A true path to liberation
Boy is it easy to find something to complain about today! I will spare you my favorites because no one is short on examples near Thanksgiving, which in itself is ironic.
It can be hard to catch your breath when you’re busy complaining.
Breathing easy is the secret to longevity. So, let’s try and enjoy a little heartache, shall we?
Back on the edge of twenty-one, I had plenty to complain about, but instead I joined the Navy.
I recall being only a couple of weeks into boot camp when all signs of depression, anger, or negativity were magically evaporated from the map of my mind. I can’t say that I was happy, per se, but as far as negativity, there was none. Well, besides the faux negative connotation emanating from our petty officer’s direction. Usually centered around his lack of satisfaction with our best efforts. But from us recruits, there had been no room for it.
What was there to complain about? There was nothing else to do but what was right in front of us, and if we did complain about it, things just got worse for everyone.
Now, at forty, the same thing stands true.
The freedom that right-doing brings, especially to those unfamiliar with the power of faith, can save them from hopelessness in later life.
Tolstoy once described life after middle-age in the words of a Chinese storyteller.
A man who was fleeing from a monster, jumped into a well to escape.
He was surprised to find a dragon at the bottom of the well with open jaws and so quickly grabbed a root protruding from the stones to prevent his certain demise. Now, with a monster waiting above and a dragon waiting below he grew hungry, thirsty, and tired.
To make matters worse, around the base of the root two mice nibbled, threatening to loose the root from its hold. Swatting at the rats to keep them away and licking the dew from the single leaf upon the root was his only chance at temporary survival…
A dreadful description of the daily struggle, for sure!
Unfortunately, it is this way that many will come to view life without some form of belief in right-doing. I am cautious against calling it religious belief, in fear of scattering those that this article may offer understanding.
Rather, I will simply suggest that faith plays a substantial role.
It’s easy when we’re youthful and short on responsibilities to keep feeding our egos through self-confidence. But, add on a career, vehicles, children, a slower metabolism, waning friendships, aging family members, a spouse, and a household to maintain, and your ego can take a thrashing when you fall a little short. Often this can lead to a feeling of inadequacy and sometimes, a mid-life crisis.
It’s not uncommon for middle-aged men and woman alike to negate themselves for not being able to keep up. So what can be done? Shall we just keep swatting at the rats and licking the dew?
The man in our story was managing a lot of dire outcomes while bound for an inevitable end. Yet, aren’t we all?
I believe that the dire outcomes are what’s making us feel stretched so thin. Why do we try and tackle each individual thing in life with a separate tactic? Eventually we end up like the cat in the hat with a pile of misshapen toys to the ceiling while balancing on a unicycle.
If you’re a mom, you’re going to be that anyhow ;)
Thing is, when you balance the whole world on your shoulders, you miss out on walking on its surface.
A legion of spirits can evolve in a single man if he is not of one mind.
As we grow older, it is important to work on being single-minded and go at things in a way that will make you feel good regardless of the outcome. The only way to do this is through the faith that you have made righteous choices.
What does that look like?
For those who prefer a yogic approach, exercise good dharma for good karma.
For those who prefer a more religious approach, be an advocate for the righteousness of the creator and you will reflect him in every way.
Bad things happening are blessings along the road to righteousness.
When I was a young student at the Bujinkan Dojo of Ninjutsu in Atlanta, under the guise of Bud Malmstrom, I studied and practiced daily in hopes of gaining my master’s sixth sense.
Stories crept around the dojo about how he had passed his fifth degree black belt test under the only living ninja descendant in Japan. The test consisted of Grand Master Hatsumi striking our blind-folded Master Bud from behind with a live sword. Master Malmstrom sensed the attack and rolled away safely before it landed.
Later, Bud had described the mental experience as mentally hearing a freight train approaching from behind, but you do not move in fear of failing the test… and then it’s over and you’ve just moved.
Now, after I have had many similar life situations (requiring a perfectly timed dodge), I can attest that right-doing is the well that feeds the Peter-tingle of life (That was a spider-man reference). Coincidentally, if you ask anyone who has passed the Godan ninja test they will agree that it also has an influence on the ninja warning system.
