Growth Is Painful

I often write about how life is tough. Of course it is, right? Where would the challenge of life be, without the constant obstacles that consume our daily lives. If everything was handed to us on a silver platter, we’d get slow and lazy and never reach for the stars. With that thought in mind, it becomes paramount that we meet those challenges head on. There really is no other solution.

Mandy Hale once said, “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” Powerful words. Like with most quotes, the meaning behind the words are certainly up for interpretation, but the obvious meaning here is that life in general and all its challenges WILL hurt; but not quite as much as staying rooted in that pain without trying to move forward.

The only thing worse than working hard your entire life and not having it pan out is having it pan out and then it all gets torn out from under you. But those challenges aren’t meant to break you; they are meant to help you grow stronger. Sometimes we are living a situation that’s toxic to us, even when we don’t realize it. Some people I know personally, are even in a life that makes them unhappy, yet they persevere in that life.

And why do we do this? Usually it’s because we’ve become so accustomed to the lifestyle we’ve become entrenched into that we’re almost frightened to move on to something that could potentially be better for us.

So let that strength grow. If you’re willing to step up and fight, you’d be surprised how far you can reach. It won’t always be easy, but who ever said life was meant to be easy, right?

In reading some things I previously wrote, I was reminded of this tonight. Sometimes the effort required to fight through all these challenges seems overwhelming. I hate to be THAT guy and quote Bruce Lee, but he once said something that significantly applies to this. He once said, “Do not pray for an easy life.pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

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Remembering What’s Important

I remember attending a local college, back in New Brunswick in 1996. I was young, naive and foolishly thought that I should take a year off from studying before going off to college. My thinking was to work and accumulate some money before diving headlong into more schooling. My family disagreed.

Being as that I was so young and naive at the time, I went along with it, but I wouldn’t discover until years later that I could have, and should have followed my instinct and taken a break. I was studying computer programming and burned out in my second year.

Doesn’t sound much like me. Even now, as I write it out it doesn’t seem like something I would allow to happen. But it happens to the best of us, sometimes.

I was reminded of this today because I was cleaning out some old stuff in my home office and came across something I had printed out during my first year of college. Once I read it, I couldn’t believe that I had managed to keep it for 23 years. But I thought I would share it here, as it allows for an important message about life.

Some of you may have heard this story before, but here it is:

A professor stood in front of his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar slightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous YES.

The professor then produced two bottles of beer from under the table and poured their entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things such as family, your children, your health, your friends and your favourite passions. And if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else, the small stuff. If you were to put the sand into the jar first, there would be no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”

It’s important to pay attention to the things in your life that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your spouse and children. Visit with your parents. Take time for your health. Treat yourself to dinner. Play another 18 holes.

Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the professor’s students raiser her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked that. The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beer with friends or family.”

To Be Good, You Must Do Good.

I had an interesting interaction today that got me to reflect on how we behave in modern society. If you ask the average person if they believe that they are good, the safe bet is that they’ll say yes. And on the face of things, they would probably be right. Most people don’t go through life being inherently bad, but some often do bad things.

So what does it take to be good? Karma teaches us that what we suffer through in life is a direct result of our actions. Essentially, if you do bad things, bad will come to you. But what if you do nothing bad? My question to you tonight, dear reader, is simply this: What if you do nothing at all?

Edmund Burke once wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.” I could quote several other people, as most historical figures who have fought the good fight have one and/or many quotes similar to Burke’s. The point is simply that doing absolutely nothing is tantamount to doing bad things.

I sold an item to a couple today. All part of my recent journey towards minimalism. They didn’t even bother to negotiate price or anything, and they showed up promptly and on time. My kind of people. I find there are far too many people that I deal with that seem unable to keep a scheduled appointment. But I digress…

In speaking with this couple, they explained that the item I was selling to them was for the woman’s mother. The item wasn’t even for them, it would be for someone else. The woman paid me the agreed amount, I helped them load the item and they went on their way.

I can be the first to admit that I can sometimes be a tad too trusting and I stuffed the cash in my pocket without bothering to count it. Once they were gone and I was back inside my home, I realized that the woman had provided an additional five dollars. I messaged her immediately and explained that if she provided her home address, I would drop the excess cash to her while I was out running errands.

I was taken somewhat aback at the woman’s reaction. She was incredibly grateful and provided her address. I dropped the money off, and she messaged me further thanking me profusely for dropping the money off.

It only seemed natural to return money that didn’t belong to me, but I realized from the reaction I received that it would have been totally expected to simply keep the extra cash. And this is also bearing in mind that the woman didn’t even seem to be aware that she had overpaid.

