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Find Your Own Martial Art

Photo on 23-10-2017 at 17.52 #3 copy

Been training for a while and feel dissatisfied? Feel like you’re not learning the right things? The martial arts not meeting your expectations?

Meditate – ask yourself what you really want from your training, I don’t mean all the usual blanket answers but what do YOU want? What are YOUR individual expectations? This can lead to quite a few surprises because you’ve probably been taking on other people’s expectations without realising it and that’s why you have to go deep to discover what it is you REALLY need from your efforts.

Look at what you’re doing – having realised fully why you’re training, is your current path going to get you there? Look at the end result of what you’re training for and start to plot a path towards each bit. You will probably find that you will have take up separate aspects to get them to converge at the right point. I had to study philosophy, Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, and my own culture of Wicca and paganism, the healing arts of reiki and massage and the softer and more internal side of traditional Tai Chi to match the Kickboxing, Karate, Ju Jitsu, Judo along with the Chinese and Japanese weapons arts of Iaido, Jodo, Broadsword, Double Edge sword and Spear to reach the standard that I wanted and had to learn from the top Coaches in each field of study.

Be yourself – Everyone wants you to become what they want. Masters want soldiers and blind followers, students and family want you become what suits them. They will put their expectations on you. DON’T LET THEM! Be yourself! Don’t let anyone else put you in a box you are an individual and to be who you really are – and unlike them you have worked it out and plotted a path!

Be discerning – Can these people do what they say? How many top level practitioners and coaches have they produced? people lie, they exaggerate, they don’t put in the work themselves, they try and hide their lack of skill with mystique, secrecy and lineages – don’t fall for it!

Find balance – work at a pace that you can sustain. Become emotionally intelligent. Any path is only as strong as it’s weakest point, so know what your strong and weak points are – discover them for yourself, don’t wait for others to tell you! Other people always have an agenda know yourself inside out and find that essential level of balance.

Stick to your guns – have resolve, determination, courage, patience, tolerance, kindness and compassion and simply don’t give up. This is a lifelong quest! Fall down 7 times and get up 8. That’s the rule of thumb for life. That 1 step forwards through all the trials and tribulations is worth it’s weight in gold – it’s the winning step, it’s what sorts out the winners from the losers.

Do it – do it now – don’t put it off. Get your arse in that chair or on that cushion NOW, sit straight, breathe deep, calm your mind down and focus your attention – then ask yourself “what do I REALLY want?”

 

 

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Why ‘Positive Thinking’ Doesn’t Work…

steve profile booksWhy ‘positive thinking’ doesn’t work.

That happy mask, the fixed inane grin, the stupid idea that ‘anything’s possible’ if you think positive hard enough, usually comes from someone desperately unhappy or someone with their hand in your pocket.

Let me be honest. At least 50% of life is shit. It ranges from dissatisfaction to ‘please kill me now’ suffering. If you learn to deal with with it by becoming durable, it ‘enobles’ you. It means you’ve been hurt so bad for so long, nothing or no one can hurt you as much as you’ve been hurt already. It gives you depth and the ability to deal with life and help others from direct experience.

It means you REALLY appreciate the other 50% of life, when you have no pain life is incredibly beautiful. You appreciate all the beauty in the universe because it’s only beautiful because of it’s fragility, you know it will inevitably wither and die.

So deep happiness and sustainable success comes from wisdom and experience viewed from the right perspective. Life is about BALANCE understanding the way the universe creates it’s own form of harmony. In hindsight, what is hard and painful teaches you how to cope with life and appreciate that other 50%.

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The Dark Side Of Pain

steve pray

 

Pain eats your soul.
You want to move but you can’t.
Life is out there waiting,
Calling you to come out and play,
People to see, places to be,
Exciting, active and fun…
The spirit is willing, but the body is tired,
Every move jars the soul,
Pain screams around the joints,
They give way and are unstable,
Medication has a price that is just as bad.

Everybody assumes you will fully repair,
That is the confidence of youth.
You end up joining the pretence,
Because it’s easier than trying to explain.
In the end life can only get worse,
It comes sooner to some than others,
But why tell them that?

Bed becomes your torture chamber,
No position has rest,
No sleep, no respite.
The dark quiet hours make you think,
You feel the reaper in the shadows.
Death is a warm painless blanket,
Where sleep finally awaits.

No seat is comfortable,
No shoes or clothes fit without discomfort,
Everything comes with a problem,
Can’t stand, walk, sit or lay without pain,
Every bit of furniture has to be examined,
So you don’t get stuck and embarrassed.

Your painful gait gets in everyone’s way,
Too slow, with that painful limp.
No disabled parking means going home,
Having to fully open your car door,
Means traffic slows with impatient horns.

