Sunday, November 28, 2010

Carpe Diem

We need to stop as a people doing things, "after this other thing is over." For years and years i have been going to do things, after the PA Ren Faire season. It is so easy for things and year to fly by that way. I have so many people tell me they are coming to my martial arts class after something else happens. I will do it after the New Year, after this project at work gets done, etc. Later. When i get around to it.

If you want to do something, you need to start it now. There is no time to waste. Carlos Castaneda talked about warriors. Warriors are those who realize that their death is waiting by their left shoulder to tag them. When Death tags you,that is it. The warrior has to act because the warrior realizes that each action may be the last battle we get on earth. If you have something you have been wanting to get started, do it. No excuses. Especially when it comes to things like quitting smoking, working out, praying, etc. Any thing that will improve the quality of your life will not start improving your life until you start doing it.

I think i first realized this about playing D&D with my friends. We always say we want to get a game going and at one point i realize we have been saying that since the 2000 faire season. Finally i just started a game.

Watch Dead Poets' Society too. A lot of insight there. We are ultimately food for worms and to me that seems very liberating. It is like the Sioux blessing, "Hoka Hey." It means "it is a good day to die." You look at life and say thank you for what you have and realize each moment is a blessing. Can you look at today and honestly say that if you died today you would be happy with your last battle on earth. The question, "What would you do if you had only one year to live?" or a day or a week or a month is a BS question. We may, each and every one of us only have that long. I might walk out of my house today and get hit by a bus. We need to live every day as if it is the last day we are going to have because it might be. Live each day infinitely. Be ready for your death to touch on the shoulder and understand and live each moment as if it may be your last act in this lifetime.

What i am really saying is, hey all of you that keep saying you want to come to class, come to class. Suck the marrow out of life and do something. We are all busy but today is the day. Today is really the only day. We live in an evolving present moment. See you at class... i won't get my hopes up, but i do hope you come.

"I'll do it tomorrow." ~Rocky Balboa
"There is no tomorrow! There is no tomorrow!!!" ~Apollo Creed

Thursday, October 28, 2010

To do when i grow up...

That is a good question. Realizing in the past couple of weeks that i really am not set in what it is that i want to do with my life. This could be a terrifying thing, if i participated in stuff like age and caring about what politicians and the Norm told me i am supposed to do. But, i actually find it pretty liberating. I remember at a meeting at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire with Kate Ramsey when i was in the pro cast, we were supposed to come up with our goals for the season. I told her that i do not really do that, i tend to be in the moment. I am proud of her that she accepted that and remarked on how that was how i work and that she thought it was OK. Most people in her position could find that uncomforting but she rolled with it.

I feel like we as a people in our culture are never comfortable with being where we are. Everything is based on perpetual growth. If the economy is not growing we freak out. Where does this all end? If we grow forever we eventually eat the planet. Maybe we need to sit back and stop making so many goals, start embracing the moment a little bit and being happy where we are.

I am still mostly a taoist i think.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Verge, Part II

So major life realizations happen sometimes. Periodically the clouds clear away from the face of Eternity and you see and understand. Often times, it is brief. That is how it has been for all of those times i have stood on the edge of enlightenment, eventually the clouds return before full realization sets in. I have had a big one in the past couple of weeks.

I have always had a hard time with relationships and have never really figured out why. I get so swept away and then eventually get to where i need to move on and escape. That could be just a male fear of commitment thing and i think that has a little bit to do with it, but it is more than that and i had a big flash of insight the other day as i was getting in the shower.

I have always described how i feel in relationships thus: i feel that there is something calling to me, just below my level of conscious awareness, a nagging feeling that i need to be doing something in my life. Is it a destiny or fate? I am not certain. The early parts of a relationship always make that voice shut up for a little while. The relationship becomes this awesome all consuming thing. After awhile though, when you get past the initial stages, the little voice from out of the wilderness begins to nag again. "Hey buddy, me again, let's get back to work on this other thing you can't really describe." Usually at that point, i will shortly be gone.

The realization that i had the other day was this: My relationships are not the most important thing in my life. Being with someone, by itself, is not going to give me meaning and happiness in my life. This sounds very simple but it explained so much for me. I think there are people who can have their relationships be the only center of their lives, but i can not. The spiritual quest for me, my martial arts training, finding ways to help the world around me, these are the things that make me happy and make up who i am as a person. Without those things, i can not be happy in a relationship with someone or without.

I think what sort of happens is that in the beginning i put all of my attention on the person i am with. After awhile when some comfort sets in, i start working on those other things. The level of attention drops somewhat from what my partner has come to expect in the beginning. This is not because there is a problem, but it is noticeable and can come across as a problem to the person i am with. I try to reassure them and at first it is really OK. They still feel the difference though and continue to ask. I continue to try and convince them all is well and after awhile i start to get to feel slightly trapped. The issues with the relationship, which were mild in the beginning gradually begin to take up more and more of the time and effort of the relationship until i feel like the relationship is consuming everything. I also have a hard time talking about it all the time.

This is a cycle caused by my issues that has caused most of the relationships i have been in to end. I have been with a lot of amazing people, very few of them would ever want me to give up who i am. I feel that knowing this is a giant weight off my shoulders because it really explains so much of the things that give me stress in a relationship. I also feel it gives me an ability to understand and explain what is going on with me and not just feel guilty about it.

This being said, i do need to figure out what exactly it is that i should be doing. Sometimes people who preach talk about having "the Call." I feel like there is a Call for me to do something. I saw a friend in PA on the weekend who told me i looked exactly like i did when she came to the faire in high school in 1998. In many ways, i really feel like i have conquered the age thing (that is for another blog) and now i need to figure out what i am going to do with that power.

I feel i am still on the verge, the verge of a next evolution for me, one that could be amazing for myself and those around me. Just have to avoid getting complacent and really work it out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Verge


There have been several times in my life where i have really felt like i was on the verge of something. This is one of those times. Everything seems like it is so close to falling into place. Everything is just on the edge of making total sense. I am not sure what to call this state.

I believed in enlightenment for a long time. Still do believe there is a vista that the likes of Jesus and the Buddha, Lao Tzu and others witnessed that does exist. I know it has something to do with the blowing out of the ego and stepping out of the grasp of time. First person perspective becomes different in my estimation. There are times when i have opened my mouth and the universe did the talking.

This is one of those times. I feel close to the Holy Darkness where God is. By God i mean the divinity of everything. The union of self in the the surround.