Although this example is a specific one, I think it speaks to where we’ve grown as a society that we expect so little from others. It isn’t all that hard to do the right thing. Sometimes, it comes as nothing more than a small gesture, but it can make a positive difference. As Suzy Kassem once said, “Stand up for what is right, even if you stand alone.”

Less Is More…

We live in a world obsessed with physical possession. Most households pride themselves on the acquisition of personal belongings and the accumulation of wealth. I’m not sure what that says about modern society as a whole, but it’s certainly a misguided way to live.

Buddhism does speak about the possession of material goods, to an extent. The Four Noble Truths go into some detail about how humanity’s suffering is often rooted in our cravings and desires. People often tend to try and fill the emptiness in their own lives through material possessions. This is often a temporary fix, which continues to snowball as we keep trying to fill the void in one’s life. Almost like an addiction that can never be fully satisfied.

So what can be done to counteract these issues? There is a lifestyle known as minimalism. This style of life describes living with less, and ridding oneself with excess belongings. On the whole, minimalist living involves a bit more than just getting rid of stuff, but it can lend a number of positive benefits to your life.

According to an article published by Money Under 30, they describe getting rid of possessions using the “90/90” rule. The article states: “Look at a possession. Pick something. Anything. Have you used that item in the last 90 days? If you haven’t, will you use it in the next 90? If not, then it’s okay to let go.” Here’s the article, if you want to give it a look (https://www.moneyunder30.com/minimalist-living). It contains a lot of the benefits behind living with less.

Consider the following; if you’ve eliminated a quantity of your possessions that you no longer use, you also won’t need a residence quite as large or expensive. The financial gains can be many. And budgeting the overall income of your household will become easier as well.

There are some areas where you can’t necessarily live with less. For example, buying food in bulk can often reduce the overall cost of groceries and can help save on fuel and resources for repeated outings.

True minimalism usually requires a level of discipline that most people can’t adhere to. For example, true minimalists don’t own television sets or vehicles. This isn’t always a practical reality for most people. But if you’re able to dig through your stuff and find things that you completely forgot you had, maybe it’s time to let it go.

Technology becomes a catch-22 for such a lifestyle. Less social media becomes an important factor in reducing the stress in your life. But having books and movies digitized, such as e-books, can be extremely helpful in reducing the clutter within your household.

At the end of the day, minimalism isn’t for everyone. But the thought came to me today as I sold a large piece of furniture that was cluttering my home. Living with less can definitely make you happier. As Marie Kondo would say, “The best way to find out what we truly need is to get rid of what we don’t.”

Hit Yourself But Don’t Wreck Yourself!

Martial arts is often steeped with mystery, and the methods used in traditional training can often look unorthodox and sometimes even dangerous, to the untrained eye. A good example of this is 1984’s The Karate Kid, where we see the wise, old karate teacher instructing the young protagonist the many techniques required to properly learn martial arts before competing in a karate tournament.

Although I’m a big fan of this classic piece of cinema, some of the techniques demonstrated in the movie seem a little, shall we say… off the wall? The thought of repetitively waxing a vehicle or sanding a wooden deck in order to properly learn how to block, falls a bit on the side of the ludicrous to a trained martial artist.

Or does it? Does anyone else believe this? I’m sure that lots of kids in the early 80’s suddenly agreed to wash and wax their dad’s car, in the hopes that it would help them learn karate (Light knows I offered to scrub the tile floors for my mother often enough after I saw this movie for the first time!)

My point is,… and believe me, I have one despite rambling on as I often do, some ACTUAL training techniques do look as ludicrous as the ones depicted by cinema. And the specific training tool I’m referring to in this post, is something referred to as body conditioning.

Body conditioning refers to the practice observed in Okinawa karate, of rubbing or striking the major muscle groups in order to harden and/or strengthen them. And even though this may sound ridiculous, 30 years of practicing Okinawan karate tells me that it is quite genuine, as I have lived it. And I still use body conditioning to this day.

Let’s think about it for a moment; when you perform intensive muscular exertion, such as weight lifting, you cause damage to the muscles. The repair of those muscles requires fibre and hormones that end up causing the muscles to be grown larger and stronger to prevent that same damage. The human body is pretty smart, in that regard.

Before I go any further, I’m going to reiterate that I have no formal medical training, and that you should consult a trained professional before starting any kind of fitness regiment. That being said, body conditioning, or “body pounding” as it has been referred to in some circles, follows very much the same principle as the effect of weight lifting.

By rubbing or pounding the major muscle groups on the outside of the arms, kegs and the abdominals and key target areas, you cause light damage to the muscle tissue requiring the same type of repair as weight lifting. The trick is to cause light muscular damage without bruising. Since Okinawan karate usually requires body conditioning to be done with a partner, the resistance adds a strength aspect to the training tool.

