The Art of Winning Blog

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Falling, Pain, and Getting Up

So last night I fell, hard, fast, and with witnesses which is pretty much the worst combination that doesn't end in maiming or dying. As I've thought about it, I've had two learnings running simultaneously but since I can't write multiple streams at once. Have patience. I'll get it all out eventually.

First was the physical experience. It's been a long time since I fell quite so spectacularly. Usually I can find my balance before I hit the ground and I've pulled off some amazing feats of athleticism simply to avoid falling. In the past, time skips when I fall. I'm standing and I come back to awareness having already fallen. Last night, I got to experience every moment of the fall. As I caught my foot, my body turned and I was heading head-long into the island. I tried to recover but my foot was still caught in the opposite direction of my momentum. So I twisted in the air like a alligator roll to move my head in another direction and slammed (seriously slammed) my lowermost ribs into the island. I kicked my foot free as I impacted and then finished rolling by sitting on the floor and breathing. "Yes I'm OK but it hurts a fuck lot so give me a moment." I wasn't sure I wasn't bleeding but I was sure I didn't break the rib so that was a plus. It took a few minutes before I could touch it to see if it was bleeding then a few more before I was willing to move. And even more before I was willing to talk to anyone. Now 12 hours later, it's in a weird state of swelling but not bruising. It'll develop over the next few days before it totally lets go.

So here's what I learned/remembered.

1. As a martial artist, I train so that I can respond when "bad" things happen. I can't always stop them from happening, though the control freak in me would love to. But we can respond when things happen. We can nudge the outcome. We can take the brunt in our side, not our head. Micro tweaks and awareness make all the difference.

2. As I watch the movie in my brain, I realize how much it parallels all pains. It's just on a different scale. What takes a few days in the body, can take a few years in our soul. I don't need to judge that. It's just the way we heal. Wow.

Have a beautiful day Boulder and if you fall down 7 times, get up 8.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Change, Choice, and Vows

The other day a new friend was asking me about my business and I found myself unusually stuck. Not in talking about the business itself--that's easy. I can wax ad nauseum about To-Shin Do, actualization, choice, and change for hours. Though I'd rather you just got on the mat and saw for yourself. No, this stuckness was around the success of the business because she said it looked like I was pretty successful, and in my heart, I hedged. Whoa! Really? I've spent 9 years building a business that now has 158 students who are all exploring personal transformation and mastery. I've got incredible staff who thrives on sharing this art and our school. When I walk in the space, everyone is happy and eager. It's a blessing and a gift. 

Of course, my first instinct was to ask myself Why but Why is one of the most useless questions on the planet because it depends answers that are, at best, incomplete and at worst, completely wrong. Have you ever gotten attached to answer and spent time investing in that answer only to realize you'd misunderstood all along? That's my issue with Why. 

So I turned to feeling the energy instead. The first thing I noticed was that I felt closed (which is weird for me). As I opened up to all the energies and invited them to be nothing other than themselves, I expanded. I stopped holding. I let myself feel all the beauty and adventure that's been created and still has yet to created. I like this space. It's where I can create from. It makes me want to dance, or paint, or do the books, or tackle my To Do list. There's no hedging, fighting, or resisting. It's allowance. 

More than that, it's my inspiration for blind work. It's the expansion of training in enclosed spaces with the lights off. It's the freedom of doing races blindfolded. It's interacting with my world with all my senses open and available to receive.

So I made myself a promise. It's one I've made before and one I'll probably make again. Each time I renew this vow, it's a little deeper, more knowing then before. I promise to keep making my world bigger, to be the stardust in this vast universe and never confine myself to smallness. I vow to not hedge, to own my successes and my failures as information, not judgments, to explore change and choice. And if I forget, I give you each permission to remind me. 



Friday, October 31, 2014

Contribution: A Poem

Contribution

I love you
In all your forms.
Even rumpled and dirty, 
So old that history 
has replaced your features
With smudge marks.
I love you
When you make a raucous. 
When you're so loud I can barely hear myself
And as we run to the ice cream truck
You make my palm sweaty.
I've loved you since the Tooth Fairy,
Since I learned you were magic,
Showing up in ways 
And places unexpected. 
I love you
For the freedoms you bring me,
The lacy undergarments,
The delicious food,
The powerful engine of my car.
I love you for being there,
Growing and letting go,
Contributing to the beingness in my world.
I love you
In all your forms.
I love you in paper, coin, credit, and just as numbers on my screens.
Thank you for all you be.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Nature of Change

When I first came to CO, it was for a Naropa Ecopsycology program. I was attracted to Ecopsychology because of the premise that answers are found in nature. One of my first experiences was a solo nature hike that I did on Flagstaff. I went into the wilderness with the question "what is the nature of change?" At the time, I didn't realize the second part of my question, "how do I consciously choose change?"  I expected the answer to pop into my head at some point (because that's how it works for me) but that didn't happen until just this morning. But to stay back in 2004 for a few more minutes, I did have 2 profound messages on that hike, though neither was verbal (and only one is relevant to this topic so I'm going to save the other story. Yes, I'm a tease, deal with it.)