Every time i have come close to this place, eventually it fades. Something pulls me back to my ego and my karma. In the long arc of my life, and the life of the universe, that does not really matters. Every moment that i have stood here in the presence of elder things, is eternal and those moments are lifted up to divinity in beauty. It is these moments of Eternity that define our lives.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

World Views


There are some fundamental and core beliefs that every people and society holds. They are deeper than our religious beliefs that we cling to and fight wars over. History, like i wrote about in my last blog is one of those things for most peoples of the world. Time is another. They are kin. I have found out that birthdays are something that is fundamental and unshakable to most people in our culture since i gave them up. People get violent and angry about it when i tell them i have no birthday. These core beliefs are so fundamental that trying to shake them rocks people a little bit. At first they think you are crazy but if it starts to sink in that you are not joking, often times they will fight to keep the belief intact. Rocking the foundation can be psychologically difficult. It is like the situation some people get into after experiencing an earthquake. The ground below our feet is not supposed to move fluidly like water and when it does sometimes people need therapy.

When Europe crashed into North America we could see two world views with fundamentally different foundations clashing. Many problems that happened in European dealings with the aboriginal population was because the two groups were operating on a completely different paradigm and neither side had the tools to communicate with the other.

There was an example of this that my professor Clavin Martin witnessed at a council in Alaska. There was a conference about a scientific plan to help preserve and increase the moose population and many Yupik elders were there. After presenting the plan the biologists invited Paul John, a native elder to speak. He spoke in a hushed tone, nearly whispering and said, "We think this is a good plan but we should speak of it quietly. We know from experience that the moose listen to us and if they hear this plan and do not like it, they will leave." The room was silent for a moment and then, the biologists went on as if nothing was said. From our world view, what Paul John said could not be heard. We do not have the apparatus to function in a world view where moose are listening in on our conversations.

Neither world view is right. They are different. Carlos Castaneda was taught to be a sorcerer, and in order for that to work, he had to enter into a new world view where Coyotes could talk and his mentor could turn into a raven. That is crazy in our world of reason and when we are in it, we can not be a sorcerer. That does not mean that the world view of the shaman is not real, it is just different.

I am digressing though. The real thing i want to get at here is that we have some core ideas functioning that shape everything we do in our daily lives and we do not even usually begin to think that they can be questioned. The birthday thing is an example. Most people can not begin to believe that i honestly think that i do not have a birthday. They think it is cute and a little eccentric but even after i have explained that it is a deeply held philosophical belief i have been working on a long time, they will still often come back with, "But really when is your birthday?" Yes, i was born, but it is the measurement of the passage of the years that i think is artificial and very Western.

That chart that i have at the beginning of this blog is one i would put on the board when i used to teach about the difference between European and Native American world views. I remember one day after class sitting there and looking at the chart and realizing that everything on the Native side was actually all the same. Self, place and time are not separate in a hunting and gathering world view. The whole chart itself was very European of me. I am a product of this world view as well and did not even realize it. We love to measure stuff in our culture. How many acres do you have brother? A Sioux horseman on the plains could not possibly think of one acre as the same as any other. Each piece of dirt has its own character as surely as you and i do. Borders are more fluid in a world view where you live in intimate connection with the Surround.

It is good to blow free air around these core beliefs and shed the light of day on them sometimes. In phenomenology they would bracket things. For example, [the sun is just a ball of gas in the center of our solar system.] Bracketing is a way to take a look at what is said. You notice in this statement the word [just]. That changes a lot. The sun IS indeed a ball of gas or plasma in the center of our solar system but it is so much more. It is what all life on this planet is made of, it is the prerequisite for sanity to some people in the northern or southern polar regions at those times of year when Brother Sun disappears for months at a time. To me it seems better to do away with that word [just] in most circumstances. As we live in the universe, things are never really just anything.

We all also have some personal assumptions that are so fundamental that they shape our lives and we probably do not even remember them or know that they shape everything we do. Some promise we made as a child or broken hearted teenager that shapes everything that comes after. Maybe as a boy your father did not show up for the big game and you promised yourself, "i will never trust anyone again." Are there things like that that have ruined every later relationship we have ever had?

Finding these fundamentals can be a big step toward health and i am not saying they all need to go. Some probably do, i vote on getting rid of all of our Cartesian thinking as a first step to health as a people but that is probably another blog. Some of these fundamentals are probably healthy, but knowing that they are there can never hurt. They are often hard to find because they run in the deeps of our subconscious most of the time. I feel lucky to have wound up in the classes and experiences that i had. These ideas are not only mine but those who tread these grounds before me. I feel that i have learned a lot about myself and my people, my place in the universe by being a seeker of knowledge and trying to deeply look at what i think.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

History


"I am sad to see what a shallow village tale our so-called history is." ~RW Emerson

Somehow i think i have given people the wrong impression that i like history. I thought it would be good to put out there my opinions on the subject to clear things up. I really do not want people to think that i like history, in fact, i sort of think history is one of the worst things that has ever happened to humans. Right up there with the Cartesian idea that somehow what we really are is a consciousness locked up inside our skull, a mind that is somehow separate and distinct from our body. That is on my top 5 list of all time most unhealthy ideas that happened to humans/humans invented.

When i was in college and was a history/philosophy major, i spent very little time in classes on the Civil War or World War II, classes about facts and dates and the like. Most of my time was spent studying the philosophy of history and the philosophy of the hunter/gatherer with Calvin Martin. He wrote an amazing book called In the Spirit of the Earth, Rethinking History and Time and in that book he explained and explored the world view of Paleolithic (hunting and gathering) human versus the philosophy of the Neolithic (farming) human. No one talks about it. History is one of those things that we assume is just out there in the ether happening to us, but history is a wicked mistress with an agenda.

History is not just what has happened to your people in the past, but it implies a trajectory. We learn about American history in our schools because history itself implies a chosen people, in our case Americans. Positing this also has the side effect of imposing an Other. If there are Americans, there are also those who are not one of us. Historical people build monuments to their greatness and these monuments are very religious in nature. Take for example the carving on the Lincoln Memorial, "IN THIS TEMPLE AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN IS ENSHRINED FOREVER." The memorial is called a temple, Abe is enshrined and he will be remembered forever. Very religious terminology.

