What Did You Think You Were Eating For?

One of the key reasons behind the consumption of food is to obtain carbohydrates for energy. The human body requires energy to carry on normal functions and, well… stay alive! But what else do we get from the food we eat?

A proper diet will also include a number of vitamins and minerals that we require to maintain proper health, growth and energy levels within the body. We’ve all heard about getting enough vitamins from a young age; I remember getting my Flintstones vitamin everyday as a kid.

But if you’re like most people, you’re likely wondering what these vitamins are for and what they do. My goal is to cover off the main ones here:

Vitamin A: This is an all-around vitamin that provides a number of functions including but not limited to the proper health of various bodily functions, tissues and helps to fight chronic disease and is known to be good for the eyes.

Vitamin B: This one is a bit complicated, as there is a large grouping of enzymes, vitamins and minerals that fall under the “B” category. In general, B-vitamins are used for energy production, immune function and absorbing iron. Some them include B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate) and B12. There are a few more that I can’t recall, but B12 is considered amongst one of the most important of vitamins overall because it helps you turn food into energy.

Vitamin C: At some points, this one has been referred to as the sunshine vitamin. I’m thinking that’s mostly because people’s main source of Vitamin C is from citrus fruits. But this vitamin also helps with iron absorption, immune function and is a natural antioxidant that helps with the elimination of free radicals. Eating citrus fruits are also what sailors used to eat on long voyages to prevent scurvy.

Vitamin D: This vitamin helps with the strengthening of bones and teeth. Our bodies are designed to self-generate this vitamin naturally through exposure to sunlight, but obviously that needs to be done in small doses. Modern life has created an environment where more people spend their time indoors, away from the sun. So supplementation becomes important.

Vitamin E: A pretty straight forward vitamin, this one helps with proper blood circulation and clear skin.

Vitamin K: This vitamin is essential for blood-clotting. In order words, if you’re deficient in this vitamin, small cuts or injuries can cause excessive bleeding that can become dangerous.

Folic Acid: We hear people speak about this one as being necessary during pregnancy. And they would be correct! Folic Acid helps to prevent certain complications during childbirth but is important to everyone for proper cell renewal. This one is also known as Folate, or Vitamin B9 (as listed above).

Calcium: Most people should be familiar with this one. Teeth and bones, people! Teeth and bones! Good calcium levels are required to keep those body parts healthy.

Iron: This helps to build muscle tissue naturally and helps with proper health of the blood. As an interesting sidebar, it’s also what makes your blood red through the reflection of light!

Zinc: Immunity and Fertility. I’m a little unfamiliar with this one and haven’t had the opportunity to research it a great deal.

Chromium: This one is near and dear to my heart. Because it helps to control blood sugar levels. Chromium is what helps all the systems of your body to get the energy they need when they need it. Some traditional medicine practitioners will suggest Chromium supplements for Type 1 Diabetics who may have difficulty in maintaining proper levels.

Magnesium: This one helps your body to absorb all the other vitamins and minerals. It also acts as something of a relaxant to muscle tissue and play a role in proper muscle contraction.

Potassium: This mineral helps with the proper hydration of your body and helps to control blood pressure.

There are many others of course, but I’ve tried to cover off the main vitamins and minerals required for a proper diet. For more information and possible food sources for these vitamins and minerals, I’ve found the following two online articles that provide a lot of good information:

https://www.comvita.com/blog-article/10-essential-vitamins-your-body-needs/4100544

https://www.goodnet.org/articles/11-essential-vitamins-minerals-your-body-needs

We get most of what we need by eating regularly and including a variety of healthy foods. A lot of people take a daily multi-vitamin, which is fine. But unless you are experiencing symptoms or unexplained illnesses, there shouldn’t be a need to actively try and take added amounts of anything. Your medical practitioner should be able to advise you if further supplementation is required. For example, patients who are recommended to take Folic Acid and Iron during pregnancy.

Obviously, all of this is extremely important; not only for proper health and fitness, which is important to me, but to help with Type 1 Diabetes as well. A big shout out to my wife, Laura, who provided me with this blog post idea by asking about B12 yesterday. ☯

Expect The Unexpected

Based on artifacts found around China and India, the earliest evidence of something that could be considered a “martial art” is about 5,000 years ago. That’s a heck of a long time for something to exist. Inevitably, something that old will go through quite a fair number of changes throughout that length of time.

