“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Neale Donald Walsch
“Life and training are not about contest. They are about being the best that you can be for today and helping others be their best.. The contest is with yourself alone. What you practice daily you become good at.”
Star Trek fans will be familiar with the Vulcan blessing, “Live long and prosper…” It’s not just for Vulcans, Earthlings can have it too. Before you kick the bucket, make a list. Then do it. Excuses take too much energy to keep feeding, energy stolen from achieving. Make it a choice to prosper, then set about doing it. I’m not talking about collecting money. That may or may not be a fringe benefit of real prosperity.
Real prosperity is spiritual, physical, mental and social. It is what you give to the world and how you choose to excel yourself. Prosperity is when you don’t cower before life but meet the challenges!
In regular manageable increments you can do anything. Daily installments of any task ensure you will become good at it. You already know how to brush your teeth and drive a car. You got good at these activities by repeating them daily. So too with anything else you may choose.
Many people claim they need to wait, “for ideal times” or “until money to come into their lives” before they can set out to chase their goals. But no time is good enough, the weather is either too fine or too stormy and they, “are too busy right now.” Ideal times never come. (What the heck is an “ideal time?”) If money does come, the irresolute forget their wishy-washy but vociferous “goals” and chase after other things instead.
If you really mean it, the time is now. The day is today. There is no other. There may not be another. You can!
Some years ago someone showed me an article which made sense. Studies conducted in China, showed that over-training led to an early demise approximating that of people who did no physical exercise at all. Moderate, regular activity involving skill seemed to prolong life with quality by as many as 10 to 20 years.
Now because I can no longer find the article and because those studies were made in China, there will be those who will be quick to assert that such information is, “anecdotal.” Indeed. But it is rather obvious. However merely “knowing” it as a concept and doing it are entirely different matters.
Being male, I was, especially in my younger years, prone to overdoing everything. This is “anecdotal” too. But as I recall, as I got older, there were consequences to overdoing it. Injuries. Going sour from fatigue. High intensity, high risk employment leading to post traumatic stress and so on.
That moderation is the key should be common sense. But as we all know common sense is not that common nowadays. So some people learn the hard way. At other times there is no option and you simply have to bite the bullet.
As I got older and painfully wiser from experience, I noticed young fellows tending to over-train. My admonitions to “slow down” evinced weird looks and my comments were ignored. Until the injuries. Then they would come for advice and got offended when I would point out that the advice had been given before the damage and if heeded… well you know, nobody likes hearing, “I told you so!”
Another “anecdote.”When beset with death dealing ill health from toxic smoke inhalation, in the days before occupational health and safety standards had been duly ensconced in law, I became one of the inconvenient, unwanted, forgotten ones and was expected to die quietly without making too much fuss or revealing the gaping holes, lack of justice and wrongful exploitation of workers who contribute to society, often at great personal cost. And other uncomfortable issues. (I had strategically retired myself from a long standing career in the NSW Fire Brigades.)
In bad condition as a result, for a while I almost bought the belief that I would have to give up, but I was fortunate to have other challenges in life to keep my fires up. I recall clearly getting out of the bed in which I was supposed to be dying quietly and donning my gi and hakama, fetching my jo and bokken and trudging out into the snow saying to myself, “If I’m going to die, it will be doing what I love most.”
And I trained.
I then duly collapsed. After recovering somewhat, I trained again. And collapsed again.
I kept this up determining to make a breakthrough or die trying. I won’t bore you with the setbacks but I kept training. Every day. I seemed to be getting stronger. And as it at times appeared, healthier too. But it was too soon to tell. Too many years too soon in fact.
Any day could have been my last. That was in the hands of the Universe. I had no control of that part and surrendering to that possibility I took upon myself that which I could control, which to be honest, at that time was not much. Any day can be our last. There is no way to know. Today is VERY important. This is the Budo mindset. Live now intensely. Enjoy the gift. Navigate the challenge. Meet life, the Universe, as it is, Notice. I thanked my teachers for imbuing me with this spirit in their living examples and took one small step forward each day. Not knowing if the next day would come, I addressed the day that was here and now, one day at a time. I may add, most days not so well as I would have preferred.