Monuments are not seen until people start farming and worshiping sky gods. Go to a hunter gatherer village, such as an Austrailian Aboriginal Hunting Clan, a year after they lived there and you find no trace that they were ever there. Now go and visit Tikal in the Guatamala or Angkor in Cambodia and look at the stone structures made to last for thousands of years. People build monuments when they believe that they are a chosen people, someone that needs to be seen down through the ages. It is chosen people who go to war.

Hunting people who live off the land live in a margin of grace. They have faith that they will be provided for. Farming and hoarding stuff is a margin of fear. We grow food and store it up because we believe that the earth will not provide for us. Farming people stop seeing the spirit and powers of place as all around and inherent in everything they see, but start taking those powers and throwing them into the sky. Whether it is the Sun gods of Central America among the Aztecs and Maya or Jehovah, the God dwells separately and humanity is apart from that being. Many many times this comes with fear and guilt. In Central America with the cyclical nature of time, there was no guarantee that the cycle would start up again. Wars were fought to take slaves that could be used to feed blood to the sun, the fuel that kept the cycle starting up again. The Bible itself says that when humanity left the garden it would have to eek its living out of the earth. This jives with what we know about hunting and gathering life styles now. Life in the Garden of Eden, and life in a paleolithic society had lots of leisure time. Farm work is rough.

History and Time feed off of themselves. All of the wars we have ever fought are the direct result of us being a historical people. We know the saying that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. We have no evidence to support that because as a society we have been remembering our history since we started hoarding our food, and as historical people we have been repeating all of our dumb mistakes over and over again. So we really have no way of knowing whether people who forget their history are doomed to repeat it, but we do know that those who remember their history are indeed, doomed to repeat it. We continue to fight wars and cause genocide in the name of this and that. There is always an Other. Presently it is terrorists. During Macarthy, it was Communists. To some people it is homosexuals, it used to be the Native living in the plains, in Germany Hitler made it the Jews, and it all plays on our fear. This type of politics works very well in the paradigm of history. Believing that there is an evil other out there is a good way to motivate people to do all kinds of things: commit atrocities, give up their rights, generally hate and be easily manipulated.

I see the Crazy Horse Monument and i do not really know what to think. I do not believe that Crazy Horse would have wanted the face of the sacred Black Hills to be blasted apart to make a monument to him that people could look at forever. Monuments and tearing up mountains is a very European thing to do.

I worry for my people. I feel that as long as we try to solve our problems within the paradigm of history, we will never do it. I also see no way to break that cycle because no one can even fathom that it is a problem. It seems like a hokey thing to even say. Before it was brought to my attention, i never even thought that history was a made up thing. I am not sure what is to be done about all of this. I am within the problem i know that as well. I try and have my personal vision quests and i know that those powers that the hunter saw inherent throughout the woods and the rivers, himself and the rocks, still are there. They nod familiarly to you if you put away the ipod and cell phone once in awhile and get out beyond the reach of the street lamps. Be in it, embrace real darkness and night. The angel choirs are singing outside my window right now, i can hear them. They are the voices of peepers and crickets and other people whose names i do not yet know.

The Substance of our world view is Time. There is a clock in every corner of our lives. A boat is efficient to us if it can cut through the water and get us to our destination more quickly. The clash that happened when Europe crashed into North America was this, the Substance of the peoples that lived here before we arrived was not time at all, but Beauty. An efficient canoe to a Micmac hunter in Canada, was the one that was more beautiful. The fish would be more likely to give themselves to the hunter whose canoe had the most beautiful decoration. The Europeans who arrive here could not even fathom this because both peoples were operating on a different set of beliefs. Beliefs that are so fundamental we do not even realize we share them and world the place around us with them. Time and history are two such things for us. No one ever thinks to question them, they are the foundations that we walk on. To shake them is to shake our whole deal with reality.

It is a tough decision and difficult to write about in any way that makes sense. I choose to try and walk in beauty but it is difficult. I have been conditioned. We all have for we are all products of our society.

I guess what i am getting at here is that i feel that history is one of the major problems and it is good at being a chameleon. No one knows it is even a problem. It will eventually let you out of its grasp though in moments that exist between the ticks and tocks on the clock. There is an eternal present moment. When we live in the now, the whole concept that time is moving faster the older you get falls away. I do not feel that at all because i have been working on this a long time. I gave up on birthdays and worry and i honestly feel like time is slowing down. I have days on occasion that seem like an eternity. Last week seems so long ago to me. Embrace your moments.

Be in the now. If you can do this, you will achieve a fullness in life that is hard to fathom. You have to be able to do it in the moments you do not like as well, maybe when you are at work. Don't miss those moments because they are not coming back. Be fully in them and the Kingdom of Heaven will open up for you, eternally and now, not in some dreamy place in the clouds, but here in the place that you are.

Wow, i can ramble when i want to. I do hope this makes sense. Anybody have any ideas on how to break history's strangle hold on our imagination? I imagine not. In our world-view we live, all of this usually gets labeled as crazy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We the People


Ah Americans. I am one. We are so proud of all that we have accomplished. We have done a lot, don't get me wrong. We really believe that we are the greatest country in the world and i would really not want to live anywhere else. I am happy that i can get online and write this blog and not be taken away tomorrow. What i am writing about now, is this selective ability we have to be both part of and separate from all the things we did.

Most of your super flag waving patriots are happy to point out all of the good things that we have done as a people, but as soon as you begin to talk about the ugliness of America: slavery, our acts of genocide toward native people, etc. they are quick to point out, "I did not do that! I never had a slave or killed a Native American." There is a great change of perspective when you move from positive to negative. We won World War II because we are the greatest country on Earth, but I never did any of those things so i don't want to hear about it.

It is all woven together. If you want the good, you have to take the bad along with it. We are a people that has made amazing strides in human freedom and we are also a nation that has committed or attempted to commit genocide. We have created some of the greatest scientific advances in the history of the world, and we are the ONLY country to ever use nuclear weapons in warfare and on two cities full of civilians by the way. Many people get upset about Native Americans or African Americans talking about the hardships their people have endured. Why is it so hard to accept that WE did do that, just like we put a man on the moon or helped end the Holocaust. As i said before it is a package deal.

I personally believe that is how we begin to heal and move past it. My professor Calvin in college was talking to a student during office hours and she told him that she had been raped by someone that she thought was a friend. He told her, "I am sorry." "Why," she asked, "you did not do it?" His response, "I know, but has anyone told you that they were sorry?" She wept and thanked him. I am deeply, deeply sorry for what my people, for what we have done. I understand that people have good reason to be pissed off. Friends i have known on the reservation have had good reason to not trust us white folks. WE have lied to them for 500 years. Our going down there and feeling the conditions and bridging gaps started a healing. Healing did not begin because we got defensive and said, "I did not do this to you, get over it." It was because we looked it in the face and said to our fellow human beings, "yeah, i am sorry, what happened really sucked."

