The Weight of the World…

How much can be asked of one person? At what point is enough truly enough? What is the instinct that drives a person to use another without remorse? Without considering the damage that person may cause?

For well over a year now, I have been dealing with something of a personal challenge in my life. And considering everything I’ve been through in my life, I shouldn’t be surprised by challenge. Challenge, I can deal with.

I’ve built my life around the concept of justice and doing what’s right; I was raised on the belief that helping others is not only important, but paramount. When I came of age, I began seeking out a career that would allow me to help others and protect those who can’t protect themselves. And now that way of life is threatened by someone who prefers to use others to their own end rather than put in the work.

A year ago, someone who failed to pursue the same career path as my own decided to encroach upon my good nature. I have always been the type to treat others as people and be as helpful as possible. I’ve routinely gone out of my way to try and help others achieve their goals. And now this person has taken advantage of this good nature to further their own goals. This has not only been frustrating, but incredibly damaging to my career and my way of life.

Taking advantage of a situation to get ahead is nothing new in our society. Majoritively, it is difficult to get ahead in modern society without there being SOME pursuance of that very thing. but at some point, we need to ask ourselves if our advancement is worth the suffering and damage to others.

I find myself becoming exhausted. I’ve worked very hard my entire life to get to where I am. It breaks my heart to realize that all that hard work may be undone because of one selfish person. I’ve always considered myself capable of fighting through anything. And I’ve always sworn to fight for my country, fight for my family and fight for what’s right. These things are important. I simply don’t know how much I have left within me to continue when I am now fighting against the very aspects I’ve sworn to fight for.

Luckily, my family has been an endless wellspring of support. They’ve offered the strength that I’ve been sometimes lacking in recent months. If not for this support, I may have given up already. But considering my way of life and my family’s livelihood is threatened, I will continue to fight until I’ve won the day. I owe them that much. And even luckier still is to be blessed with an extended family that includes a small but loyal circle of friends who understand and support as well. You know who you are…

Be thankful for those you have in your life. We don’t always realize what we have, when dealing with the daily routine of our lives. But if they are the support that holds the foundation of your castle, even when the bricks are falling, then we are truly blessed indeed. ☯

Mind & Body, You Need Them Both!

The human body is an amazing combination of biological function, mixed with intelligence and self-awareness. I’ve often written about the importance of proper diet and exercise. But it’s also very important to pay attention to the mind.

First and foremost, I think it’s important to recognize the difference between the brain and the mind. The brain is the organ primarily responsible for the intellectual and nervous activity of the body. It controls the body’s systems in tandem with other, semi-independent systems within the body.

However, the mind is something slightly less tangible. The mind is defined as “the elements of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.”

Who you are is more than just the 3-pound chunk of tissue inside your skull!

Who you are despite the state of your body is what is contained within the mind. I’ve had a saying I coined from my youth: “When you aren’t exercising the body, you must exercise the mind.” This is important because most people assume that as long as they exercise consistently, they’ve done what needs doing. I believe this to be false.

There are a number of things a person can do to help exercise the mind. Meditation is a great first step. Not only does it help lower blood pressure and help with overall cardiac and bodily health, but it can go a long way towards helping your mind as well. It can aid in maintain a good mental health and strengthen one’s focus and concentration.

Get more sleep, and be certain it’s GOOD sleep. Your brain works hard during the night while you sleep. In fact, some studies have shown that dreams are part of a thought consolidation that is necessary for proper mental health. This is where the belief that some folks have that you can “sleep on it” when dealing with life’s problems. If you don’t get a solid seven to nine hours of quality sleep at night, you may lose some of the benefits it can provide for your mind and mental health.

There are certain aspects of diet that can help as well, but I won’t get into those too deeply. That errs a bit deeper on the side of the physical brain health as opposed to the mind.

Stay healthy and happy. I don’t think I need to explain that thinking positive can go a long way towards strengthening who you are as a person. This isn’t always an easy task. Life is designed to challenge us (and it’s damn good at it).

Exercise your mind. There a lot of simple ways to do this. Read a book. Do a puzzle. Crosswords, sudoku, the choices are almost endless! It’s been proven that the more conversations you have with your child and the more books you read to them, the more intelligent they’ll grow to be. This concept applies to adults as well, despite having grown beyond childhood.