In those darker days the quacks of orthodoxy were a little too keen to market their products, such as “operations,” “a wheelchair,” and of course, the never ending industrial mainstay of “pills,” addictive and harmful “medications.” In their executive wisdom, or greed for spin offs, I’m not sure which, were disinterested in exploring more holistic options to what could be possible in the way of a real healing restoration. Their “education” had programmed them to limitation and they told me not to train. That was the last straw. I already had more than sufficient toxic chemical cocktails in my system. I figured I did not need any more. And training Aikido, if it killed me, would be a preferred way to go. Nowadays professional firefighters are required by law to wear breathing apparatus and no officer can lawfully order otherwise. About time.
I paid my respects and moved on to begin my own journey of discovery into what was possible. I would now be taking even greater responsibility for my existence than before. In those days before the internet, research was not so easy and yet the information was more likely to be correct. All the walking, when I could, got my circulation moving as well.
Endlessly addressing of every means I could find to restoring health became a project. Not to mention diet, sleep, meditation, natural medicine, herbal medicine, Eastern medicine, nutrition and everything else I could learn and refine. Managing the pain of chronic injuries without palliatives taught me much. It also allowed Nature to do her work of restoration, in as far as it was possible, which was certainly more than it would have been had I allowed the witchdoctors to remove parts. You would not tolerate missing or half removed parts to your car if you mechanic even so much as suggested it. Why your body? (Acknowledged: What the medical profession do well, they do well. When it comes to the “too hard basket,” they tend to behave much like their jungle counterparts. I strongly recommend INFORMED consent. Preferably VERY informed. Getting informed means study. Learning to think rationally. Accessing the knowledge that is available by every means possible. It is your body! Guard and protect it as if it is the temple of your soul – Hito Jinja which it is! This is central to Aiki Budo!)
Above all else, I wanted to discover and get to understand why this Aikido had saved my life in so many situations of aggression and I was not ready to go until some light had been shed on the subject.
Little did I know then, but Aikido was about to save me in an altogether different way than mere violence.
The old job injuries added to the challenge and there were relapses. Many. I got up and started again. By now I had become obsessed. I was nowhere near the level of skill I had set out to achieve when I first began. Nor did I feel I understood much at all about the mysteries or implications of the Way of Aiki. When unable to move, I re-read my scant resources, some books and the treasured Aikido Journal magazines.
Practice became everything and the mainstay around which the rest of my life had to revolve. Each start, each climb carried new and valuable lessons.
When I finally believed myself well enough to do ukemi again, I placed a small ad in the local newspaper. “One person wanted to practice Aikido.”
Several turned up. None had practiced Aikido before. I was pressed into sharing what little I knew and also meeting the challenges of those who had trained other arts and who wanted to, “test if Aikido really worked.”
These were immensely valuable experiences.
Suddenly I had another career. Sharing Aikido. In between what often felt like comatose collapses, I somehow found a way to rise and share Aikido before collapsing again. Pushing through delirium and detoxifications is never pleasant or easy.
Was it painful? More than painful, but I had a mission and a responsibility and it was driving me. In my very small way I found myself obligated to do my share in honouring O’Sensei’s vision before kicking that proverbial bucket.
Did things improve? It was not always immediately noticeable. Before things got better they got worse. Much worse. Again and again each apparent rise was beset by a fall. Or several. At times it felt as if I was bogged in the depth of Hades. It’s a long story of numerous losses, pitfalls, tests, trials and tribulations that don’t belong here. To cut a long story short it was not easy, it was a pilgrimage. It was shugyō, musha shugyō.
Like anyone else in such a position I was tempted to wallow in my state of loss, lost opportunity, loss of youth, loss of health etc., and at times I did, but only in between classes. I soon determined that to be a waste of time and to use my mind better. This also took practice.
Classes were always a joy. I looked forward to them. They still are. I still do. Similarly to real imminent dangers, Aikido practice, like being out a sea, fighting fire or taking any risk brings me fully present into the moment. The whole Universe is present restoring balance with comparative safety. It ain’t necessarily always easy but it’s ALIVE!
If I could not do ukemi because my injuries precluded it, I would focus on teaching instead of only training to get more skill. In so doing I found that teaching, serving others gives you so much more. As well as continuing to add skill it also imparts understanding.
