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Cognitive Dissonance In The Martial Arts

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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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Articles, Uncategorized

Principled Training And Existence

neck break

My Shi Kon training system is ‘principle based’. Principles are what makes everything work and we have 8 of them. If all 8 are in place, whatever you do will work. I only think and train in principles and strategies, techniques will be the result of them and can vary from situation to situation. This means that there is a area that techniques will appear different and still be ‘right’, many people find this confusing, “is it like this, or is it like this?” can sometimes be answered with “yes” because both are correct as they employ all 8 principles. Fighting is spontaneous and responsive and needs to vary according to the conditions, this is why principle based training is essential. I will vary what I’m doing according to the opponent or training partner and therefore don’t really have any ‘set’ routines, only ‘set’ principles and ideas. Narrow minded, linear thinking people find this intensely frustrating because they want a definitive ‘right and wrong’ and not what they see as a ‘fuzzy logic’ – but that’s the way fighting and life in general works. The resolution is whether it works in a spontaneous exchange or not – and definitive structured linear thinking techniques don’t work in a fight.

My club and association work in the same way.  Courtesy, kindness, compassion, patience and tolerance rule until we touch hands, then it becomes resolve, determination, courage, the 8 principles and 13 strategies. To mix these up is to lose, to understand how they function is essential. If you make rules, you will just keep making them to cover the exceptions until everyone is confused and they don’t work, but principles underlay all behaviour and are quite clear to people when the ideas are grasped.

Understand quite clearly what principles are, without them the technique and the person will be weak and easily fail, with them both will always be strong, connected, harmonious and powerful.

Strategies are dynamic, interchangeable and will flow through technique combining to make it useful but will not be ever present.

Truth just is. The principles that work in the microcosm of martial arts also work in the club and association structure, in business, family and in life generally.

Learn how to tell the difference between principle, strategy and technique.

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Compassion

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Compassion

The human race cannot survive without compassion. It’s what joins us, makes us work together to resolve our problems and evolve.  As the World is becoming more insular, as we separate ourselves from and demonise groups of people, becoming inured to their suffering we are evolving in the wrong direction and ensuring our mutual destruction.

Compassion is to be able to see clearly into the nature of suffering and not be separate from it.  Compassion is itself untainted, it cannot be attached to an outcome, it’s enemies are pity, moral outrage and fear – it transforms suffering.

Meditation builds compassion, it joins us to our environment and others, it teaches empathy, to experience what others feel. Compassion also transforms us, we evolve, it hooks up all the parts of our brain, it enhances our immune system and makes us healthier. Many people turn away from empathy and compassion through fear, the modern zeitgeist teaches us to be selfish and unnaturally attached to those things that wisdom teaches us we cannot hold on to – in trying to hold on to them or aspire to have them we fear those that we are told will take them away from us – and yet ensuring the welfare of others is to ensure our own survival and evolution of the human species.

Compassion requires fearlessness, strength, resilience and an undefended heart. We need ‘a strong back and a soft front’ and that takes training. Truly compassionate people are definitely not weak. This is the ethos of traditional martial arts training. It trains the whole person. We often hear and read that ‘martial arts makes you a better person’ and it’s clear to see who has followed that path and who hasn’t.

We should teach compassion in schools, as very few people fully understand what it is and how it works.  We should teach it to our healthcare workers, our social workers, our politicians – and we should vote for compassion and compassionate politicians.

Compassion reaches out to everyone and all things, it bridges all differences. A compassionate martial arts instructor will have a diverse club that help each other and work out in the community to help those less fortunate than themselves.  You don’t have to agree with others to act compassionately towards them or love them or even like them! Compassion is pure in itself and joins and evolves people – try it!

Meditate developing compassion towards yourself, spread it out to those you love, then those that you like, then those that you feel ambivalent towards, then to those you dislike and eventually to those you hate. See how it frees you and rids you of anger and greed, the more you share, the better person you become.

Learn about it, read about it, listen to lectures about it, meditate on it and act on it, it has to grow upwards from the populace to change our society, politicians and media as they are the people that need to respond to our wishes and not the other way around – power to the people!

 

 

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Rules To Live By…

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Some of Steve Rowe’s Rules Of Life –

1. Don’t make friends easily.
2. ALWAYS work on your mind and perspective 24/7.
3. Always pay your way and live within your means.
4. If you help somebody, do it because it’s right not to make them indebted to you.
5. People you’ve helped will often stab you in the back, don’t let it become your problem.
6. People you’ve taught will often never give you credit – mostly that’s a good thing because that kind of student rarely gets it right.
7. Judge everyone by their actions not their words.
8. Always get money out the way first so everybody clearly understands and there’s no confusion.
9. Never trust anyone that’s vague about money.
10. So many people with so much enthusiasm and the inability to see it through.
11. Never be distracted by shiny objects.
12. Never let anyone occupy your time with a lot of talk and no action.
13. Never drop you standards for anyone – ever.
14. Always read the small print.
15. If you want to do it right – don’t do it wrong.
16. Work at a speed that means you can do it right.
17. Always light a room up when you enter and not when you leave.

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Poems, Uncategorized

Mass Slaughter

moon

I have been kept in prison;
Forced to take drugs,
Forced to have sex;
And my children were slaughtered.

When I become useless to my captors;
I too will be killed.
The terrorists have no compassion,
They say everything is for the ‘greater good’.

Their leaders manipulate them,
They are constantly taught to have no compassion for me;
If they want to be fed,
They must torture and kill me and my babies.

The mass slaughter should end;
One day compassion and kindness should rule,
Respect and equality for all should be normal;
But I fear that day is a long way off;
And the end to my torture and imprisonment nears with my death.

Because I am cow.

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Poems, Uncategorized

Inside Out

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How do you want people to treat you?
Then treat them the same way.
You want respect?
Then give it and earn it.
You want people to see you as a good martial artist?
Then work hard and become one.
You want respect as a martial arts coach?
Then act like one.
You want to be treated as an adult?
Then behave like one.
You want the coach to teach you well?
Then be a good student.

I study people and most can’t see the obvious.
They complain about their treatment,
That they’re not treated with respect,
That they’re not taught properly,
That their students don’t respect them as coaches;

They blame everyone and everything apart from themselves.

They didn’t look inside.

Remember we live from the inside out, not the outside in.

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Poems, Uncategorized

I See You

steve pray

I see you….
Because I meditate and practice neigong,
I see you,
I see the savage beast when the mask slips,
Maybe only for a second,
But I see you.

I also see the angel,
When you have pure altruistic compassion,
When you really care;
When your caring is free from fear or pity,
When there is no desire for an end result,
That’s when your angel is looking through your eyes.

My unfettered mind see’s how you wear your body;
The tension borne from fear,
The bowed head, the lazy slouch,
The jutting chin and darting eyes;
The deepest muscles ‘holding’ your darkest fears;
I see you in there.

I also see when your body is free;
When your natural beauty shines through,
When you are tall and straight,
Tension free and shining,
When you float as you move like your angel,
I see you you in there.

You cannot hide from an open mind;
My eyes are not camera’s,
I’m looking from my deepest soul,
It ‘perceives’ until you and I are one,
I become you and then I really ‘see’ what and whom you really are.

I see you….

 

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