So on this hike, I'm starting to get frustrated because the answers aren't coming to me. The answers always come to me. I'm doubting myself, thinking I must be doing it wrong. I'm not very good at this Ecopsychology stuff, maybe I shouldn't be here (Flagstaff, Naropa, CO, earth). Recognizing this futility, I take a deep breath and look up. As my gaze widens and refocuses, I'm looking out into a sea of evergreens, with a single yellow deciduous tree among hundreds of acres of green screaming "I am the answer." To which I say "ok. I don't know what you mean but I sense you. Thank you."

For the next 10 years, I've continually come back to this question "what is the nature of change and how can I choose it consciously?" Some days, I'm afraid to choose change. I'm much more comfortable when change is happening to me and I can ride it with aplomb. When I'm choosing change, it's scratchy and irritating. 

Fast forward to this morning. Butterflies are caterpillars who got rid of the stuff that wasn't a butterfly. Leaves don't change colors. The green leaves and the other colors become visible. When you change, you do not become something else. You become more of something which was always in you. If you don't consciously choose change, it'll choose you. 

One more thing, I can't control what the changes looks like but I can steer the direction. These pictures are are of a Black Swallowtail. I would never have guessed from that caterpillar, that butterfly would emerge. Holding the intention of the direction of change (to butterfly) allows me the emotional freedom to allow colors and beauty to simply emerge as fits the scheme of totality. Because what if I can be even more brilliant, do even more good work, shine ever more brightly than I have ever imagined? 


Photos courtesy of Bored Panda. Check out the full article because it's awesome. http://www.boredpanda.com/caterpillar-transformation-butterfly-moth/?image_id=caterpillar-moth-butterfly-before-after-metamorphosis-5-2.jpg#topcategories

Friday, October 3, 2014

My Experience of Invisibility and the Student Creed

The past two years have been a new level of stress for me. For the first time since my teens, and maybe even more than my teens, my mind was more in command than I was. Previous to this stress, when I was under stress, I could retreat into my mind and it was a beautifully clear space. Now I was finding that I couldn't even focus long enough to take a breath. Seriously. It took multiple attempts to just focus for the entirety of a single breath. Thank goodness I have an amazing store of willpower that kept me coming back again and again to the discipline of focused breathing. One of my inquiries in these meditations was exploring how the mind can get so wrapped up and attached (and on the systematic detachment of attachments to allow my love and joy to be my guides).

Invisibility
During one of these meditations, I remembered one of the teachings about Marishi-Ten. In the particular teaching I remembered, Marishi's brilliance in hiding the sun in plain sight--so bright and beautiful that it was impossible to look directly at. This image became the focus of my meditation--how can I create an illuminating brilliance?

Then fear and doubt crept in. I've seen friends and family members devolve in a web of delusion and I am frankly terrified of this potential. If I was going to truly create brilliance--to trust in myself as an infinite being--how was I going to ensure I could believe in infinite potential without devolving in a mire of self-delusion?

A conversation in Tampa with Mark Sentoshi Russo kicked off my insights into the Student Creed. (Interestingly, I got awful food poisoning that trip but that exploration is for a different post.) Over the following months and years, I continued to pick at and mold this theory. What I came away with is the Student Creed as a tool for countering self delusion.

  1. I believe in myself. I know myself deeply with all levels of my being. I know what I stand for and I'm willing to make, and remake decisions, with every new moment. This foundation is a freeing relationship, rather than a limiting one. It's not a conscious listing of my beliefs, it's a subconscious, energetic understanding of my infinity.
  2. I believe in what I study. I keep coming back to the mat/cushion to honestly explore the lessons that excite and frustrate me. There were times when I forgot the basic movements and I had to go back to fundamental teachings. There were times I didn't want to. I just wanted to move forward, to be past it already. I could convince my mind I was all over it but getting on the mat was a way to measure exactly where I was. Whether it was exploring movement principles or looking at the mind practices, I just kept coming back to training.
  3. I believe in my teachers. I realized this was a resource I was under-utilizing. Certainly, I was drawing on my teachers for direct lessons, but I wasn't asking for support in being the person I really wanted to be. I mindfully picked 4 people that I trust to know my brightness. I gave them permission to call me on my bullshit (we all have it). These are the people whose feedback I'll trust, even if I don't want to. It was easy after the trauma to gravitate to the people who would reinforce my already held beliefs. I realized it was important for my growth to have people who would challenge me to grow.
How to Use It
Let's take an easy example. Say a friend asks you to keep a secret. Ask yourself: is it true to my being to keep this secret? How do I feel about being a keeper of this secret? Does it feel right to me?

