow looks almost perfect, but with one set of footprints, it becomes a story; something more.  The snow is no longer “perfect”, but somehow it’s even better.

The darkness is appreciated for the light.  The good is better, because of a touch of bad.  The blank canvas becomes art with the first splatter of paint.  That scar, dent, wrinkle, hardship, worn and weathered, driven off the lot, dog-eared imperfection illuminates the beauty.

Basically, wabi sabi means it’s perfect, because it’s a little fucked up.

We’ve been through some shit, which can make us more attractive.  Or … less.  Some of us let the scratches become our story, rather than enrich it and that’s a real shame.  Some have gotten hit pretty hard.  Knocked down.  Several times.  And we need to process through that.  Not an easy thing.  But, we can’t get stuck in the sorrow, pain, and scars.

I hear The Doors in the background, “… no time to wallow in the mire.”

Staying in the mire is neglect of the self.  Don’t mistake neglect for imperfection.  It’s simply neglect and there’s no beauty in that.  Care is the opposite of neglect.  If we take care in the face of tribulation and because of it, well … it can be a beautiful thing.  Not in spite of it though.  Spite comes from and fuels anger, resentment, and darkness.  The results of spite are quite different than those of benevolence.

Like Zen, Wabi Sabi encourages us to celebrate the way things are, rather than how they should be.  Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve is not reality.  It’s a miserable fantasyland, because we never allow ourselves to be content in what truly is.

To clarify, being content is not about sitting in the mud and saying “fuck it” with a fake smile on our face.  It’s about being happy in our pursuit.

“Wabi Sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” – Richard Powell

Yes … authenticity.  Because beauty is in the imperfections.

Photo by Manish Kumar on Unsplash

In the Face of Nostalgia and Regret

“Nostalgia is a seductive liar.” – George Ball

It’s been my experience thus far, that some of the most unhappy people live nostalgically.  Nothing wrong with visiting, but many among us try to live there.  They remember and talk of the past as if it was some magical place; a half-smile with a distant stare.  Meanwhile, they’re missing the Now, where life is happening.

Seeing things nostalgically thirty or so years after the fact, can look like a Hollywood movie.  The problem is that our mind remembers not so much what, but how it wants to remember.  The past isn’t real.  Not now.  It was, when it was Now, but now it’s just a memory.  We filter out the circumstances that were in play at that time, including our own motivations, thought process, values, beliefs, psychology, relationships, and a million other things, including all the bad parts.

Billy Joel is singing, “The good ole days weren’t always good and the future ain’t as bad as it seems.”

The popular story-line lately, about how people on their death bed regret, not so much the things they did, but the things they didn’t do.  Like it’s supposed to be motivational, right?  Inspiring?  As if, by hearing these stories, we’ll quit our job, sell our shit, and tour the world with a backpack.

But, we don’t.  Why?  Because for 99% of us, it doesn’t make any fucking sense.  It may sound romantic, but it’s not really what we want, nor need.  So, we don’t do it.

Because what happens?  What; one day we’re on our deathbed regretting what we didn’t do and say to some young soul, “My biggest regret is that I didn’t leave society to homestead in northern Alaska”?  “I didn’t quit that six figure job to volunteer in a third-world country.”  “I never bought that Ferrari.”  Okay, that’s a bad example.  You really should have bought that Ferrari.  What’s a matter with you?!  Life is short!

Nostalgia can suck, but so does regret.  So … we didn’t do that thing, even though we thought we wanted to at the time and now, we regret it.  No.  We didn’t do it for all the reasons we didn’t and never did and that is that.  Remember?

How about this: Santosha, the Niyama of contentment.  It’s not about how things should be or shouldn’t have been.  It’s about how things are and complete acceptance of our truth as it is here, in the now.  Once we acknowledge that, it’s up to us to figure out what we’re going to do or not and then do it.  Or not.  No regrets.

