Living Against Your Likes can Lead to Liberation
If you want to succeed then you better learn and love to hate it.
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?
I had been working as an EMT for the better part of ten years, and had become quite use to seeing and doing things that nobody would rather do. The horrific and stressful experiences I placed myself in at work, more than one hundred hours a week, had in turn caused me to produce a home-life that was pretty cozy. Thus, when I changed jobs to a less stressful one, I started gaining weight and became much more volatile. Why, when I had much less stress in my life, was I declining physically and emotionally?
Yes, I had begun drinking more alcohol, exercising less, eating more, and sleeping longer, and at first, I contributed it to all of these lifestyle changes. I first began trying hard to do less of these unhealthy things. I tried to cast off drinking, then count calories. Yet, try as I might, the habits never hid for more than twenty four hours. They always reared their ugly heads bigger and scarier than the last time. If I had been a fisherman, the first time I cast my line, I flung my bait straight off the hook, and by the third time I tried to cast, I had thrown the whole damn pole in the lake.
This was all really foreign to me because I had always been self-motivated in my health and fitness. Had I lost my motivation? Was I battling with depression? Maybe I was just wussing out and making too many excuses.
I thought back to when I was just twenty years old and was going through boot camp in Chicago. I recall being only a couple of weeks in when all signs of depression, anger, or negativity was 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, 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.
The freedom that right-doing brings to those unfamiliar with faith can save them from the inevitability of hopelessness in later life.
Many who reach middle-age start to notice the luster of life slowly becoming tarnished as activities they did in their youth are repeated. How many times have we told the same introductory story to a new acquaintance, or started back on that same old exercise regimen?
Many may be married or in monogamous relationships that have started to experience the challenges of keeping things fresh.
Tolstoy once described life after middle-age as the struggle of a Chinese storyteller who told the tale of a man who fled from a monster, and jumped into a well to escape. He was surprised to find a dragon at the bottom of the well with open jaws and grabbed a root protruding from the stones to prevent his certain demise. A monster waiting above and a dragon below. Yet 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 fight for daily survival, for sure!
Yet, it is this way that most 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 is poised to offer understanding.
Rather I will simply suggest that faith plays a substantial role. When relying on our own strengths to combat everything in our lives, the pressure mounts. As we age our relative worlds grow larger and heavier. Our youth is filled with confidence because we can easily manage everything life throws at us when we are devoid of responsibilities. Add on a career, vehicles, children, a slower metabolism, waning friendships, aging family members, a spouse, and a household to maintain, and your over-confidence can get a thrashing when you fall into a mid-life crisis. It’s not uncommon for middle aged men and woman alike to beat themselves up over not being able to keep up. So what can be done? Shall we just keep swatting at the rats and licking the dew?
The key lies in not trying to tackle each individual thing in your life with a separate tactic in hopes that the outcome will be okay. It is important to find a way to go at the things that come up each day in a way that will make you feel good regardless of the outcome. The only way to do this is to go at things with the faith that you have made a righteous choice. 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.
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, I found out that the sword had been a bamboo shinai and Bud had described it as mentally hearing a freight train approaching from behind but you do not move in fear of failing the test.
As I near my forties, and 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. 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.
I don’t think it is 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. But is one decision more righteous than the other? How much leeway does your karma offer you to sip instead of tie, or glance at an attractive person instead of listen to your comrade?
Assuming you are modern physics savvy, you know that an observer of scientific experimentation has an effect on the outcome of the experiment. Let us, for a moment, pretend that the brain is an outside observer of our physical body’s experience. That would imply that the brain’s expectations of our possible outcomes have an impact on our physical experience’s manifestation and reception.
In many ways this is not far from the truth. Even an agnostic will admit that their emotions (which are based on an illusory past or presumable future) effect decisions if not careful. Modern gurus claim that emotion is the only thing that can be controlled in our experience of the world. This brings us right down to pulling the carpet up and exposing the brass tacks of the question. Does doing things we just don’t want to do hold a key to liberation?
Study shows that free radicals like cortisol and lipid oxidation can only be reduced through practice of stress inducing activities. Just like exercise gets easier when attended to everyday, so does stress!
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 by telling her the action was a statement, “Today’s gonna suck, get used to it!” Of course she didn’t think it was funny. But that is essentially how it started, and looking back I no longer have that sarcastic attitude.
We often see people in positions of success or power and wonder how they got so lucky. The truth is they have conditioned themselves to deal with such a high level of stress that they can feel like you and me at these mediocre levels. We don’t see the processes which forged them. In reality, they 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 the 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), so just think-
If we were to feel hungry before we eat, and then eat things we don’t like (sardines, vegetables, anchovies, boiled eggs) and do things we don’t like to do (running/walking more than three miles, going to work early, reading books, taking cold showers, meeting people) in the next eight years, the body we see in the mirror would be the total opposite as the one we see or feel today.
As encouraging as that promise is, it is not even as easy as that! The fat cells in our body, that must be worked through, contain all of the toxins we have introduced during our years of lax behavior. Which means, as we shed the soft pounds, we will experience all of the toxic effects of our stagnation while we work toward our new selves.
Pimples, coughs, sluggishness, over-excitability, and other unwanted characteristics will pop up as we struggle. Forge on! Welcome the uninvited and the unwanted aspects of ourselves. Revel in the feeling of freezing cold on the skin and the marvel of the nerves to transmit it.
A great guru once said, “The only enemy to enjoying a full life is sleep. You must be awake to experience its wonder.”
-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