Martial arts was originally not only developed as a means of combat. It was also developed as a means of keeping fit and increasing one’s physical fitness. Over time, it propagated and there are styles of martial arts all over the world.

Through the decades, there has been a bit of an up and down in regards to how martial arts training has been approached. Although some styles used to focus on the freedom of movement and fluidity, a movement began at some point where instructors started teaching a “if they do this, you do that” philosophy. It became more reactive as opposed to proactive.

Here’s the reality: in a real fight, whether on the street or in defence of your own life, you can’t expect what your opponent will do. That being said, you also can’t focus on any one technique that you may do in response to any one attack. It becomes important to expect the unexpected!

When training, it’s important to practice a free-flowing way of fighting in order to allow yourself the flexibility to respond to any attack. This is why routine and constant drills, as well as free sparring is necessary in genuine martial arts. This allows you to groom yourself to the point where you will respond on reflex as opposed to thinking “Okay, here comes a front kick, I need to block THIS way…”

This is the difference between theory and practical application. Theory is extremely important; it’s how we learn the material required to progress. But the practical application is what’s required for survival. It’s what could potentially save your life, should you ever need to use the training you’ve undertaken.

I’m a firm advocate that you should never need to fight. But should someone back you in a corner and your life or the life of your family or loved ones ever be in jeopardy, it would be a good thing to be able to step up and do what’s necessary. Training for the unexpected will bring you closer to that goal. ☯

Did That Hurt? Well, It Was Supposed To…

I normally try and keep my inner zen and impart information objectively. My goal is generally to impart some wisdom through my stories and experiences, and perhaps teach a little something in the process.

But today, I’m going to hop up on my soap box for a little while and discuss an issue that weighs heavily on my soul. It began in the same way as it often does…

I walk into the dojo. The floor is cold and the hall is empty. The head instructor is setting up the required items for the evening’s class, and I stretch experimentally. I begin slowly; throwing a straight punch at a heavy bag. Then another, and another… Within moments, I start punching faster than I can keep track and am acting upon 30 years of instinct and training. I throw in the occasional kick for good measure, even though I’ve never been a fan of allowing my feet to leave the ground. I step away from the punching bag, allowing my breathing to steady. I fall into several forms followed by a number of knuckle push-ups. I stop and catch my breath, aware that several of the arriving students are watching me. I’m sweating profusely and have already done more on my own in the 15 minutes prior to the start of class than the entire student body…

It’s a sad story. One that has become more prominent in recent years. A lot of fitness and martial arts clubs have become a primarily social gathering, as opposed to a forum for proper training and development.

30 years ago when I started the martial arts, class started promptly at 6 pm and ended only at 8 pm. There were no washroom breaks, no water permitted within the dojo and the energy in the room was electric. Once you were inside, you weren’t permitted to leave the dojo until Sensei dismissed you, barring a medical emergency. Every student present knew their position. Everyone bowed; everyone kept going until the end. No one gave up. No one took it easy.

I feel that some of the genuine strength of the martial arts has become watered down. Let’s be realistic: all those awesome martial arts movies and kung fu flicks you likely watched as a kid (and perhaps still do) are based on real life martial artist who have spent their entire lives training and developing themselves. If not for the hard work of others, those awesome movies wouldn’t exist.

One good example is Bruce Lee. Even though he was an action movie star, he was also a traditional artist artist. Having trained from a young age, he developed himself and built himself to the point where he was able to surpass his teachings and even develop his own martial arts perspective in Jeet Kune Do. He was so skilled that the camera often had to be slowed in order be able to see the actual strike on film…

I use Bruce Lee as an example because he is well known inside and outside of martial arts circles. The likes of him hasn’t been seen since. But his example, as well as some others, set a precedence that effectively set the tone for my martial arts training from a young age well into my current state of being.

I’m a 40-year old man. By no means am I “old”, but I’m certainly not the spry, 21-year old green belt I was in 1999. But yet, I manage to work up more of sweat and burn more calories in 15 minutes than most of the teenage students in my current school will burn throughout the entire class. It may sound like a bit of a conceit, but it’s accurate. The change in the tide almost makes me feel as though traditional martial arts may disappear within the next generation.

It’s important to put in a maximum effort in any training you perform. It will sometimes be painful and it will be exhausting. But this is how you grow and progress. If you give it a minimum effort and basically “half ass” your workout, you may as well stay home. This applies to anything, whether you are training in the martial arts, learning a new sport of learning a new skill such as an instrument.

