It’s Raining!

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Posted by admin | Posted in Mental, Spiritual | Posted on 25-09-2009

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I live in Denver, Colorado.  Outside of this year—it’s been a freaky year—Denver averages over 300 days of sunshine each year.  We have so many fantastically beautiful days in Denver, that they become average and mundane.  Unnoticed.  Beautiful is just average, and average is just…average.  You know…bleh.

Suddenly, so random morning, it will be raining.  Not just a typical summer afternoon thunderstorm, but a pervasive all-day—perhaps even multi-day—rain that soaks through everything.  Such days are rare, but they do happen.

A much too common reaction to such rainy days is to swear up and down of just how downright crappy and gloomy these rainy days are.  They are.

However, if it wasn’t for the stark contrast such rainy days provide when juxtaposed with the “average” beautiful sunny days that typically prevail, we could easily forget how truly fortunate we are to live in a place where beautiful is so common.  The rain seldom lasts.  Soon enough—even though sometimes it may seem like an eternity—the sunny and cloudless mornings return, and memories of the gloom quickly fade.

I have a fantastic life.  I wake up each morning.  (That act by itself is already positive.)  I wake up, in my bed, with my dogs, in my house, with a job to go to.  I have friends, colleagues, a family that loves me.  I truly have a fantastic life.

A typical Colorado morning, with Quandary Peak in the background.  No clouds!
A typical Colorado morning, with Quandary Peak in the background. No clouds!

Even as fantastic as my life is, there are some days…  Do you ever have those days that feel like everything is collapsing?  Those days that you feel like you’re in a bog, surrounded by quicksand, and it isn’t even noon yet?  We all have such days.

During such days—the “rainy” days—it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  It is easy to think that a major change in one’s life is needed to get through them.  Sometime a change is needed; on rare occasions, the rain is a prelude to a major cataclysmic event, like a hurricane.  Most of the time, however, it’s just rain, and all that is really needed is to wait it out.  Soon enough, the prevalent “sunny” mornings will return, and so will the “fantasticness” of life.

Obviously, we don’t all live in Denver.  We all choose the locales—cities, towns, villages, et al—we live in for our own reasons.  (I recently heard someone staunchly defend living in Minneapolis…perspectives…)  Every locale is beautiful to someone in its own way.  (If you don’t feel like you live in a beautiful location, consider relocating.)  I happen to relate best to Denver.

Regardless of where we choose to live, life is beautiful—even if it sometimes doesn’t seem so.  We all have rainy days.

Instead of focusing on how depressingly gloomy rainy days can be, how about realizing that it is the rainy days that remind us of how beautiful sunny days are.  We NEED rainy days.  We NEED rainy days, or run the risk of forgetting just how beautiful our life is.

Learning Through Triangulation

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Posted by admin | Posted in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, Spiritual | Posted on 18-09-2009

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It’s only been two years since I have taken up a martial art.  I’ve seen plenty of blogs written by 15th degree black belts, and although I can directly see how useful they are, some of the concepts they write about are so abstract to someone at my level that I often struggle to understand their thoughts.  I started blogging for an entirely different reason—a spiritual reason—but as I have progressed on my path, I have come to realize that the three aspects of my journey—physical, mental, and spiritual—are so intertwined that concepts from one easily apply to the other two.

The particular martial art I practice is Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, a system comprising of nine different schools, the details of which are so easily found on the Internet that I see no point discussing them here any further.

After two years of training, I have finally realized that I am not being taught a martial art; I am being taught a martial science.  All the techniques and basics I am being taught are effective because they are based on physics.  My sensei, through his own “art,” is transmitting to me the science of Budo Taijutsu.  What I personally develop from the science that I learn will become my own individual art, the “tenth” school of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.

The problem is, how do I discern between my instructor’s art and the science he is trying to transmit to me?

Although it took me quite some time to realize it, the answer had been in front of me for quite some time.

As an aspiring mountaineer—even in my distant past as a sailor—I have learned to determine my (roughly) exact position on a map (or chart) by triangulation, taking bearing from at least two points as dissimilar as possible, preferably three.

By taking bearings from at least 2 (preferably 3) dissimilar points, we can approximate our position.
By taking bearings from at least 2 (preferably 3) dissimilar points, we can approximate our position.