We are the beneficiaries or victims of our past in some way. I live in a neighborhood with good influences and a decent school system that my parents' could get partially because of where they grew up which was a result of their parents being able to live in the right neighborhood or get good benefits because of the color of their skin. Some people live in horrible conditions because of historical reasons as well. We do not need to deny this and blame people for being lazy. There are some inequalities in the world. We should look at them honestly.

Note, i am not trying to make excuses for anyone. I think one of the worst things people can do is live with a victim chip on their shoulder. Any human circumstance can be overcome. Petty tyrants (see Carlos Castaneda and the book The Fire From Within) can be a great boon to advancing personal power. But, this idea and this defensiveness about how hard it is to be a European descendant in America because people blame us for what our ancestors did is a victim complex as well.

I love the place that i live in. I am proud of who i am and who i came from, but the people i descended from, were people, and sometimes people, all people suck. We are living presently in an era that is the result of our people sucking more than other people. Europeans happened to get in power and dominate the world for a good long time now. Maybe we will move toward a world where there is less oppression of people, but one way to do that is to honestly look at and accept what we have done. There are still people that in either direct or indirect ways are still suffering from OUR actions.

Ultimately, everyone's ancestors have done some sucky things to other humans and to the place they live in and the animals around them. Even more than being an American, i am a human. That involves a lot of beauty and a lot of ugliness that no other animal could even begin to imagine. But i accept who i am and what i am. I am a part of this whole great story that is humanity, for good and for bad. I am full of love and pity for those who have suffered, all of those who have suffered at my own hands down through the centuries and ages that we have walked in this form. We are all, every one of us, every one else, both living and gone down through the centuries. We are part of this community of humanity and we need to soon realize that we are all deeply, deeply rooted in this thing together.

Namaste

Thursday, August 5, 2010

We all go the same way home...


"And we all go the same way home, yes we all go the same way home." ~Flogging Molly

During my stay at the Colorado Renaissance Festival i would often sing the song "The Sun Never Shines" by Flogging Molly. Dreagn introduced me to it and i really like it. The song ends with a refrain that is written above. It is repeated. I found myself on the final weekend of the faire singing that song and as i did i looked out over the people watching me and the patrons passing by and it moved me.

The song has a theme of death and as i looked over the people at the faire, the people were like walking ghosts. We all truly do go the same way home, back to the earth from whence we came. Death makes us all equal, the conqueror worm masters us all in the end. Time makes a mockery of our lives if we allow Him to grip us.

I thought about all of those people as i sang on and heard the words echoing in my own thought. Each of them walking by has their own story and a whole world of life dances about them as they strut and fret their four score and then are heard no more. Each of us is in the same boat, the saint and the sinner, all of them, no matter where they have been or what they have done is rendered equal in the dirt.

We all truly do go the same way home. As i sang and looked out over the people passing by, i realized that we are all in this together in a very palatable way and it was beautiful to feel a part of the whole great cycle of the whole great story that carries along the streams of our lives.

Namaste

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Substance and substances


"A thing is said to be free which exists by the mere necessity of its own nature and is determined in its actions by itself alone." ~Spinoza

This was Spinoza's definition of freedom. Odd that he used the words necessity and determined in his definition. Spinoza was an absolute determinist. He believed that if you knew all of the causes, had a God's Eye View of the universe, you could tell exactly what would happen. In his time, the word substance was used to describe the ultimate essence of a thing. For humans the substance was the soul. Through Spinoza's logic, he determined that there was only one Substance and he used the term interchangeably with the words God and Nature. The only thing in the universe that was truly free, was Substance or God. It was the only thing that was determined only by its own nature. Everything else was at least determined by their own nature, and the nature of the shared Substance. This definition of freedom does not bother me really. The biggest part of what determines me, is myself and i am not controlled by an outside destiny.

Any way, that is not what this blog is about. According to Spinoza one is less free the more things control or determine its existence. If you are also controlled by an abusive spouse or parent, you are less free than one who is their own person and free of control. The same can be said for the substances we become dependent on. To be addicted is to be less free, the fix becomes a controlling factor.

Living on the road at the Renaissance Faire i see a whole culture that values its freedom. Most of us out here came out here because we did not want to be controlled by the typical 9-5 life of American society. But yet, a great majority of this culture allows its substances to be like a boot on its neck. I am not even talking about the health effects at this time. It is hard to get free of something when you are spending 50-150 dollars a week or more on it. People do this with drinking, smoking, marijuana and a host of other things that become necessity. The substances that are imbibed become our masters and they become more important to the dependent than food. Even without legal repercussions, the wasted money and time take away from a life that should be creative.

It is interesting the amount of time i have listened to marijuana smokers tell me how creative it makes them. Meanwhile they smoke all day and accomplish nothing. The drug becomes a need. Much time is lost as is much heightened sense of the world around. The same thing happens with drinking. Most of us work two days a week on the road. Many of those dulled on substances waste away their off days and miss the astounding places around them. They are on the road, but all places look the same. Colorado looks the same as New York or Arizona from the inside of a booth watching a video game screen through a smoky haze.

And there are also the health effects. I will only touch on them because it is not my main focus. Many people who choose this lifestyle are very concerned with the way they eat and personal health. They spend extra money to have organic foods or choose a vegan lifestyle in the hopes of health. Meanwhile, they chain smoke cigarettes, usually organic, or drink to drunkenness. I will say the same as i say to my students, this is a joke. You can not be healthy if you are a smoker. That should be priority one. Also, giving up cigarettes will allow a lot more money to be able to afford more natural organic foods.

I value my freedom. I do not want to be chained down by the costs or anything else that goes along with addiction. To be clear, i am not anti-alcohol, drug or tobacco. What i am against is doing anything that limits your freedom. If you have a budget for your herb or your alcohol or your cigarettes that exceeds your budget for food, that is a problem.

I enjoy having a drink with my friends, even getting a little typsy once in awhile. But more i value my health and my freedom. I am a warrior. That is a whole life style. Not only does it involve physical training, it involves the things you put into your mouth, your spirit and your heart. There are many ways to poison yourself. Living in a cage made of alcohol, tobacco or drugs is one of them.