Continue learning. Most people let go of this as they reach adulthood, but a person’s IQ and intelligence never stops growing. Read the book you’ve been putting off, learn another language. All of these things can help improve your mind. Many people think that it becomes much more difficult to learn a second language once we reach adulthood, but there are actually no studies to prove this. One simply needs to put in the time.

Your mind is not only an important part of who you are, it IS who you are. So it makes sense to train and develop it the same way as you would train and develop your body. Mind & body must work together. ☯

Free Will May Be Free, But It Costs A Lot!

Free will is a hell of a thing. It allows us as human beings to make choices and decisions based on OUR choices. It’s an advantage we have over the majority of the animal kingdom, as most animals tend to act on instinct.

But how is your free will used? Is it for the better of yourself? The betterment of humanity? Or is it more often used in an improper manner?

I recently posted about the three underlying factors behind problems we face in life. Without repeating the entire blog post, the list is that there are always three factors that contribute to every problem we face as humans.

The first factor is someone else. Others tend to contribute greatly to the problems we have. Think about it: when was the last time you faced a problem that didn’t involve at least one other person?

The second factor are elements out of our control. Think along the lines of getting to work almost ten minutes late because of construction. If you didn’t know that a certain road was blocked off and a delay would happen, you could have taken all the precautions possible by leaving on time and taking your usual route but you STILL would have shown up late.

This has a lot to do with causality, or the relationship between cause and effect. Granted, if you were aware of the construction or were given notice of its forthcoming, then that’s all on you.

The third factor is, in fact, yourself. No matter the problem we face, there will always be a certain amount that you contribute to your problem. Most people have a deep difficulty accepting that premise and will often think “this is not my fault!” Well maybe not, but there should still be an acknowledgement that actions or words on your part likely contributed to the tribulation you’re facing!

Accepting responsibility is difficult because we are hard-wired to survive, and defending oneself is an important aspect of survival. If one were capable of accepting responsibility for the part they played in any given situation, problems could be solved so much easier.

I’ve been guilty of this myself. Even recently. I look at particular problems and issues I’ve been facing within my life in the past couple of years and I recognize that I’ve had more than a small role to play in the creation of those problems. I’m hoping this clarity will help to bring said problems to an agreeable conclusion, but who knows?

I’ve often said that all things happen for a reason. Based on that belief, how effective does free will become? If it all happens for a reason, does my free will matter? Life has provided you with the right to choose during the story of your life. We all know how our story began. And we all know how our story will ultimately end. What fills the chapters in between is where our free will and right to choose come in.

So be certain to choose carefully, and accept responsibility for the part you play in life. You’ll be the better for it. It reminds me of a meme I saw about The Matrix. I don’t want to assume everyone has seen this movie, so I’ll explain.

During the beginning of the movie, one of the protagonists offers the main character a red pill or a blue pill. Each of the pills will provide an outcome, but the lead character must choose. The meme reads “Red pill or Blue pill…Nobody ever told you that you didn’t have to take a pill…”

An important lesson. The right to choose is important. Free will is important. But if the situation dictates it, don’t be afraid to refuse both options and walk away. ☯

Why Can’t We Be Friends…🎶

Life is difficult to deal with by oneself. Humans are inherently pack animals, and we tend to accumulate friends along the way. Friendships are important as they tend to teach us social and development skills that help us later on in life.

Most adults maintain an average of three to five friendships, although most times we only have one or two friendships that can be considered “close friendships”. This doesn’t include one’s “acquaintances”, which differ in that an acquaintance is someone you know and spend time with only on occasion. Friendships are a little more involved in that you know each other’s intimate details and spend an INCREASED amount of time together.

All of this is to say that friends come and go. Some experts believe that the average friendship will only last about seven years. If you manage to find a friendship that lasts longer, you’ve certainly found something special.

Almost 25 years ago, I found a young lad who had quite the chip on his shoulder. I met him at a neighbouring karate club. Given that I was a few years his senior and higher ranked than he, I decided to take him under my wing and befriend him. Although my initial intentions were to help him in his martial arts development, our association grew into a friendship that’s endured for more than the past two decades.

