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. ☯

Hurts So Good…

What does it mean to be in pain? Well, from a strictly medical perspective, pain is when our sensory receptors send a signal through our nerve fibres , all the way up to our brains. Then the brain interprets the signal as pain. The human body uses this signal as an avoidance reflex, meaning it’s telling you that whatever you’re doing is harming your body and should be stopped. (Although not everyone is quick enough to stop hurting themselves, sometimes)

From a Diabetes standpoint, we experience a wide variety of pain. Neuropathy, open wounds that are extremely slow to heal and pain prior to numbness from lack of circulation are simply a few. And certainly not the worst.

It’s not always bad. From a fitness standpoint, pain can be a positive thing. SOME pain is necessary in order to help the body sculpt and grow. The idea here is to know when enough is enough and to stop before serious damage can occur.

But there’s one form of pain that is largely ignored in most circumstances. I’m talking about emotional pain. When something affects us in a negative way, we feel a sort of pain that is often very hard to describe. For some, it’s an increased feeling of fatigue. For others, it can manifest itself in any number of nasty ways including but not limited to, becoming ill, nausea, depression, problems with the digestive tract and even alcoholism or substance abuse. The expression “this breaks my heart” stems from the fact that one usually feels some discomfort in the pit of their abdomen during emotional distress.

The important thing to remember is that what hurts in your heart can also affect your body. Although that sounds a bit cheesy, it’s quite accurate. Sometimes we need to look at the big picture and acknowledge that the pain is going to happen, and take steps to help deal with it as opposed to ignoring it.

Ultimately, pain helps us grow. In any way, shape or form, it allows us to learn an develop. After all, imagine if as an infant you put your hands on a hot stove and it didn’t hurt… You’d likely leave your hand there and keep playing and critically damage your tissues. But by feeling the pain, you learn that “Oops! It hurts to touch the stove. Better stay away!” Most forms of pain will teach you something.

So ask yourself, what is my emotional pain teaching me? Am I doing something wrong, or something I disagree with? Or is it simply a case of doing the right thing? That can also be painful sometimes. Just remember that in grand scheme of things, nothing lasts forever; not even pain. ☯

Sometimes The Wrong Choices Bring Us To The Right Places

I don’t believe that any person is perfect. Life often throws situations at us and we deal with them as best we can. As I’ve written about before, it’s possible to commit no mistakes and still lose; that is not a weakness, that is life. I love that saying, and it rings quite true.

I was out for a run this morning, because exercise is important and apparently because I enjoy pain first thing in the morning. The path I took was quiet and peaceful, with not a soul around. The sun was shining and the sky was blue with only the occasional touch of white cloud visible on the distant horizon.

As I ran, I had some quiet time to consider some of the choices I’ve made in my life. I’ve always believed that all things happen for a reason. When I think back to specific “bad” events in my life, I am usually able to trace them to how I got to the here and now, which includes all the good in my life.

I’ve come to make an important decision; one that will alter the course of my life and change the dynamic of my family for quite some time to come. The stress and anxiety that has existed leading up to this decision has been substantial. But now that the decision has been made (although not executed), it almost feels as though a massive weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

I’m taken aback by the fact that life can still surprise me. There really is no such thing as routine, and even when things seem a little mundane, learn to appreciate the dynamic in your daily life and the little changes that add what’s called the “spice of life”.

Life rarely cares about one’s plans

Even when one tries to plan each and every aspect of one’s existence, it’s important to remember that life doesn’t care about your plan. Every life has similarities. Each life begins and ends the same way: starting with a birth and ending with a death. It’s how you fill the chapters in between that is up to you.

So enjoy every moment, including the little surprises you weren’t expecting. After all, as someone once said: “Life is short. Smile while you still have teeth.”

You Gotta Plan, If You Want To Fly To The Sun…

As a child, I used to love the story of Icarus and his wax wings. You may know the one; the story of the young lad who uses wings made of wax and feathers and flies too close to the Sun?

As the legend goes, Icarus was the son of Daedalus, the designer of the Labyrinth that was built for King Minos of Crete. King Minos ended up imprisoning Daedalus in the Labyrinth, so Daedalus fashioned some wings out of feathers and wax for himself and his son, Icarus. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too low and risk the sea’s dampness clogging his wings, or too high, which would cause the Sun’s heat to melt the wings.

As the father and son pair took flight, Icarus got excited at the ability to fly and went too high. The Sun’s heat melted the wax and his wings came apart, ultimately causing Icarus to fall into the sea to his death. Was it hubris? Or poor planning?

Icarus’ wings, melting in the Sun

There’s nothing wrong with reaching far and soaring to new heights. One need only to be aware of what might be waiting for you if you overreach. ☯