Everything in moderation. Even tobacco. To natives in America before Europeans arrived, tobacco was a sacred substance. They told their children it was powerful and big medicine. They had no smoking problem. If tobacco can be used as a religious experience it can be a healthy thing. Problem is, it is very powerful and we have made tobacco a taboo. She will suck you in. I say this only to emphasize, i do not have anything against the substances themselves, only the way we use them. Like William James i believe that drugs can be a legitimate form of religious experience, but not when they are used recreationly.

Embrace your freedom. Breathe the free air and go for a hike.

Have a good day and i wish freedom to all of you. Namaste.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Relationships


When i used to work at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire in the cast, every year there would always be someone who would arrive in cast that was in a relationship that they really did not want to be in anymore. The significant other was somewhere far away and they were staring at not seeing each other for long stretches of time. Usually they were just out of college and just arrived in a place full of attractive and talented interesting people. The conversations were always very similar. Usually the person would go on about how hard they had tried and all of the reasons why it was not going to work out that they usually blame on the other person. There was usually also lip service to how they wished they could make it work. Those of us who had been there awhile knew they had about 1-3 weeks before the inevitable break up. This drama would drag on for awhile when the healthy thing to do would be to end it. Usually they would start falling for a co-worker in this time and often times someone would get hurt.

The person doing the talking, the side we heard while living with them was done with the relationship. They had already decided the relationship was over, but instead of admitting that, they wait to find some kind of justification. They usually can not stand their partner. Other people start looking a lot more interesting. In that kind of situation, they do not want to admit that they want to hook up with other people, they would rather drag things on until they can convince themselves that it is the other person's fault. I have heard people say, even recently that their mate will not go to counseling, but then when you suggest something that may help, they make up excuses why that would never work. The common one is to say something like, "my partner would never go for that." Their world view says that it is hopeless. They have convinced themselves. It is sad to see.

I am not sure why people get mean to the people that they should love the most. It seems pretty common in our culture to hate your spouse or girlfriend. We make jokes about it all the time. My grandfather had a joke, "i did not know what happiness was til i was married, and by then it was too late." We laugh at this kind of thing. We are so trapped in our own issues and our egos are so fragile, we can not look at and see what we do wrong. When relationships crash, it is rarely one person's fault. We need to learn to really love.

I think a lot of this stems from the way we typically get into relationships in the first place. We kind of think in our society that life is pretty miserable. Most people get to go to a job they do not like for the great majority of their time and the only happy we think we are going to get is love. People rush to it, they fly to it and they are miserable when they do not have a special relationship. People in college, even high school lament that they will never find someone. They feel empty and alone so instead of finding a person that is right for them, they settle for whoever will get involved.

We need to find our own happiness. Life can be awesome, with or without someone. If you can not be happy with yourself, no one is going to deliver that to you. It is also often when we stop looking that the right thing comes along. I had given up on love when Bethany showed up. Ironic that we find that special someone when we stop looking. Both of us are complete in ourselves. We both could be happy on our own, but she still enhances my happiness, mainly because i do not NEED her to.

If you find yourself in a relationship where you can not stand the person you are with, ask yourself what you like about that person, why did you get involved with them? Do not allow yourself to wallow in the stuff that they do wrong for a whole week. If you can remember, if you can stop being mad for a minute and think of wonderful things about your significant other, maybe there is something there to save. If you can not do that, save us all the drama and leave. Do not pretend it is all their fault and make a rationalization of why you are the victim. Also accept that YOU want to leave. YOU do not like them anymore. Take responsibility of the parts that are your fault and be an adult about it. We all mess up. I have been the king of being horrible at relationships in the past but i have also learned a thing or two over the years.

I understand also that every relationship and human situation is unique but i have seen this sort of thing many times. I think there is a pattern there and to find health and prepare yourself for the next person, you need to get past the pattern because it is a bad pattern and it is a pretty rotten thing to do to someone you claim that you once loved. If you do still love them, it is also great to get past this way of dealing someone.

Everybody have a great day and embrace your love. If you do what you do from a perspective of love, you can not go wrong and maybe people could stop being mean to each other.

Namaste.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Self-Help

"You must be a light to yourself, in a world that is becoming utterly dark." ~Krishnamurti

Bruce Lee believed that all help was ultimately self-help. I think that is true to a great extent. We have to make our own way in this world and people often times will let us down. For a long time i hated asking anyone for help at all, with anything. I did not want to be a bother and a nuisance and i think partially i never wanted to be vulnerable. I have learned to let people help me a little. Still, i think it is best to not rely on it.

Everyone out there has their own lives and people can not be expected to remember and help deal with our problems as well. I am part of this club by the way. It is not that people do not care or do not want to help, but truly we all have too much going on to be able to remember the things that need done in our own lives as well as those around us. When a major crisis happens, people rally around, but the crisis fades and so do people's notice. That is all right.

I enjoy being self-sufficient. I want to take care of my own problems and deal with them. I do not want to need anyone to get by. At the same time, it is nice knowing that there are some people who are on my side who are there if i need them. My parents, Bethany and her family, John Williams, etc. There are those out there who want to help, i just do not want to expect it.

Saltwater Moonshine Boys


Here is a video from our show in Colorado. This song was written by Rook and myself.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LZUI5X1XK4

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Overdone

I do too much. I can not seem to ever say no to a project. Presently i have the Dandy Pirates that we will be doing in Pennsylvania, The Lords of Adventure with John Williams that i am trying to get a press kit together for (mind you i have no idea how to make a press kit), The Saltwater Moonshine Boys here in Colorado, NJ Ren Faire coming up in September, trying to figure out where and when to teach martial arts, and i am sure there are other things i am forgetting about. I need to focus a little i think but i am not willing to ever give anything up.

The thing that i really find annoying is the constant trying to market myself and these projects. It is really hard to get people to even return a call when you are starting out in the entertainment business. I guess that is what irks me. I am not really starting out. I have been doing these things since 1997 yet in a lot of ways it really feels like i am starting over because outside of PA, no one really knows who we are.

A lot of times it feels like it would just be nice to get a 9-5 job and be able to go home afterward and leave the job at home. As it is i feel like i am constantly online or trying to keep up with the mountain of things i have to do to keep marketing. I drives me slightly mad. What i really need is a manager. I would love someone to call me up and tell me where to go for auditions and such so i could just do the part of it that i am good at. Oh well.