I’m in love with the idea of climbing Mount Everest.  These men and women; the Sherpas, the stories, the TV shows and movies.  It’s such an amazing thing, I can see myself doing that.  I’m not doing that.  I’m not, because from what I understand, it’s a bit chilly there and I could lose my fingers, lose $100,000 and/or die.  At the most basic level it would be quite selfish and irresponsible.  I don’t need something like that to feel good about being human; to feel … complete.  I will never regret not climbing Everest.  I am content with that.

I’m content with most things.  Some things I’m not and that’s on me.  Perfectly normal, by the way.  So I’m content with some of my discontent.  Something to work on.

And … until I buy that Ferrari, I’m content with browsing and the process of the journey.

Cheers.

Photo by Matt Antonioli on Unsplash

 

Threshold of Happiness

There I was, seat 21D, flying home from my annual performance review.  I got a nice bonus and was feeling pretty good.  I was surrounded by a group of people who worked for a large corporation and apparently they had a damn good year, considering this conversation: “I got a Porsche.  What am I going to do with a Porsche?  I don’t even like Porsches.”  “I got a Harley and I’m not a motorcycle guy.  Not sure what to do with it.”

Those two guys seemed to work it out; agreeing to trade the Porsche for the Harley.  Seemed a bit uneven to me, but whatever.

I got to thinking about my “nice” bonus.  A minute ago, I was feeling pretty good, but now, the whole Porsche/Harley thing.  There was a cacophony of conversations among this group throughout the flight, comparing bonuses, goals, expense budgets, and quotas.  Then about stress, pressure, bad management, and a negative culture.  I just listened and observed without intention or thought.

As I drove home from the airport, I didn’t even put music on.  I usually sing.  Feels good.  Hey, I’m not bad.  I kill it on Rockband.  It was dark and I had that thousand-yard stare. Quiet.  In bed, I wondered what their lives were like and replayed that scene on the plane in my head.  I woke up in a nice house with an awesome family; coffee brewing.  Home.  Feels good.

Is it a step down to take a position in another field, another company, or another career path that pays less?  Many would say, “yes”.  But what if this new path meant a better culture, a better atmosphere, less hours, or just made us happier through fulfillment, purpose, or passion?  What if it gave us more time to spend with our family or to pursue other endeavors that fed our soul?

“Ha!  Culture doesn’t butter the biscuit.  Atmosphere doesn’t pay the mortgage.  Less hours?!  Do you know what kind of responsibilities I have?  What pressure I’m under?”

Yep; social pressure.  A responsibility to the perception of our portrayal of self and status.  A job that pays less, a smaller house, and forgoing that Porsche for a Durango in this social construct seems outwardly, like a step down; a step backward.  What will people say?  Worse yet; what will they think?

Well … that’s on them, isn’t it?  Ah, if it were only that simple.

Mmm, but it is.  It’s not about work/life “balance”, as we like to say.  It’s about quality of life itself, deep and wide.  Hey, I like nice shit as much as the next guy, but there’s a threshold.  A threshold that maybe we trip over or never notice.  A threshold where we sacrifice spaghetti and meatballs with family in the living room for filet mignon with “important” clients at 7:30pm on a Tuesday.

Sure, there are exceptions to what I’m saying: entrepreneur trying to get a foothold; a family trying to get a leg up; a student trying to pay their way through school.  Done all three of those examples and there are many others, but I’m talking about that threshold.

How about this from The Fixx:

“So, give me your attention, I know it’s getting late.

While we were dreaming, something slipped away.

We’re drowning in possessions, playing tricks with our minds.

Lost from one another, baby put your hand in mine.

Time is slipping away, but it’s not too late.

How much is enough?”

The pursuit of happiness?  What about being happy in our pursuit?  Maybe stepping back across that threshold is not a step back or down, but really a step up for the right things.

I don’t know.  Just asking.  For a friend.

Photo by Robert J. Soper on Unsplash