The Art of Winning Blog

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ego Isn't the Problem

In my college psychology classes there was always a lot of debate about ego. The maligned ego was to be feared, avoided, and generally beaten into submission. It’s the cause of war, pestilence and feelings of sadness. It eats at your true self and annihilates all that is good and true. Despite teachings on Id and Superego, it seemed to be Ego that we fixated on, merging all the elements into one amazingly flawed human being. At least, that was what I heard in my classes.

Though martial arts, I’ve learned there’s no problem with who we are. I enjoy having a sense of self. It keeps me from cutting myself when chopping vegetables and encourages me to do good works in the world. The problem seems to be when I focus on a sense of ME rather than the changing boundaries of self.

If I’m trying not to cut myself, the boundary of the self is my skin. If I’m doing good things so I can feel good, the sense of self is in my heart body. If I’m doing good to help someone else, my sense of self is over there with them. It moves, slides, and morphs like an amoeba. It becomes what it needs and goes where it’s necessary.

I’m sure somewhere there is a psychologist who could explain how my flawed view of the ego led to my confusion. That’s true. I couldn’t learn this from a book. A multiple choice test on the definition of ego didn’t lend me to insight. I had to experience it.

By practicing martial arts, I get to play with the boundaries of self, of right and wrong, of good and bad. I get to really know how conflict manifests and how to lessen its impact in the world. I get to practice self defense and that has made all the difference.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ninja, Patient Person

From His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
Saying that one should be patient and withstand trouble doesn’t mean one should be defeated and overcome. The whole purpose of engaging in the practice of patience is to become stronger in mind, stronger in heart. And you also want to remain calm. If you lose patience and your brain becomes confused with emotion, you will lose the power to analyze and figure out how to overcome the negative force that is opposing you

The term ninja translates as patient person, not assassin or night stalker. The word and the practice are about engaging fully in life, riding the moment, and waiting for the perfect time. It is about knowing that 'good things come to those who wait' and that 'the early bird gets the worm'. With practice, you can learn to tell the difference.

By taking up a physical practice, we are able to see our emotional brain at work. We can see it get stuck, frustrated, and angry. We can also see it prevail. Ultimately, we practice self defense to learn to make our lives brighter, happier, and safer. To do that we need to discern truth clearly.

I believe it is critical to have a practice venue where we can experiment with the success and failure of engaging with truth. Otherwise it's our friends and families who have to practice patience while we try to figure it out.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dependent Origination

The room remembers
as the language, voices, people,
The whispers
long submerged
burst in a hurried bubble
of thought and movement.
When did these words begin?
Was it the thought,
or the planning,
or the speaking,
or the listening,
that birthed these thoughts into existence?
Where do these words end?
With me in Colorado, or in the walls in an Indiana hall?
Snippets hurriedly grabbed,
contained on paper, in conversations, in meditations.
The memory of sounds,
the strange and familiar,
the unknowable and not unheard,
the comfort and the challenge.
The room remembers
and changes.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Trust in Choice: TSD and Intuition Development

In middle school, I had a really creepy bus driver. All of us thought he was weird and we made fun of him all the time. One day, he looked at me in the mirror and said, “I chose you to be one of my special kids and now you make fun of me”, and sadly went back to driving. I started walking home from school the next day.

Just a few days later, my mom realized I was walking home, rather than taking the bus. I told her about the bus driver and she talked to the school administration. I don’t know what they told her, but I was forbidden to walk home anymore. I lived closest to the school but the required district route meant that I got off last, with one other neighbor boy. If he wasn’t on the bus, I’d have to ride alone. I started getting off early and cutting through the woods, so I wouldn’t be on the bus alone, but I’d also be following my mom’s rules. I kept up that routine for three years.

One night at dinner, the news reported a shooting in the parking lot of a nearby convenience store. When they showed the picture of the man, it was the creepy bus driver. I was amazed. Until that moment, a part of me believed that my intuition might have been flawed, that maybe I was over-reacting. It was the moment I first understood that rules cannot protect us. Our actions and trust in ourselves is what ultimately keeps us safe. My mom and the school only had my word, and that’s just not enough in our litigious society. It was a great gift because when we avoid a dangerous situation, we often don’t get to know that we were right. I was right; he was creepy.

The reason I fell in love with our martial art is because it teaches you how to recognize your own innate powers. Whether it’s intuition of intention, a person’s truthfulness, market trends, or nutritional needs, To-Shin Do training helps you trust in your choices. It’s not a quick and easy path, but in just a few years, you earn a lifetime of magic.

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