Paralympians put you to shame,
But they’re disabled not sick.
Others can’t tell the difference,
And if your sickness isn’t visible enough,
People think you’re lazy.

Many are worse off than you.
Their struggle makes your problems seem small.
It’s all a matter of perspective,
But you can only speak from your own.
Why bother to write?
Because that old man/lady hobbling in your way,
Created the world you now inhabit,
And could probably save you from many mistakes.

By Steve Rowe

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Cognitive Dissonance In The Martial Arts

face claw

I posted recently on Facebook about Firemen who rescued some piglets from a fire and how the grateful farmer then slaughtered them and rewarded the firemen with sausages made from their carcasses. As a meditation I suggested that if that made the readers uncomfortable it might be because they were experiencing ‘cognitive dissonance’ because they might hold two opposing views about the piglets, one because they are cute and cuddly and the other because they like them as food.

This then made me think that it might be a good idea to draw some of my teachings together under this label to explain the difference between blind assumptions that create the condition and using it as a tool in our martial arts and in stressful times.

Let me explain.

In the book ‘The Prehistory Of The Mind’ Steven Mithen explains the development of the human mind as like ‘a Swiss army penknife’ with utilities like the need for survival, the need for love and affection, the need to procreate, the need to communicate and recognising what we need to eat and so on that develop faster than all other parts of the mind. These utilities are separate from each other and this explains why we can see baby pigs as cute and cuddly one moment and then be eating them later; as it utilises different parts of the mind.

Steven then relates how as humankind developed, some people have developed channels between these utilities and can start to relate one to the other, bringing about in some the need to reconcile the apparent dissonance between the two.

So in our meditation and self study we need to recognise the ‘blind assumptions’ about everything that our culture and upbringing has given us as a set of views and values and then apply our own critical thinking to them to decide if we really do think that way and to find what our views really are. This process dramatically changed me as a person as I realised that I had previously just adopted the views and values of my family and culture without challenging them!  I had been wearing a mask all this time and not known it, my deep rooted fears and anxieties were borne out of cognitive dissonance because the views I thought I held weren’t really me and deep down I felt uncomfortable with them.

Good meditation took me through this process of self examination to find out who I really was and to find my own resonance.  It was a huge relief to eventually discover who I was and the views that really resonated with me.

Then as martial artists we can train this dissonance as a tool when life serves up it’s usual unpalatable fayre. If we have to defend ourselves or someone else, or fight to keep the peace and we don’t like hurting anyone or anything, we need the skill to be able to disassociate our connection to another person to see them purely as a target to hurt them enough to stop them and this is where a trained ‘cognitive dissonance’ can work for good.

When I’ve had to take a loved pet to the vet to have them put down, when someone close to me is dying painfully, when all I want to do is to collapse in a sea of emotion but someone has to take action to get things done, that necessary separation, if well trained, can come to the fore.

If you are an empathic person and naturally link into someone else’s anger, pain, suffering or depression you end up taking on their emotions and life can be really hard! The person might feel better after an hour but you can still be walking about with their depression for weeks if you’re not careful! Again training for that separation, so you can deal with their emotions positively, you create that ‘cognitive dissonance’ until you can bring the resonance between you back is a real skill.

The ability to be able to ‘wake up’ using mindfulness, to examine our mind and opinions, to discover who we really are what we really think, to understand and connect the different parts of our mind and draw on that embedded ‘utilitarian’ part as a skillset takes regular daily training can be truly life changing – and it helps to develop the necessary toolbox to make us more emotionally intelligent.

That has got to be worth the effort!

 

 

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Direct Knowledge Is Different

steve profile books

 

I used to get my knowledge and wisdom from others at lectures, in books and lecture tapes.  I would meditate for ages on the wisdom of the Buddha, Lao Tsu, Ajhan’s Chah and Sumedho, Alan Watts, Kahil Gibran and many others, I studied Buddhism, Zen, Chan, Taoism, Wicca, Paganism, Ritual Magik, Spiritualism and all their associated arts, but when the breakthrough occurred, I stopped.

No longer did I need to refer to others, because I was able to look inside and find my own ‘wisdom mind’. When I sat or stood still, I could access the part of me that I never could before and I found the true purpose of meditation.

Before, I knew a lot about these subjects and could quote a host of others and what they thought about them, but I didn’t really know what I was talking about because I didn’t have the direct experience. I thought I had because I had the knowledge, but it hadn’t changed me as a person. A big difference!