By the way, anybody a manager? Namaste.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Comfort Zones


I played guitar in front of people during shows this weekend. Myself and Rook formed the band "The Saltwater Moonshine Boys" with about three days notice this past week and had shows at the Colorado Renaissance Festival this weekend. We also had to audition for the faire owner and the entertainment director. It all worked out but it was definitely outside my comfort zone. Usually i have a Dreagn with me when i am performing music and he handles the guitar. It all went well and i only screwed up a couple times so it felt pretty good.

I was talking to Cameron of Barely Balanced after we got the gig and he said he tries to do something outside his comfort zone 3-4 times a week. I always have admired that about him. You can always find him working on new skills and practicing hand stands outside his trailer to better himself and his talent. It is easy to slip into complacency when you are working on something or get to a certain comfortable level. That is something i always liked about working with Dreagn as well. He was always trying to perfect the show. It made us a lot better. Little things that a lot of performers do not pay attention to, he would think about and work on. It bothered him when we were not at a level that we both knew we could be at. Working with Dreagn has made me a much better performer.

It felt good to do that this weekend. Since working at various Ren Faires for the past 13 years, it is hard for me to find something that makes me nervous. I do not find that same sense of nerves and tension in my stomach i used to get back when i was teaching and had to talk in front of people back when i started in 1992. This weekend did that. I feel 10x better as a guitarist just after this one week of work and am thankful i get this whole run to continue to improve. Another side effect is that i feel it has also raised the level of my singing.

When we train in martial arts, i tell my students, as i learned from my teacher Craig Stanton, that most fights are at intensity level 3-5 and that we should train for intensity level 10. That makes the real fight you get into anti-climactic. Train to fight multiple people and weapons and intense crazy situations and the most common real situations will be easy. It is like driving down the turnpike at 65 MPH and then getting off into the residential neighborhood and having to go 25. Everything feels like it is moving in slow motion. That is how you want a fight to be. Another analogy is playing your favorite video game up to level 47, and then going back and playing level 1 all over again. Super easy right? I think that after singing and playing guitar, going back to doing the Dandy Pirates with Dreagn will be like that as well. It will up our game.

Do things outside your comfort zone. That is really how we improve in whatever thing it is we are doing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dog Days of Summer


Let me say first off, i am a cat person, cat is my totem and i was raised by cats. My cat Ninja, Grandfather, wise man of the hedge row, was one of the greatest teachers i ever had. He taught me about patience and how to appreciate the night. He was Buddha. He would sit outside at night and meditate. I love the calmness of cats and as a person, i would much rather be cat like than dog like. I usually tend to look at dogs like cats do. Sort of with a sense of, "oh my God man, get a hold of your self and just calm down." This being said, i would like to send this blog out to the dogs.

There have been several times in my life that dogs have won me over. The first time was when i was living in the ADE frat house at Rutgers as a boarder. One of the sisters had a dog named Oliver, or rather maybe, he had her. I loved that dog. He would smile all the time and watching him chase around after stuff was an utter joy. He fully embraced life and totally enjoyed every minute of it. Every scratch behind the ear or morsel from your plate was a miracle to him. We took him hiking to the Delaware Water Gap and he did laps around us the whole time, thrilled to run and play in the mountains and chase after squirrels. We hiked three or four miles, he must have gone twelve just lapping us.

I had an opportunity to spend some time with dogs recently again and they have also won me over. Up at Bethany's parents' house in South Dakota, the three dogs, Dakota, Gypsy and Azlain all got to run free in the mountains with us and again i saw that joy. It is a whole different thing with dogs. They just love you so much and go so fully into whatever it is they are doing. I think, theirs is the kingdom of heaven, like a child. Where cats seem like they know that they are entitled to everything you do for them, dogs just appreciate it so much. There is something to be said for that.

Living with Bethany and Azlain i am really appreciating having that big lug wag his tail and get excited when i come home. It is pretty beautiful. I do not want to be that in my life, but i do appreciate it. I love you Azlain. Thanks for teaching me that dogs can be pretty good people too.

Monday, June 7, 2010

South Dakota


Have been at Bethany's parents' place in South Dakota for a couple of days and i really think that eventually we will move out here and set up stakes. Spending at least part of the year here would be amazing. This is exactly what i have always looked for in a place to build a home. Everyone has their own property of at least twenty acres and at night i have been walking out into the woods, looking for elk or being one with the beautiful sky. I also find that i am able to relax here. The days go by on God's time in the mountains like this.

You can see what i am talking about in watching the dogs as they laze about or watching the cattle graze. There is no rush. Life simply is. It is the time of the Great Mother and the time of Father Sky. It is not measured on a clock, it just is, eternally present. Beautiful. I love the east coast as well, and that is home, but there is always such a buzz there and rush to do everything. I am learning how to relax in the mountains.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Colorado


Tomorrow i head to South Dakota and then on to Colorado with Bethany. That is where it all began. It is where she took me into the mountains and we saw the most amazing pair of rainbows i have ever seen. They seemed to last forever and were complete across the sky. It is where we sat out at night and watch a lightening storm over the city below. It was the place where watching her made me realize everything that i liked about myself and what i had to become again. It was there that i solidified my decision to leave my business and head on to the next adventure.

I am amazed that she still spends her time with me and that she really still seems to enjoy my company. She is amazing. I am also so much happier now than i was a year ago. I do not really believe that there are right and wrong decisions in most cases, i feel like we choose a path and then have to do the best with what we have chosen. As a warrior we do not regret those decisions because we know that every choice we make may be our last. There is no time to regret. The warrior chooses and then stands under the choice that was made. I am very glad that i made the decision i did in this case. The quality of my life is far greater now than it was.

I also feel it was the best decision for my martial arts training and teaching as well. At the end, the school became nothing but a job for me and i was starting to dread going in there every day. I was not enjoying my life and i learned a long time ago when i worked at UPS from 3AM til 9AM every morning that no job is worth being miserable for. I once again have found a passion for teaching the martial arts. The small groups i have worked with and the private classes feel like the reason is started teaching in the first place again.

I am excited to move on to a new place and new experiences. I am excited that she will be by my side. Life is indeed worth the living. I will be back out this way, the area that is my physical home in August. Be well and remember to enjoy your life. If you are stuck in something that you is slowly killing your soul, i highly recommend going out on the road. Move on. Our society makes us believe that you can not do it, but you really can. Freedom is there if you merely reach out and take hold of it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wonder



"Verily i say unto you, unless you convert and become like a little child, you shall by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." ~Jesus

My mom has a habit of seeing things in other things. For example clouds. She often times says sentences that start like this... "Doesn't that look like a..." We went for a walk today by the Delaware Canal and she saw many things in other things. It was wonderful. She gets really excited about it and sometimes i think my father and i get frustrated by it and do not realize the beauty of that eye on the world.