Is it true to my beliefs and principles to keep this secret? Are there teachings I believe that have wisdom on the subject?

What would my role models do? Do they have any experience with this secret?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Five Reasons Why I am Excited for the Stephen Hayes Seminar on Cause, Effect, and Emptiness:
By Emily Lopez

1. I will be training with my peers in an intimate, more intensive setting.
2. I am excited to cultivate and to expand my mind body as well as my physical body.
3. As I feel my level of vulnerability increase, I am experiencing a shift in my awareness. I am wanting to further build upon this shift in awareness.
4. The opportunity to experience Mr. Hayes and his teachings, and to learn more about To-Shin Do.
5. I am excited to explore what is possible.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Dude Abides: Black belt essay: Bert Gehorsam

Bert Gehorsam – Black Belt Essay, June, 2014

 

“The Dude Abides”

 

Abide: transitive verb, Merriam-Webster

1:  to wait for :  await

2 a :  to endure without yielding :  withstand

  b :  to bear patiently :  tolerate 

 

 

I started my martial arts path when I was eighteen. Why? I wanted to be a badass. Up to that point I spent my life in inner city New York. I had seen violence and had been subjected to violence and as a result, I wanted no more of either and thought martial arts would help.. The problem was everyone else in my class wanted to be a badass too. And most of them were already waaaaay more badass than me - and willing to prove it. Not always a lot of fun, especially since like the Dude, played by Jeff Bridges in the 1998 film “The Big LebowskI, by nature I am a non-confrontational pacifist.

 

identify with much of the Dude’s outlook.  Known for the phrase “the Dude abides”  (also “…this aggression will not stand, man!.”), he is thoughtful and rarely reactive in a negative way, takes life as it comesand sees brightness in the future.

 

With that perspective in mind, I continued to experiment with a handful of martial arts styles over the years. Some were better than others, but none ever caught my full attention as a viable skill set with a good philosophy of application. Most dojos were just a place for tough guy contests –(although I have to admit that the windiness and spirit of aikido was a bright standout in the sea of bad martial arts offerings.)

 

Over the years, I began to understand that martial arts isn’t just learning a set of self defense techniquesbut also learning when and how to best use them andperhaps most importantly, learning how to potentially never use them. Thisperspective feels much more important than having a “let’s see who’s tougher competition that seems core to so many dojos. To me, the true essence of being a warrior is knowing when and how to use your power. Its being the one who can learn to live confidently with courage and compassion. In short, being a warrior is much more complex than being a tough guy.

 

Happily, a few years ago I found To Shin Do.  Having embraced this path I not only learned self defense techniques, I also learned the importance of the history, the real world techniques, mystic teachings and exercises that now  have become a deep passion for meA part of me. This path has led to the creation of a community offocused and aware people; peaceful warriors.

 

What I have gained by training in To Shin Do…is a basket full. Along with practical self-defense skills, body awareness, increased conditioning and agility, I have alsobecome Reiki 2 certified, developed a regular meditation practice, and heightened awareness and presence in the world. Time has slowed. I am able to process my surroundings and situations with more clarity and speed and respond in ways I feelare appropriate and lead to the right action.

 

Our dojo is not a place where we compete to see who is the biggest badass. It is ahome for our community to gather, to train, to share technique and to connect with like-minded people.  We help each other grow as martial artists and as members of the community at large. I have faced some trying personal experiences while a member of the Boulder Quest Center, and have always received support and compassion from our members. I have never felt judged. The dojo is truly one of my happy places.

 

So now my path has taken me to my Shodan test. Is it a milestone? Yes, but I have realized that like receiving my white belt, it is another step on my path. I am grateful and proud I took the first step, I am grateful and proud to have reached this level. Earning a black belt is on my bucket list but will soon be replaced with earning a second-degree black belt.

 

Somewhere along the path, being ninja has changed from something I study to something I am. One day being ninja walked out of the front door of the dojo with me and colored every part of my world. For this I am most grateful.

 

I want to thank my family, all my teachers, training partners and fellow students for their enthusiastic sharing of technique, knowledge, support and friendship on this journey. There are no bad days when training. Every kata and ukeme is a step on the path. Every step on the path brings me closer to my goals.

 

The Hagakure speaks of samurai always being prepared for their own death. My understanding of this requires one to be present enough to live every moment.Whenever this comes to mind, I cannot help but think of our friend Bradley. He lived every moment. And until that moment is my moment, I, like the Dude, will abide.


Stephen K. Hayes Pro Shop



1501 Lee Hill Road #18|Boulder, Colorado 80304|Phone: 303.440.3647|Email: ninja@boulderquest.com