And no, before everyone gets excited, body conditioning won’t help you get ripped the same way as heavy weight lifting or hypertrophy workouts would. But it allows for the hardening of those muscle groups to create a natural “armour” that helps you properly and safely execute blocks against and receive strikes from an opponent.

Another good example of this, is rooted in the Japanese karate system of Kyokushinkai, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyokushin) that observes the practice of full-contact sparring as a general rule, in order to harden the muscles and overcome the fear of being struck.

Ultimately, the lesson I’m trying to impart tonight is that strange and unfamiliar methods of training can be genuine ones, and can lead to wonderful results. One needs only to be careful and never overreach. Train based on your abilities and always allow your body some time to heal.

After all, as general Choi Hong Hi once said, “Pain is the best instructor, but no one wants to go to his class.”

Like Riding A Bike Without A Seat…

Parenting is a challenge. Many often ask how humanity would actually develop, if our biological clocks didn’t motivate us to bear and raise children. They eat our food, destroy our belongings and burn through money without ever actually being the one to spend it! Our offspring are a living contradiction: they cost so much and require so much sacrifice, yet we can’t resist those full eyes looking up at us and saying they love us!

As I write this, my son is running around in circles. His energy reserves seem almost endless and I rarely understand how he functions at that level without passing out from exhaustion every night. But somehow he does.

A few weeks ago, he came into my bedroom and woke me. I explained to him that I was still sleeping and he needed to be quiet. His response was to smack me in the face. When I got angry and objected, his response was: “But daddy… that was quiet!” I couldn’t argue the point. He was quite right. He’s such a smart ass…

At four years old, it’s become quite the experience, watching him grow and develop his own personality and character. Contrary to popular belief, children won’t always be like their parents. Sure, they may have physical similarities and there may be SOME things they do like us, but they become their own person. Despite my wife and I being a bit more son the quiet side, he’s loud and full of life. He has his own attitude and personality, and my son has very little difficulty demonstrating that on a daily basis.

Despite the required sacrifices and how often he makes me angry, he also somehow melts my heart. With every time he rounds the corner and yells: “Kiss and hug for daddy!” or curls up next to me on the couch and cuddles up without a word, he somehow manages to make up for any transgression he commits throughout the day. His ability to disarm me is almost immeasurable.

Honestly, the only time he gears down and stays calm is once he’s fallen asleep. And getting him to bed is generally a full-contact sport akin to a heavy weight boxing match. But there’s nothing quite like the soothing calmness of seeing him peacefully sleeping… The quiet before the storm of his waking moment the following morning.

Parenting is almost like trying to learn to ride a bike without a seat. It’s not so difficult, once you find your balance and learn to peddle just right. But the moment you relax your guard and sit back, you’ll deal with the consequences of planting yourself painfully. Children are much the same; it’s all fun and games until you turn your back on them. Or until they go quiet. That’s when you know they’re up to something! ☯

Comfort Is Key

I often take stock of how people behave when out in public. For the most part, the general population goes about its business much in the same way as you’d expect; with a sense of ignorant detachment of their surroundings.

For the most part, people don’t make eye contact and don’t interact with the world around them. At least not anymore. They focus on getting from point “A” to point “B” and often spend most of that time with their eyes down at the screen of their smart device.

But there’s one aspect of daily life that the general population can’t ignore: nature! I was out getting some groceries earlier, when a light rain began to fall (it has since turned into a strong thunderstorm and I’m praying that I complete this post before power goes out). It blew my mind how quickly people began to move, run, cover their heads and make a wonderful assortment of “derpy” faces when a few light drops of water started falling.

I mean, come on… It’s water, people! We’re primarily composed of it, we drink litres of it everyday and we wash ourselves with it! But the light help us, if some of that water happens to fall from the sky as we walk outside.

I joke and make light of it, but the reality is that we take comfort as an expected norm in today’s society. Getting wet while walking outside is very obviously a discomfort. Human being often seek to take the Path of Least Resistance. That essentially means that as a general rule, most people will always seek out the easiest and most comfortable way to achieve any given result.

Creature comforts have become the norm and we react outwardly when that comfort is affected by ANY outside source. But a little discomfort can be good. We most often produce the best results when someone lights a fire under our keister. Almost comparable to how much work we generate on our own compared to when our supervisor is hovering about!

Don’t be afraid to step outside the norm, abandon your typical comfort and don’t be afraid to face unknown challenges. And should it start pouring, remember to take the time at some point in your life, to dance in the rain. ☯