As I got better I tried other jobs and ventures for income because I did not wish to sell out the standard of Aikido. It too often happens but I valued Aikido too much to drop the standards of integrity to keep numbers for a mere income. At times things got tough but I wouldn’t have it any other way. If it was good enough for Morihei Ueshiba to maintain an impeccable standard of excellence at all costs, then to be afforded the privilege to in my own small way follow those great footsteps would be an honor. I saw to it.
This see-saw juggling act continued for many years. Things slowly, almost imperceptibly, got better.
I had made the decision to never retire.
It came to my attention that studies and reforms in Scandinavia and some other countries showed that retirement kills. I had seen it in the fire brigades. People consistently died not long after they retired. I almost had and I attribute part of my fortune to the fact that I identified some of these symptoms and retired early. Spare a thought for people who serve in emergency services.
The economist Josef Zweimuller, at the University of Zurich, recently co-authored a study which found that early retirement, as much as we may crave it, seems to be bad for our health:
“We see that workers who retire earlier have higher mortality rates and these effects are pretty large.”
The study showed that for every extra year of early retirement, workers lost about two months of life expectancy. Nor is this the first study to show a strong relationship between early retirement and earlier death.
Scandinavian studies revealed that the implementation of voluntary retirement extended life and also, most importantly the quality of that extended life, because the majority of participants chose to continue working, if even part time or as advisors to younger employees and that this increased the standards and quality of work. They had come around the full circle to that of, “primitive” tribal social etiquette. That of not discarding the older as used and expendable, but honouring them and tapping their valued experience as being of immense value.
Everything suggests when you do not have one or more enduring overriding and active creative interests serving life, that you will atrophy.
Over many years I’ve watched people give up on themselves. They hold a job but their only goal is to retire. They usually hate their job. Instead of learning to enjoy it by taking an interest, their attitudes decline become slovenly. Instead of leaving and finding or making a career they love, they become bitter and twisted, stressed and miserable. They watch movies of adventure but dare not. And they tell stories about how they, “once used to” live. What is stopping them now other than themselves?
When they finally reach that much sought after goal of, “doing nothing” they implode. Often they cease caring and indulge, embracing unhealthy habits. They may go for a trip, play bowls for a week or a month then die. Be careful what you wish for. The universe is ruthless in its accommodation.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
The successful, those who dared, tend to tell a different story. When you have a purpose the Universe appears to notice and accommodate that as well. All the forces of nature rally and gather to give you life.
Quality of life is vital. Not just the length of life. In a vegetative state I’m not sure what the purpose may be in lingering, attached to a body that has ceased to function. Nutrition, sleep, brain activity, physical activity, the body-mind connection are all important and best supported by the well established and known good lifestyle habits incorporated into one’s career.
Learn to love your work, or find a job you love. If need be manufacture one, start a business doing what you love most. It’s never too late.
Ultimately it does not matter whether life is long or short. What matters is the contributions to betterment of the world. Do you operate as a slave, sacrificing your life’s mission, what you were born to fulfill, instead overworked and underpaid by someone who is leeching your time, energy, talent and life to profit themselves? Or are you a contributor, a pioneering shining light who is adding meaning and value to the world?
Plan ahead. When a job which over many years has become an institutionalized habituation, an integral part of life which a person has come to identify with is suddenly removed, it can result in major post traumatic stress for some people. Re-orientation to dramatic change compounds other stresses with age. It is a good move to either consider accessing or implementing the *Swedish model of flexible retirement, if and where possible. Or begin now to put into place alternate creative interests which you enjoy so that you can slot into them when the job you needed to hold is no longer there.
Budo training never ends. Never stop training. Both dojo and daily life are Budo training. It’s not about whether you can win anything at all save victory over yourself. In the end nothing else matters. When your lifestyle includes managing yourself, you will generally do OK with real life opponents.
Life and training are not about contest. They are about being the best that you can be for today and helping others be their best.
Some people hate discipline. They would rather handouts. Is that life? If you fail to make friends with change, time will eat you.
Many after work indulge in a beer and TV. And that’s what they become.
Others hit the dojo, or the pool, or the track or whatever it is they love most. No excuses.
Life is designed so that rest and activity balance. But pleasant activity is a must. It nourishes the soul. The benefits arise in that balance.