A year into my martial arts training, my real job required that I travel to and remain at my customer’s site for two weeks.  Instead of taking a two week break in my training, I searched for and found a Bujinkan dojo in Minneapolis, the city I was going to be at.  (Being an international organization, Bujinkan members can train in any Bujinkan dojo worldwide.)

Training in a different dojo during those two weeks provided me the opportunity to “intersect” my instructor’s “art” with the “art” of another instructor.  Just like in navigation, such an intersection of bearings or “perspectives” allowed me to pinpoint the science of the technique.  This is done by focusing on the similarities of the perspectives instead of the differences.

Venn diagrams use "spaces" to represent "sets" or "perspectives."  The intersection of the spaces is the where the core of the concept lies.
Venn diagrams use “spaces” to represent “sets” or “perspectives.” The intersection of the spaces is the where the core of the concept lies.

By intersecting the differing perspectives, I was able to understand the science not only better, but faster as well.  Direct feedback from my instructor confirms that the multiple perspectives I have studied have indeed accelerated improvement in my technique.

However, in order for a concept to be true, it must be universal, by which I mean that should hold true regardless of application, conditions, or environment.  (I refer to this as “universality,” but I tend to make up words…)

What if we were to apply this concept of learning through triangulation to religion?  If instead of looking at the differences between religions, we instead found the similarities, we might find that they do not differ that much at all.

But religion is too easy.  Let’s take a harder look at ourselves and the opinions we hold to be true.  If we were to intersect our perspectives and opinions with those of others—especially with those with whom we seem to disagree the most—what would we learn?

Own Your Path

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Posted by admin | Posted in Spiritual | Posted on 15-09-2009

My first blog post!  (I don’t even know if I said that right.  Is there a cool way?)

As a subject, I felt it was appropriate to provide a definition of what “Own Your Path” means to me.  (You, of course, must interpret how it makes most sense to you, and hopefully make it yours.)

Own Your Path.  Let’s break it down.

The “Path.”  We’ve all see roads, streets, highways, hiking trails, game trails, et al.  By definition, each one of these is a path, some more used than others, and some more remote.  Some paths aren’t even visibly noticeable; they’re just the shortest past between two locations.  The “Path” I’m referring to is somewhat different.

Cities, villages, towns...are merely the places where "highways" intersect in which we may choose to temporarily stop.
Cities, villages, towns…are merely the places where “highways” intersect in which we may choose to temporarily stop.

As a human being, you are on a path, “Your” path.  Your path is the culmination of all the steps you have taken until right now.  It is further defined by each step that you take.  You are free to choose to get on the highways, roads, streets, etc…, built by others.  These “highways” are sometimes the fastest way to get to specific locations, and it certainly okay to get on them.  However, this “network” of highways and roads, as extensive as it may seem, is very limited in its reach, and sometimes where we need to “be” is nowhere near the “highways.”

Family, work, schools, religion, relationships, society, et al, represent the “highways” in our lives.  Each aspect is part of the network of highways.  (For example, high school could be a “super-highway,” whereas post-doctoral studies could be a “game trail,” based on the number of people who take each.)

We can choose to fully live our live on this network of highways, and always be able to quickly reach those places previously discovered.  This is the passive path.  Or we can actively choose where our path will be; sometimes on the highways, and sometimes in the wilderness, but it is only in the wilderness where we can discover not only uncharted places, but also ultimately ourselves.

These black rocks—as I've been told, one of only three places on our planet where this layer of earth is exposed—can be found on the Colorado River near the Utah border.  They are unaccessible via any conventional means except the river.
These black rocks—reputedly one of only three places on our planet where this layer of earth is exposed—can be found on the Colorado River near the Utah border. They are inaccessible via any conventional means except the river.

“Own.”  Every step we take represents the next step of our path.  Where that step goes, whether on a highway, off    the beaten path, or even if or not to  take a step, is a decision that we make.  “Owning” your path is about taking full responsibility for the decisions that you make, even the ones that we feel are forced upon us.

It is important to distinguish that the highway (or road, street, trail…) itself is not our “path.”  We may choose for our path to be on the highways, but it is a choice that we make, whether consciously (actively) or subconsciously (passively).  The entire length of your path lies behind you; your next step—and where you choose it to be—further defines your path.

Own Your Path.  Take full responsibility about the decisions you make while actively living your life.