I happened across an article by another Shihan (Master trainer) whose sixth sense was described as the moment you lean down to tie your shoe and a beer bottle flies right through the space your head had just been occupying.
Though, I’m unsure if it’s all that simple.
We say that if you’re lucky you may dodge an intentionally flung beer bottle by tieing your shoe, but if your unlucky you will take another sip from your drink and get smashed (no pun intended).
But is one decision more righteous than the other? How much leeway does your karma offer you to sip instead of tie? Is there a scale that holds up our wrongdoings in contrast to our good deeds?
Furthermore, is it safe to try and play that balancing act when most of us have a hard time balancing our own checkbooks?
Is the ego not a purveyor of fortune?
Modern physics show that an observer of scientific experimentation has a significant effect on the outcome of the experiment. Does that mean we can assume that our ego impacts our life’s manifestation and reception of it?
Some modern gurus claim that the emotions are the only things that can be controlled in our experience of the world.
Between these two ideas are the tools that pull the carpet up and expose the brass tacks of the question. Does right-doing hold a key to liberation or is it all about stress management?
Studies show that free radicals like cortisol and lipid oxidation can only be reduced through practice of stress inducing activities. Exercise, caloric restriction, and cold water immersion.
Just like exercise gets easier when attended to everyday, so does stress!
Have you ever heard of someone feeling better because they have been taking a cold shower every morning? Has a friend or family member ever told you how great they feel after cutting sugar out of their diet? I think we all have witnessed how amazing people begin to look when they dedicate themselves to an exercise regimen. Are these things just better for us, or is there a secret behind doing things that we really, would just rather not do?
When I first started taking only cold showers, I use to reason to my wife that my morning ice bath was in preparation for my cold day in hell. Then I’d say, “I’m just going ahead and getting the worst part of the day out of the way.”
Of course, she didn’t think it was funny, but that is essentially how it started, and looking back I no longer have that masochistic attitude. In fact, if taking a cold shower is the worst experience of the day, I’m going to count my blessings- especially now that I enjoy it!
We often see people in positions of success or power and wonder how they got so lucky. Could the truth be that they have conditioned themselves to deal with such a high-level of stress that they can feel like you and I at these mediocre-levels?
We don’t see the processes which have forged others.
That soccer mom’s fight with cancer isn’t plastered on her t-shirt and your bus driver’s purple heart isn’t hanging around his neck.
Their pains, their regrets, their mistakes, their choices…
In reality, they’ve have been folded, heated, and hammered again and again until they have a temper that holds true against test.
Some of us fearlessly dive into the bellows of that deadly forge in want of such mastery and some of us simply warm our hands on it.
The body really does regenerate itself every eight to ten years (well, besides our teeth and lenses of our eyes), though there was that one guy that claimed his tattoo never went away… so just ask yourself-
If we were to actually let ourselves get hungry before we eat, and then eat things we don’t like (sardines, vegetables, anchovies, boiled eggs) and do things we don’t think we have time for (running/walking more than three miles, going to work early, reading books, taking cold showers, meeting people, church) in the next eight years, would the body we see in the mirror be totally transformed from what we see or feel today?
At least, would we breathe a little easier? Live a little longer?
Science shows that lung capacity is a reliable determinate of longevity. The less work it takes to breathe, the more strength we have. When we’re not always holding our breath in anticipation of nervous outcomes, we breathe easier as well… Perhaps, that’s why cold water immersion is in the top three. The biggest obstacle in learning to love cold water is training yourself not to hold your breath when the cold first hits you.
It seems both stress management (breathing through things) and right-doing are the metals needed to forge the liberating shield of virtue. But isn’t wearing an armor of virtue really just another way of saying there is someone or something watching over you?
A great guru once said, “The only enemy to enjoying a full life is sleep. You must be awake to experience its wonder.”
Dive in, the water’s fine! Cold, but fine.
-Jay M Horne
Jay Horne is an author and publisher out of Bradenton, Florida who has shared a genuine interest in philosophy and martial arts since early childhood. He is a husband and father of four.
View all of his professional and philosophical works of literature on his Amazon author page where you will find blogs, videos, and free excerpts:
Jay M. Horne