As we grew together, we learned together and it became a friendship more valuable than I could have imagined. Time and different paths in life has caused that friendship to fade over the past few years but I learned many important lessons along the way.

Friendships are important. They help to maintain proper brain health. Friends help us to deal with the situations of life, deal with stress and often provide an impartial sounding board to bounce our life’s choices off of.

Although the benefits of friendships are many, they normally don’t last forever. But as time and friendships fade, it’s important to remember the lessons you learned and the impression those friendships made. Whether good or bad, each one has left an impression that’s helped to mold the person you are today. ☯

Smile! It Makes Others Wonder What You’re Up To…

I was on my way home a couple of days ago when I drove past an elderly lady who was walking on an adjacent sidewalk. It’s in my nature to examine my surroundings as I go along, but something about this lady caught my eye in a particular way; she was smiling!

One would be inclined to think that a smile is not a big deal, right? Normally, I would agree. But here’s the thing: this lady had grey hair and was hunched over. She walked with a cane and had a very slow gait. She appeared to have lived through some of the more difficult aspects of life.

Despite the difficulty she appeared to be having, she was looking up at the trees and the sky and had a huge smile from ear to ear. She waved at another person as she walked by. Did she know this person, or was she simply spreading joy and friendliness? And it got me to thinking about the human condition.

We spend most of our lives trying to get things done. We grow up going to school, we study then get jobs, build families and worry about finances. We spend so much time doing all of this that we often forget to take a look around us at the world that’s provided so much beauty.

If this lady is able to enjoy the beauty of life and keep on smiling, then we should really have no excuse.

Life throws quite a bit of stress at us, so it’s important to stop and smell the roses every now and again. As Mother Teresa once said, “Peace Begins With A Smile.”

Expectations Are Never What You Expect

Do you ever wonder what life expects out of you? Have you ever wondered if you’re on the right track, based on those expectations? Well, I have some illuminating news for you: life expects nothing. You’re not “expected” to be on any track. Your life depends on you.

For centuries, there have been expectations out of people through the natural course of their lives. In medieval times, a boy became a man and was expected to take a wife and raise a family. This could happen anytime after the age of 12. Can you imagine? People today would cringe at the very thought of allowing such a young child to marry.

Throughout Contemporary History, you were expected to serve a tour of duty in your country’s military, return home and marry, have kids and get a house and solid job. Not even a career, mind you. Simply a job that would bring in the income required to support your family. That’s all that mattered.

What do you think the expectations are now? There are certain things that people impose on themselves. There are several people who believe that they need to go to post-secondary studies, obtain a university degree, meet someone and get married prior to their 30’s and have children, secure a career and a stable home.

One good example is how most teenagers start meeting guidance counsellors at 16 to start deciding what career they want and what path they’ll choose in life. I don’t know about you, but I had a hard time deciding what I would be doing on any particular weekend; I certainly wasn’t ready to plan out my life at that point!

Things need to happen in their own time. There is no template to how life should be lived. It’s okay if you chose never to go to college or university. It’s okay if you don’t meet the love of your life until later in life. The choice to have children is also yours and can’t be dictated by others.

Pooja Rajkumar once said: “Everybody have their own pace in achieving things in life… just because it happens to others, doesn’t mean it should happen to you as well… You will have your time and when it is to happen it will, without you being worried about it… just have one thing in your mind to clear off the frustration, “all things happen for a reason” and you will be fine!!!”

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Even if things don’t go “according to plan”, it doesn’t mean you’re off track. Don’t push so hard. Don’t stress so much. The things that bring you happiness will always outweigh the things that bring you money. Or possessions. Or suit the expectations of society. Do what brings you peace. ☯

Be Your Own Hero…

Things can get pretty rough sometimes. Life tends to throw a lot at you, and if you aren’t willing to push through and give yourself the effort you may not overcome it all. They say time heals all wounds, but the scars can sometimes be as bad as the wound itself.

How strong is your will? How much strength of will do you have? If push came to shove, and you or a loved one needed it, how far would you be willing to go in order to overcome the obstacle that you’re facing?

Everyone wants a hero; someone to come along and just fix things and make them all better. How often in your life can you look back and say that this has genuinely happened? I’m not saying it CAN’T happen… Some of us have been blessed to have influential people in our lives that have made a difference. But think back to those situations and take an objective look. Can you honestly say those problems were solved by those outside people? Or were you simply guided and encouraged by these people into accomplishing those goals on your own?