When a Buddhist monk lectured, they would sit quietly first and when they spoke it was like something spoke through them, they could answer questions with frightening honesty and humility but I never quite got what they were doing until it happened to me. In the Martial Arts I would see true mastery when a teacher could just respond with whatever someone threw at them with ease and never have to bully to impress. Eventually I realised that when you had absorbed the knowledge properly with the right kind of mind – you became it.

Meditation became my study instead of reading, instead of acting the part I became it.  My martial arts training became a meditation. Whenever I needed help or advice, instead of going to a book, I sat still, when I had a problem, in that stillness I always found the answer.

I could teach and lecture without notes, all I had to do was go to that place in my mind and everything came out in a well structured approach sensitive to the audience and students needs.

I had found the difference between knowing about something and actually knowing it.

There are many that know ‘about’ various subjects and can quote just about everyone, but those that really ‘know’ directly and are it, live it every day.

And they truly are like diamonds on a beach of pebbles.

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If I die tonight

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Dedicated to my good friend the late Graham Wendes.

If I die tonight will the universe stop?
If I return to the Tao it will be like a wave returning to the sea;
No more ‘being human’ and only ‘sensing’ the infinite;
From whence I came, I will return and be it once more.
My ‘place of refuge’ becomes my home again.

In the infinite, all time exists all of the time, the theatre of life exists because the pot is stirred;
When stirred, one plays off against the other in a binary fashion, simple appears complicated as the picture of life is created;
Pulsing continuously into an ever changing picture like a TV signal;
With each part not realising that that they are all joined, made from the same binary code that itself joins to form the unrecognisable infinite.

The universe creates the unfolding drama to satisfy itself, we unwittingly keep recreating a similar drama for our amusement with theatre, films and TV –
When we wake up, we see it.

By Steve Rowe

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I Should Be Dead

Dead

I know it, the reaper came, hovered and left. I stood between the worlds for months after a collapse with a second serious infection, 5 life saving and crippling surgeries on top of the 9 I’d already had and a second round of months of a cocktail of life saving, gut wrenching, antibiotics and hallucinogenic pain killers left me in serious doubt as to whether I was still meant to be here.

But here I am… still feeling ‘out of place’ and on borrowed time. Pain is a constant reminder and fatigue is always pulling at the back of my eyes and keeping the handbrake on my body. Everything has to be done slowly and carefully, teaching me ‘mindfulness’ in a most unexpected way, death always feels like it could it come with the next breath.

But this is not bad. It gives me perspective and vision that was not available to me before. Other people have a ‘bucket list’ when on borrowed time and try to fit everything into whatever time they have left, frantically running round like headless chickens trying to be distracted from their future demise having lost all perspective due to fear. I’m lucky because a lifetime of meditation and study allows me to sit in the ‘Tao’ and to see my finite life from an infinite mind.

What is important? It’s important to be ‘at ease’ with what and who you are and what part you have to play in this theatre of life. You are born out of this world and not into it. You are a part of everything in this theatre and have always been here in one way or another since the ‘big bang’.

My disability slows me down, this makes me pay attention to everything I rushed past before, ‘paying attention’ to everything, time, places, things, people, their characteristics, actions, words and this opens doors that I never saw before. Sitting still and in constant pain allows me to find that ‘place of refuge’ in my mind where the infinite me that holds all wisdom exists and pain is put into perspective.

I stopped contacting people that didn’t contact me and I let them go. I stopped talking to people that only contacted me when I was ‘useful’ and I let them go. I stopped taking part in the circus of ego feeding, back slapping events that only fed the negativity of needing to be an accepted part of it and fear of being excluded.  I stopped worrying about people, things and places because everything eventually turns to dust, all matter is impermanent. I learned that sometimes anxiety, depression, pain and suffering just arises, but it will pass if you let it be and don’t hang your hat on it. Nothing belongs to me – it’s all transitory.

If I smile with my face I immediately feel better, if I smile from the heart, I feel content and at peace, ‘letting go’ is the capacity to just watch everything as it passes, pay it attention but see it for what it is. If you know the names of your demons, they can’t touch you. Helping people is better than harming them, allowing them to be what they are, without imposing your wishes on them creates a healthy relationship. Building bridges is better than blowing them up, food parcels work better than bombs, inclusion works better than exclusion, ‘spreading the load’ in society makes ‘being human’ turn into humankind.

I don’t need to go anywhere, I don’t need to do anything, I don’t need to become anything, on the contrary, the best me is when I let go of all that desire and then intelligently engage with life from the right perspective and let it all happen naturally.

The more you stir the pot, the more trouble you create, the more you try to ‘make your mark’ and impose yourself and your views over others, the more they will reject you. When you create harmony in yourself, when you spread that into your environment, when you support all the building bricks of life on this planet – then you’ve really got the right perspective.

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