Do a bit, rest a bit. After work you are not as tired as you may think. It is change that will give you life, not vegetating. I have found the dojo indispensable as a reviver. One that not only carries no hangover, but continues its revivification well into the next day!
The contest is with yourself alone. What you practice daily you become good at.
Movement is life. Stagnation is death. Use it or lose it.
This advice is not just for the “old.” Begin when young. It does not matter what your Budo is. Be it archery, touch football, netball, swimming, running, horse riding or chess. Maintain that connection! Do it for its own sake.
Personally I love Aikido the most, because it enables me in all the other activities. Aikido has something unique to offer.
Consider. Instead of looking forward to a terminal stop and cessation, do something that you love and is of benefit to humanity. Share your skills. If it’s not a dojo, then use your imagination. There is a lot of work needs doing. Charity. Alleviation of suffering. Write a book. Make a movie. Travel.
Your mind is a very powerful thing. It can jail you to your beliefs of limitation or it can release and free you to immense discovery and potentials.
Ever turned up to training, “too sick to practice,” but you did anyhow and half way through class found yourself wondering what all the fuss had been about? What just happened?
Go out doing what you love. O’Sensei set that example too. He was caught training on his last day on earth instead of complying with prejudice and laying in a bed. I believe the unimaginative had something to say about that. But he was right. Morihei did not, “hang up his gloves.” He practiced and taught until the very last day.
While you are alive, prosperity is a choice.
Embrace prosperity as a way of life and the chances are that you will live longer and be able to touch the lives of others in a way that will be remarkable.
Make that list today and set about ticking off the goals one by one.
What have you got to lose?
• Want to be inspired? Watch the movie “The Bucket List,” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. It is the true story of a man named Kopi Luwak who on discovering he was terminally ill, he then… Well I don’t want to spoil it..
*Swedish model of flexible retirement – http://index.scandinavianstudy.org/article/2306/Changing_
The Swedish Experiment by Lois Recascino Wise from the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies: Changing Worklives and Flexible Retirement
“The Scandinavian countries are widely recognized as leaders in the formulation of innovative employment policies. This reputation is particularly well-earned in the area of policies for older workers (55 to 69 years of age). Existing programs in the Nordic countries allow older persons considerable flexibility in arranging employment and four countries offer subsidized partial retirement pensions to older workers. In Sweden where labor force participation rates are the highest in the world, the partial pension system is the cornerstone of a series of options that allow older people substantial flexibility in managing working life. The values behind these policies are reflected in the research directive issued to the Ministry of Labor’s Older Workers’ Committee in the late 1970s. Although the work ethic is an important aspect of Swedish culture, Sweden shares with other industrialized nations the pattern of an aging population coupled with declining rates of labor force participation among older males. Typically, when early retirement options are introduced in a country an increase in labor market withdrawal occurs. Although this outcome might appear desirable during periods of economic recession, in the current circumstance early withdrawal from the labor market by older workers may shift too much of the responsibility for economic support to younger workers and exacerbate already existing labor shortages. Thus the reaction of Swedish workers to the flexible retirement system is of considerable interest to policy makers. Policies subsidizing older workers to achieve desired levels of labor supply might severely reduce the amount of hours older workers contribute to the labor market because the economic costs of the work-leisure trade off are minimized. This study examines the Swedish experience with employment policies for older workers and its effects on the pattern of labor force participation among men and women and explores the possibility that policy changes affected older persons’ propensity to work.”
>>Back to reading the article: “Bucket Lists – Prosper and Live Longer” >>
• For what it may be worth, I just heard this on the radio, in passing:
Apparently children reported consistently in a survey that they have noticed that their parents yell at them less after they have spent time out in nature such as camping.
This of course must be “anecdotal” also since they are merely kids without degrees or anything like that. Just super keen observation abilities only matched by such, “eccentrics” as Morihei Ueshiba who also loved the wilderness. Of course this remarkable observation would require more trials, double-blind studies to determine whether camping is a more safe and effective method of calming the mind just a little, than popping pills. For now it’s just an eccentric notion entirely “anecdotal.” If my tone sounds sarcastic, it is intended that way. Seriously though, why is it that the more we divorce ourselves from our natural life support systems the more insane we tend to become? The faster we rush the slower we get there? And so on. Maybe there is something to learning to relax and letting the universal flow do the bulk of the work after all!