Humanity’s will to survive is amazing. Even when a person is in their last moments of life, the human body will have a number of systems in place biologically designed to try and keep that person alive for as long as naturally possible. YOU try and help yourself without even knowing it. That’s why it’s important to be your OWN hero.

In the late 1980’s, doctors told me I would die from insulin resistance and wouldn’t make my teens. I had to take it upon myself to work on my health and well being in order to restore myself and ensure my continued survival. I had the help of some very important people, but my will to survive is what got me there. I celebrated my fortieth birthday last September.

When I joined the martial arts, my doctors and my family told me that it wasn’t an appropriate “hobby” for someone with Type 1 Diabetes. I was told I would get hurt, my blood sugars would be adversely affected and that I would never make black belt. In March of 2002, I proved all those people wrong by achieving my 1st degree black belt in Okinawa karate.

When I set out to get the career of my dreams, they told me that their health policies at the time didn’t allow for type 1 Diabetics. Even when that policy got rescinded, the candidate application process that would usually take between 6 to 12 months took me 2 years! The increased battery of medical tests and examinations would have caused many to simply drop out of the process. But I stuck with it.

Due to a number of Diabetes-related health complications, it was believed I would never have children. That didn’t matter a great deal when I was younger, but it was life-altering when I became an adult. As many would agree, it can be the sort of thing that can define relationships and futures. But despite all that, my son Nathan will be five years old this year!

I guess my point behind all of this (besides making it look like I’m bragging) is that the strength of will to achieve your goals comes from within you. That isn’t always easy, but it’s what will ultimately get you to where you’re going. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish once you stand up and trust that you can do it. ☯

If Stress Built Muscles, I’d be Mr. Universe…

I’ve written about stress before, but it remains a predominant aspect of daily life for most people. In general, one could easily write about stress indefinitely, given the number of effects it has on the human body and life.

Stress isn’t inherently bad! Although we tend to view it in a negative way, stress is simply your body’s way of dealing with changes within one’s environment. How we adjust to these changes is what defines the response.

Picture this scenario, if you will…

You arrive at the office at 8 am on a Monday morning. You’ve had a reasonably restful weekend and you walk up to your desk in a relaxed manner. Nothing bothers you, no one is disturbing you and although you have some tasks on your desk awaiting completion, you’re not particularly rushed. Then it happens: your supervisor walks in. Within minutes, your supervisor discusses these tasks with you, imposes timelines and completion dates, and advises you of the additional tasks that will be assigned to you once you complete the current ones…

Sound familiar? If we follow the definition of stress in the literal sense, the supervisor is a the change in the environment that requires you to adjust and adapt, creating stress. But what would have happened if you’d been left to your own devices? I’m not trying to call anyone lazy, but one needs to admit that a person’s productivity tends to increase significantly when stressors are introduced.

When produced in small doses, stress can help you cope with daily life, meet goals and achieve deadlines. Believe it or not, if not for stress you likely wouldn’t be here. Since stress is part of your body’s early-warning system, it can often help produce the “fight or flight” reaction required for proper survival. This is something that, from an evolutionary standpoint, is pretty interesting.

But before I start going off on a tangent, let’s refocus on the stress aspect. Some studies have shown that small amounts of stress in the proper environments can actually help boost your immune system and help your body’s defences against infections and the like.

From a Diabetes standpoint, I can safely say that stress plays a major role in the proper control of one’s blood glucose levels. Since every person is different, the after effect will also differ. Stress tends to make my blood sugar spike; for someone else, it may drop.

I’m making a pretty good case in support of stress, but it can obviously be detrimental as well. Sustained stress over long periods of time can lead to many health complications, such as high blood pressure, anxiety and mental health issues.

There are certain signs that will allow you to recognize if your particular level of stress is too much for you. If you can’t seem to sleep properly, if your appetite, mood or weight begins to fluctuate and your immune system seems pooched to the point where you catch every little bug that floats by, it may be time to address the issue.

The mood aspect will have several different colourful sides as well. If you start being angry or irritated (more so than usual) in such a way that interferes with your daily life, there may be a problem.