They say that showing up is the first step. I’ve heard this on occasion. And although I can agree that showing up is the first step, it is also the easiest. The next step becomes more difficult, as it requires the learner to put in a comparable effort for the skill they wish to learn.

So push yourself, damn it! If you don’t sweat, if you don’t feel aches and pains, if you don’t wake up the next morning barely able to walk, you’re not giving yourself the effort. And trust me, you are well worth the effort! ☯

If You “Whey” Out The Options…

Listen, I’m all for a bit of an advantage when trying to get in shape. There are all sorts of supplements and additives that athletes take that give them an “edge”. But how many of them are genuinely effective?

One of the most prominent and important supplements is whey protein. As a matter of import, protein is necessary for the building of muscle tissue, cartilage, bones and skin. It helps to build and support all these things, and also helps to increase strength and mass. Needless to say, most adults require a reasonable amount of protein in their diet.

According to WebMD, most adults get enough protein throughout the day. For a health adult, that means anywhere between 46 to 56 grams of protein, every day. But the question becomes whether or not they are getting the right type of protein.

Besides fibre, most natural sources of protein will help you to feel full for longer and can aid in weight loss. Decent sources of protein, such as fish, chicken and eggs are ideal. Depending on who you speak to, red meat shouldn’t be a constant indulgence, but lean cuts of meat can be a good source of protein.

Although the jury is still out, whey protein will apparently help will developing strength and increasing your athletic performance. Believe it or not, some studies have also shown that whey protein in the correct amount can help in lowering blood sugar levels, although I can’t attest to having experienced that myself.

There are tons of different brands of whey protein on the market, and they can be even be found at most chain retail locations. As always, you should consult your medical practitioner before starting any supplement, and they can recommend a brand and type that best fits what your nutritional and fitness needs may be.

It’s often said that we get enough protein with a healthy food-based diet. And if you eat three well-rounded meals during the course of your day, this may be the case. But for folks trying to build muscle mass or add a bit of an edge to your daily routine, whey protein may be the route for you. ☯

Breathe. Just… Breathe…

The human body is an amazing machine. At any given time, there are dozens of functions and processes taking place that are not visible or obvious. Some involuntary or automatic.

For example, your body has an involuntary system that keeps you from wetting your underoos anytime you have more than a few sips of your morning coffee. Once your bladder is full, the involuntary system releases and that’s where your voluntary system takes over and you need to hold yourself in order to prevent living your worst high school nightmare and creating a puddle in public!

That’s only one example, but just imagine everything that happens inside of you that you’re not aware of. One of the most important involuntary functions your body performs is breathing.

Think about it! You breathe constantly, all day and all night. You don’t think about it at all. Ever since your doctor smacked your butt and started you crying, you’ve been drawing breath.

We breathe because we require oxygen to enter our blood cells and help break down glucose and sugar, which we then expel as carbon dioxide. When we exercise, our respiration rate increases because we use our muscles and require more oxygen in the blood. Our heart rate increases along with our respiration to help pump the oxygen rich blood through our system.

Breathing can be both voluntary and involuntary. When doing the martial arts, we’ve been taught to do specialized breathing that helps control the flow of oxygen when executing a technique or doing forms. We control our breathing.

For folks in law enforcement and emergency response, tactical breathing helps to calm a person and lower their heart rate, making it easier to maintain control of a situation and properly assess things. When you panic, your breathing shallows and increases your heart rate. This is because shallow and rapid breathing reduces the amount of carbon dioxide and your body is trying to enrich your blood with as much oxygen as possible.

Why is this important? Well, from a Diabetes standpoint, we start to breathe rapidly when we experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This is because the lowered amount of glucose in our blood makes it difficult to produce enough cell energy, and your body thinks it needs more oxygen.

From a martial arts or fitness standpoint, controlling your breathing will allow you to keep a cool head and control the situation you may be facing. It will also help improve your level of training. By properly exhaling during strikes or techniques, you help to properly expel carbon dioxide and this will help to prevent muscle fatigue during actual combat.

Pretty cool, right? All that is happening, just based on how you breathe. With all the things left to discover in the world, it can often be humbling to realize there will always be so much about our own bodies we don’t know.