What is it to convert and become like a little child? I think it is something akin to my mother seeing things in other things. Seeing geese looking at the sky in broken branches of a tree, seeing a face in the clouds or in a pair of drain pipes, all of these things are very child like ways of looking at the world. The things she sees are not sterile facts either, it is like a child noticing something wonderful, "Wow, look at that cloud, it looks like a dragon." I think that trait of children is the one that Jesus was talking about.

To the small child, everything is new and fresh. The world is an amazing place. Stuff, all stuff is something to get excited about. It is amazing to watch a lightening storm with the fresh eyes of childhood or to see a face in the bark of a tree. Children feel, deeply every emotion that they have. They are fully present in the moment. Part of the reason why time seems to fly by as people get older is because they stop really embracing the wonder of each moment. We rush through our days or wait like zombies for vacations and we wish our lives away. I do pretty well at declaring my neutrality from time and i can honestly say my life seems to be slowing down if anything. I have days that feel like weeks have past and several months ago seems like ages. It does make it hard when the person you love is away for a month or you are stuck at a red light but it is a small price to pay for an infinite feeling life.

My mom has a child-like wonder when she looks at things and i really admire that about her. When she sees those geese in the wood of the fallen tree and tells us about it, she has entered the kingdom of heaven. Loren Eisley talked of a child sized hole into greater eternities and we can only go through when we return to that state of childlike wonder and rapture at the amazing things everywhere around us. Because everything is amazing. There is an amazing play or game being played out about us all the time. Life is a glorious dream and i will continue to search for the things that other stuff looks like.

I guess what it all comes down to is that really, the Kingdom of Heaven is all around us. Children can see that and so can we if we put those child-eyes back on and remember to notice the magic or the faces in the clouds once in awhile. Thanks mom.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Politics


I am starting to believe, maybe wish, that politicians are going to make themselves completely irrelevant. I was listening to Joe Sestak on NPR tonight (he is running for Senate in PA) and i liked a lot of what he had to say, but i did not really believe a word of it. I do not think i am the only one. I am not talking just about him either. I do not trust anything that any politician says and i bet most of the people in the country do not either.

Republicans and democrats will not agree on anything so virtually nothing gets done. There are some major problems out there that should be dealt with but they are not because these people in our houses of government are more worried about maintaining their power than they are about doing a good job for the country. It is not about making the world a better place it is about keeping your party in and the other party out.

States and cities are starting to make their own moves toward green energy or other things that need to be done because it is becoming apparent that you can not wait on the federal government. It seems that if anything is going to happen it will be on the local level because the federal government is too busy bickering to get anything moving.

Why vote in the big elections? It seems like an opiate to me. People believe that their vote makes a difference and it keeps them from enacting real change or from doing something that might actually be worthwhile. Most of the time, it feels like even if you knew you had the vote that would decide the whole thing, what difference would that make? How do you tell who is the better choice? Petty quarreling is mainly what we get in the name calling that we have for elections. It also seems to be all that politicians do. When do these people work? There is a near constant stream of campaigning that goes on, no sooner are they elected, that they begin raising money for the next campaign and getting out on the trail. It is madness.

The things i think we need to do will never be done. So much money goes towards these campaigns. If you are not a super rich person, you can not compete in a campaign. That money could be much more well spent. Do not let politicians advertise. Make several debates and give each of them an equal amount of air time. Hopefully this will allow better candidates to emerge. Money does not need to be a factor. Why should we be spending billions of dollars as a nation on political campaigns. It would be lovely to actually get to know a candidate and have it not be a money contest.

I do not pretend to have all the answers but the system does seem broken. I want to declare my neutrality from it. If you want to vote, do it in a way that counts. Vote with your shopping. Companies listen to that sometime. Don't buy into the system. Stop spending money on all the disposable crap we use. Don't drink bottled water. Stop using disposable cameras. Walk when you can. Tell off someone who speaks racist garbage in your presence. Get off the electric grid. Run away to the woods. Do something. Work in a soup kitchen. Be nice to a stranger. Feed a parking meter for somebody. Stop watching so much TV.

This is a super late night rant. I know the voting thing is a touchy issue. People died for our right to vote. That makes me sad. That can not be all it is about. People will shove that down your throat and make you believe that by once every couple of years going out to push a button you are making a difference. It keeps people happy and feeling like they did their part and it creates the illusion that we have a voice. That can not be all you do. Politicians lie to you. You have no idea, really, what you are going to get when they get into office. If you want to vote, do so, but do not let that be all that you do. Make a difference around you in the world, make it a better place and let your vote be the icing on that cake. Good luck trying to figure it out, i know i haven't.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Experts


My friend Chris and i used to work out early in the morning by the lake in TY Park in Hollywood, Florida back when the Florida Renaissance Festival was held there. Often times when people would wander by and see us training they would have something to say about what we were doing. We dubbed these people, "the Experts." These are the people who, no matter what it is you are doing, they know more and love to tell you about it. When your chosen path is fighting, you meet the experts quite often.

Males in this country for the most part all believe that they are the invincible warrior. I have met very very few people who have ever lost a bar fight, but many people with dashing tales of how they trounced fifteen men and swept away the damsel in distress while sipping on cognac and reading the Wall Street Journal. For a long time i believed there had to be one guy, somewhere in the world that had a record of about 0 and a million that was getting beat up by all these heroes of the modern age.

I have a few other examples. I used to teach at a high school in Philadelphia called Crefeld. I did an after school program and taught Jeet Kune Do. On sparring day i would work out with the kids to help them with their technique and see how they were doing. There was one student who was clearly an expert, about fourteen, knew everything there was to know about the martial arts. We sparred and at the end i started to give him a few tips. He interrupted me and said, "in a real fight i would have just come up underneath with an upper cut and knocked you out." I asked, "Why didn't you do that then?" He had a slightly shocked look on his face, "I didn't want to hurt you, i would get in trouble." I nodded, "Let's do it again and this time i want you to hurt me, i waive you of any trouble you may get in." We sparred again, same results. I asked him if he tried that time and he said with a slightly lowered head that he did. Then he was able to hear me. I was proud of him for admitting it.