Although stress is a part of life and there is no eliminating it, it’s important to recognize your limits and deal with stress in a healthy manner. Here’s where I get to suggest my usual dose of exercise, sleep and meditation. Those are a big help, but don’t be afraid to speak to a medical practitioner if you suddenly feel as though it may be getting out of your control. ☯

Mistakes Are Proof That You Are Trying

“The good deeds a man has done before defend him…”

Recognize that quote? It was spoken by J. Robert Oppenheimer, although he took it from the Bhagavad Gita. You may remember Oppenheimer; he was the theoretical physicists nicknamed the “father of the atomic bomb” and is credited with helping to create the atom bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

How well do you think Dr. Oppenheimer sleeps? I guess I should clarify; Dr. Oppenheimer passed away in 1962, but I can’t help but imagine he had a number of sleepless nights.

We all make mistakes. That’s a big part of what makes us human. Is there anything in your life that you can look back upon and wonder if you would have done it differently? You probably shouldn’t.

Life is a vast mosaic of experiences and decisions. No matter what the choice, good or bad, it has become a penultimate part of what has made you who you are. This is second only to your current, conscious choices.

Sometimes outside forces and influences will create a situation in which we question the choices we’ve made. It’s natural and normal to question the decisions we’ve made, as long as it doesn’t make us falter in our confidence.

I’ve written before about how every consequences is based on three sources: your involvement, an outside influence and elements beyond your control. When you come to terms with that, you can start to own your involvement, and work towards dealing with the rest.

We’ve certainly all made our share of mistakes. Humanity wouldn’t be able to grow and progress otherwise. The important part is in knowing that it’ll all be alright. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t struggle so much. Life shouldn’t be a constant butting of heads. And don’t forget that you can never take it more than one day at a time. ☯

Do Unto Others, Because They’ll Likely Do Unto You…

Given my personal and spiritual beliefs, coupled with the state of the world, I often have difficulties consolidating my understanding of the world’s apparent increased oversensitivity. Although I believe we should all treat each other well, the world has become a place where everyone is offended at the smallest thing.

As a people, when someone does something to wrong us we feel compelled to act or react. Sometimes this reaction can have adverse or negative effects; not only on the person we seek to react against. This brings us to contemplate the difference between seeking justice against those who have wronged us and getting revenge. Where is the line? What is the difference?

Justice is defined as bringing a “just behaviour or treatment” against another. Although normally used in the scope of upholding laws, it basically means a fairness, focusing on impartiality and objectivity. The whole point of justice is to make things right, all the while maintaining the right.

Justice is meant to be blind.

Revenge is defined as “the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.” This one provides more of an opportunity to obtain retaliation; since they hurt me, I’ll hurt them!

Both of these options allow for a repayment of a wrong done to us, but one creates more of an extreme than the other. Is one really better than the other?

The reason justice is blind is because is allows for the wrong to be righted with objectivity and impartiality. Meanwhile, revenge is mostly about making one feel better by causing harm on another. Revenge may make us feel better (although it plays hell with one’s karma) but justice allows for an actual repayment of said wrong. And even though revenge may feel as though the scales are being balanced, the cost is often far too high for the payback.

This is a difficult concept to explain to someone who, for example has been personally attacked or has had a loved one attacked. When extreme violence is inflicted upon us, as animals, our instincts dictate that we fight back. At least in most cases (fight or flight syndrome).

So, what about someone’s direct or indirect actions cause a general hardship in one’s life? For example, a person who speaks untruthful words that upset the balance and harmony of another person’s life or perhaps destroys their current WAY of life. How does one seek justice when everyone else’s eyes are on you as opposed to the person who caused the damage? Does it become acceptable to seek out some form of revenge on this person?

A lot of this is speculation, some of it is based on recent events within my own life. However, it’s important to remember that both these things, justice and revenge, have their place in the world. Although the first is generally more widely accepted and appropriate, the latter can often be the only way to truly obtain justice.

The important lesson for all of us is that no matter which avenue is pursued, all of it is for naught is it isn’t combined with forgiveness. Even before justice is served or revenge is obtained, being able to forgive the person who has wronged us is an important first step in ensuring our well-being. ☯