So, keep on breathing… Actually, you don’t have a choice! But proper breathing exercises and meditation can go a long way towards helping with everything I’ve mentioned above. ☯

Do It Properly, Not Easily…

Martial arts is a special creature. I may or may not have written that, a time or two in previous posts. But it is. It’s one of the only things in the western world that combines, sport, fitness, art and mysticism bordering on the religious. It combines aspects of discipline and repetition to encourage a student’s self-confidence and growth.

However, it doesn’t. It really doesn’t. Encourage it, that is. From my experience, only about one in every 8 to 10 students will put in the raw effort and will to gain the experience and growth required to excel in the martial arts. All the fun stuff I described in the previous paragraph needs to be sought out and worked for. It doesn’t happen simply by walking into a dojo and following along.

I’ve seen too many students who attend class after class. I mean, their attendance is almost flawless (minus the ones who are “forced” there by parents, of course) but the effort they put into the classes is almost laughable.

Now, before anyone gets too high and mighty with me, I understand that every student is different; their needs are different and their wants are different. And I’ve met students who have joined the martial arts for many different reasons. Some people join to get in shape, some to learn to defend themselves… Some actually join simply for the social aspect of meeting others and being a part of something. No matter the reason, it IS important to you.

Sweat is the fuel in the forge of progress!

I frequently train at the rear of the class. I’ve long been a believer that a teacher can learn more by watching the students than standing at the front. And these days, I see so many students who phone it in while standing in class. Sometimes it’s easy to put in a minimum effort while the head instructor is busy monitoring so many students. But why be there if not to get the maximum return on your physical and spiritual investment?

Train from your soul! Give it everything you’ve got. When you train, take a look at the other students around you. Within twenty minutes, there should be a puddle of sweat at your feet. If there isn’t, then you aren’t putting your entire being into your training.

You can be in it for your own reasons. Just make sure that while they’re your reasons, they’re still the right ones! ☯

Why Having That Six Pack Is Bad For You… (And I Don’t Mean Beer!)

Listen, I know what you’re thinking. Having six pack abs is a trademark sign of someone who’s in shape, right? Maybe not. Trust me, I’d love to have a ripped midriff like the dudes we see in the movies. But there are actually a lot of reasons why a person shouldn’t.

Most genuine fitness gurus will agree that there are a number of health issues caused by training to get six pack abs. First and foremost, the type of fitness regime required to get and maintain ripped abs is ultimately unhealthy. The amount of work and effort required, combined with a stricter than strict diet, takes a toll on a person.

Although the current desired social aesthetic, ripped abs can cause all sorts of health issues.

The reality is that there is nothing wrong with developing those abdominal muscles. In fact, most people who exercise regularly will develop them regardless of their look. It’s making them visible that causes the issues.

You see, in order to have those nice, ripped abs, you need to lower your body fat percentage below what is recommended as healthy. It can cause all sorts of issues such as weakened immune system, hormone imbalances and bad structural support system for the body. Ultimately, we aren’t designed to have ripped abs.

Health issues in women can be even worse

Often, athletes who strive to get six pack abs will ignore or forego other important muscles groups in order to get that chiseled look. This means that as much as it’s the current social standard for someone who is in shape, having ripped abs in no way designates someone as necessarily being in good or proper shape.

The whole thing actually becomes worse for females, whose bodies are inherently designed for childbirth and serious damage can be caused to those reproductive systems while striving for ripped abs.

Men’s Journal actually put out a decent e-article about it and it can be read at https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/when-six-pack-abs-are-bad-for-your-health-w435224/

In the martial arts world, the Okinawans believe that the soul is contained in the hara, what is known in some circles as the chi. having just an ever so slight belly means you’re soul is properly balanced. They generally frown upon having ripped abs.

At the end of the day, there are a number of better, healthier ways to get into proper shape. And although there’s nothing wrong with slimming down your mid-section (in fact, SOME weight loss can lead to better overall health) getting those oily six-pack abs everyone in the movies flaunt isn’t the way to go. ☯

The Bigger Person Won’t Always Strike…

The world is a volatile place. It always has been. Violence is a predominant trait of humanity and has always had a presence within society. We simply hear more about it during modern times, thanks to mainstream and social media and the availability of the world’s information at our fingertips, courtesy of the internet.

But is it necessary? Civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi once said: “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

People have often asked me how I manage to consolidate the violence within my own life. Some often assume violence is dominant within me. Given my line of work (which I’ve always made a point not to specify on this blog, perhaps someday you’ll know why) and a lifetime martial artist, it can often be presumed that I have a penchant for violence.

And let’s be clear: every person is capable of violence. You don’t need a black belt or a weapon to cause harm. And I’m not exactly the smallest guy on the block. Although I only stand at 171 centimetres tall (5’7″ for you Imperial folks), I carry a hefty 95 kgs (210 pounds, again Imperial…) of which a reasonable amount is mass and not necessarily fat (although the never-ending gut battle rages on!) I have been taught how to fight from a very young age, both in class and on the street and some of what I’ve been taught will certainly do more than hurt a person.

Due to a number of the difficulties I’ve endured during the course of my life, I have an unseen cauldron of burning rage burning deep below, where I do not allow it to affect the surface. A radical mixture to be sure, when mixed with all the training I’ve received.

“But Shawn, doesn’t being Buddhist mean you don’t get angry? Aren’t you supposed to be all peaceful and stuff?”

No and yes. No, being Buddhist doesn’t mean I don’t get angry. I’m human like everyone else and I have the same full spectrum of emotions as anyone who isn’t. Yes, I am SUPPOSED to be peaceful. I actively seek out peace, in whatever form I can receive it. I am not always successful.

As humans, we shouldn’t be denying those feelings when they bubble close to the surface. Emotion is an energy; often created by endorphins and hormones, sure. But an energy nonetheless. And like any energy within our universe, it can’t be destroyed, simply transformed. So it becomes important for anyone to transform this rage into something else; something constructive.

For example, up until about two months ago I had access to a facility full of heavy punching bags and striking equipment. Speaking from experience, nothing quite helps quell feelings of rage, anger, frustration and violence quite like putting the boots to a punching bag for about half an hour. And performing an intense punching bag workout, in combination with drills and push-ups, can burn up to 500 calories per hour for an average person and help get a wicked sweat on.

Listen, no one is ever able to completely eliminate negative feelings or violence from their lives. Life, in and of itself, does not allow for such a thing. But we all have it within ourselves to take that negative energy and do something positive with it. Go for a walk. Have a workout. Renovate part of your house (ripping down walls REALLY helps burn off excess anger!)

And don’t forget to talk about it! If you’re angry, don’t be scared to SAY you’re angry. You have a right to how you feel, despite the circumstance. Whatever you do, make it a constructive choice and the outcome will never be anything more than positive. ☯

Sometimes You Just Gotta Zen It Out…

The martial arts can sometimes get a bit convoluted and complicated. Depending on the style you study, there can be so many different techniques and forms that keeping them all straight in your head can become difficult.

Martial arts are a bit like everything else in life; you can only learn one thing at a time and it takes a while to master it. This is an issue that many martial arts students frequently have while training. People in general, especially these days, tend to want immediate gratification. They prefer the high-flying kicks and fancy techniques that they see in movies, but most of what we see on screen is unrealistic.

Bruce Lee once said “Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just a punch, a kick was just a kick. After I’d studied the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch, a kick is just a kick.”

Unlike a lot of what you’ve possibly read on the Internet, this isn’t a made-up quote! He wrote that in his book, Tao of Jeet Kune Do.

I believe the quote essentially describes the growth a student a student must go through during training. When one begins the martial arts, they focus on learning the technique and practicing. Once they start gaining some experience, they focus primarily on the little details: position of the feet, angle of the joints, effectiveness and impact… But once they’ve been practicing for a length of time, those techniques become a passing thought in the grand puzzle that is the martial arts. It becomes about bringing it all together, and a punch once again becomes only a punch.

It’s important to find a balance between learning and doing. And in that learning, you start to recognize that you’re reaching a stage of understanding when you’re able to perform complex forms or techniques properly without giving them thought. This is what the Okinawans used to refer to as “No Mindedness”. It describes a state where one is almost in a meditative state while training.

But because of the time and effort it takes to master techniques and forms, many students become bored, complacent or lazy in class. Ultimately, many of these students will drop out and/or quit. Only those who stick with it and put in the maximum effort will be able to reap the benefits.

This concept applies to any sport or activity. Work hard, stay patient and focus on learning as much as you can. It will help carry you much further. ☯

On The Road To Enlightenment…

I’ve had people ask about how I came about studying Buddhism. The question makes sense; a French-speaking white male living on the Northern shore of New Brunswick wouldn’t necessarily have a great deal of exposure to eastern religions.

I guess it all kind of started in the mid to late 1980’s. Although I hadn’t become entrenched in the martial arts by this point, my religious beliefs would feed off of my martial arts and vice versa, in the years to come. I had already become an avid reader and would pick up any book or manuscript I could get my hands on and read it. My father, in an attempt to steer me away from my grandmother’s medical text books (he felt they were inappropriate for a kid) started trying to find “cool things” for me to read.

Sometime in 1987, my father found a copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and provided the manuscript to me in plain text format on a 3.5 inch floppy disk (I realize how old that makes me sound, and you new age kids can Google “floppy disk” if you don’t understand). It was slow reading, especially since there was only one computer in the house and I had to wait for my father to be gone to work to get a turn.

Without getting into details, the Tibetan Book of the Dead is the western title given to one of the three main manuscripts in Buddhism. It basically describes the transitional period in which a person exists between the death of one life and the beginning of another. There’s more to it than that, but that’s the gist. It was intense and fascinating reading, and I don’t think that my father knew exactly what it was that he had given me. It started me on a path of self-study that I am still entranced with to this day.

To explain how Buddhism gained some roots within my own life, it’s important that I explain a little bit about my family’s religious beliefs. This is not to shine a negative light on anyone’s chosen faith, but my entire family on my mother’s side was intensely religious. In fact, most of my grandmother’s siblings had studied the seminary and most had become nuns. Since my mother had also gone to seminary school, the Catholic faith had deep roots on my mother’s side and I was made to attend church twice, sometimes more, a week. Although teaching your family’s beliefs to the next generation is important, I would come to believe that a traditional church service holds no interest for a young child and can in fact get quite boring. In recent years, some churches offer child programs that allow for the teaching of their faith in a forum where young children are distracted and enjoy the experience. This was not so, for me.

By the time I had reached my pre-teens, my mother gave me the choice as to whether I would attend church or not. And like most children who are given the choice, since I had been forced through it for most of my life, I chose to walk away from it.

By the time the very late 1980’s came along, my health had waned to the point where I was facing death (I’ve written about this in previous posts, if you want to check out that story). Once I began my martial arts training, I began to learn more about Buddhism, Taoism and Zen. One began to feed of the other and I began to actively seek out Buddhist texts and study in greater detail. The more I read, the more I came to feel that the Buddhist faith reflected much more of my personality than my family’s religious faiths (I pluralize that, because my father is actually not Catholic).

My Sensei was a big help, since certain Zen precepts are very dominant in karate. What I study is called Zen Buddhism, a sect of Buddhism that originated in China but built roots as a Japanese form of Buddhism focusing on meditation and intuition. Based on Mahayana Buddhism, it combines aspects of Zen and Taoism. Although there are obviously far too many details about it to draft in a blog post, the Buddhist faith has helped me through the decades by encouraging self-motivation, increased health, focus and concentration and acceptance of all other religious beliefs.

Although my studies were akin to a starving person in front of a buffet, most studies were done on my own. In October of 2001 I travelled to Japan with my Sensei, and had the opportunity to visit a number of Buddhist temples, including temples in Narita and Tokyo. I made friends with a number of the monks in Narita and was invited to stay and become a monk myself.

I was caught in a dilemma. Although their peaceful way of life and quiet study appealed to me, I didn’t know how survival would be possible, being a Type 1 Diabetic. The monks explained that they normally used monetary donations as a means to obtain medical supplies for monks who required them. The monastery would provide my insulin in exchange for joining them.

I could have stayed. A part of me wishes I had stayed. But I came to two realizations that night as I was trying to make my decision. The first thing I realized is that the world keeps on turning. Even if I hide within the walls of a monastery, how am I genuinely promoting peace if I’m hidden from the world? Would I be contributing in a way that would satisfy me and make me feel as though I’ve done my part? The answer was certainly no!

The second thing I realized is how embarrassing it would be to have my mother hop an international flight to drag me back to Canada by my ear! Being an only child, there was no way in hell she would have allowed me to join a monastery on the other side of the world!

But there you have it. I often wonder if my path would have been the same if my father hadn’t provided me with that first manuscript. Maybe so. But as much as I would like to say it all happened by accident, it likely wasn’t. As Jean de la Fontaine said, we most often find our destiny on the road we least thought to travel.