Talking to another friend at the brew pub one night he was going on and on about fighting. I finally said, look, why are you good at what you do? It is because he practiced that thing. At the time i was teaching and training well over forty hours a week and i said, look, i am pretty good at this because it is what i do. Just like professional plumbers are better at me when plumbing is concerned, pro basketball players are good at basketball, people who practice fighting are better at fighting. His response was, "Well the thing you need to know about me is that i have killed 147 people with my bare hands." There is always that i guess, if indeed he did, he is probably good at killing. Not a skill i want really, but i digress.

Both of these two were experts. Both of them talk like they knew more than i did and their initial reaction was to defend their fighting acumen. The first of the two was able to empty his cup and hear what i had to say. He went on to learn something from the encounter. My logic to him which he understood was, "I have been training for far longer than you have been on this planet. You are not going to beat me. I have teachers that i can not touch because they have a lot more training than i do. If i put my ego away i learn from them and become better for it." The second expert could not hear me, there was too much of a need to defend an ego involved so stories were created to protect the innocent.

Fighting is a weird thing. Especially for we boys in the society. I call us boys intentionally because when we get involved in that whole posturing-story telling-flexing thing, boys is what we are. The people who know what they are doing do not have to strut. There are plenty of "experts" in the martial arts. I especially see them in Jeet Kune Do. So many people will tell you that they are doing the real Jeet Kune Do and John Doe has no idea what he is talking about. This is directly contrary to what Bruce Lee said. He felt that the name of JKD should be given up if people started to get hung up on it. Jeet Kune Do was supposed to bring people together and many of us in the arts have taken that idea and broken it. Traditional stylists are far better for the most part at respect and humility.

Dan Inosanto, the man who started the Jeet Kune Do philosophy with Bruce Lee, arguably the best martial artist on the planet, is also one of the most humble people i have ever met. He brings people together. When Guru Dan finds a new style he goes to learn it, insisting on starting at the lowest possible rank. This is because he understands what Bruce was talking about, what they both were talking about really. He has an empty cup and a true thirst for knowledge. Many try to mask their ego behind a show of cockiness and fancy belts. They want you to believe they have some sort of secret knowledge and that they know the answer, that they are expert. They are contrary to the example set by Inosanto.

The difference between the experts and someone like Dan Inosanto, when you come down to it, is confidence. People who strut and tell you how good they are are really insecure. They try and convince you of their grandeur because they are trying to convince themselves. The things they are saying are on shaky ground. The true master does not strut to you or show off because the master does not have to. They know what they are capable of and it sits on a firm footing that can not be shaken. Thus they are able to learn form those around them because the knowledge of someone else does not threaten the knowledge that they have, it can only enhance it.

I have a long way to go. I know many people far greater in skill than i am. I also know many who have less. I learn from both types of people. I am not better than those who know less or worse than those who know more. Where i am at is based on the experiences of my life and the things i have done with them. I am not an expert but i will share with you my humble opinions if your cup is empty and you are ready to learn. I am ready to learn as well.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Passion versus Career


I have been thinking lately, maybe i do not want martial arts teacher to be my career. Toward the end of Combined Forces, my job was 75% dealing with paper work and marketing, townships and permits and 25% teaching. I did not start doing this to be a businessman. I wanted to help people with their lives and have a place that i could work out with lots of equipment whenever i wanted. It turned into something that was draining my soul away with all the capitalism.

Since i have left i have been doing some private classes and workshops and the passion is back. I think that it is just more than a job to me, and trying to have it be the thing that pays my bills requires it to go to places that i do not wish it to go. I would much rather be the one-on-one solo teacher and remember what the arts are all about. I also do not want to only train rich people. I have never turned anyone away because they can not pay. If you are a student of mine and you are reading this, i would rather you train than not train because you do not have money. My students are important to me and consistency is important. So if things are tight, don't pay, but come to class.

Anyway. I believe it might be important, at least for me, to not let the things in life that are a passion, a beautiful obsession, not become a job. There is a corruption that happens there. The money becomes more important than the passion eventually. I do know that since i have left behind my "career" as a martial arts teacher, i am much happier and also have returned to loving teaching the martial arts.

In the Bible, i think Jesus said, you can not serve God and Mammon at the same time. How true. What does it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul? I think that can happen very easily when you let your love become your job. I am really thinking i am going to keep them separate from now on. Small things on the side but no more worrying about advertising and marketing my spiritual and holy passion.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Superposition


Superposition is the state that an electron is in before you measure it. It can be anything. The act of measuring the electron gives it the result that you get. Physicists learned this from the two-slit experiment and other things that showed that there really is no way to separate yourself from the world you are trying to measure. The act of measuring has an effect on the world.

In hunting and gathering societies they had no problem with the concept of superposition. When a hunter would come out of the bush after a hunt, he would leave the game outside, enter the lodge and say something like this to his wife, "i found something out there in the Bush." (As we learn from myths like Kopit Feeds the Hunter, a Micmac Indian story.) Something. When you hear this in the story you ask yourself, what is it? At that point it could be anything. When his wife goes outside to see what it is she finds a bear, but until then the thing outside her lodge had plenipotential, it could have been anything.

We are made up of those minute particles and so is the whole of the universe. Superposition is a reality. My life is in a state of superposition right now. It could be anything. I am wondering where and which way to go from here. Should i be a stunt man, musician, fight choreographer, martial arts teacher, all of these things or something that i have not yet thought of? Where should i live? The undiscovered country of the future could be anything at this point.

At moments this is a terrifying proposition, but mostly it is freeing. I am excited to follow the path, follow my dharma to wherever and whenever it leads. The world is ripe with possibility. It is so rare to have these moments of superposition that i think i will enjoy. We always try and plan everything out. Let go. Flow. Be water my friend. Water always finds the place that it is supposed to go. It also finds the way of least resistance. Be water my friend.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Powerful Moments



Sitka stretched her legs and felt the cool morning air. She could hear the steady breathing of her husband and her sons in the lodge around her but it was still too dark to see. She pulled the blanket around her and walked out into the coolness of the early autumn dawn. She walked away from camp and up to the rise more by feel than by sight to the large rock with the view to the east. The sky was just beginning to come alive at the horizon with pinks on the low lying clouds.

The young people always would scoff at her. "Grandmother, why do you get up so early? The sun will come up whether you sing to him or not." She smiled as she thought of them. They had their science, she would stay with her myths and stories. She began to chant and sing. She sang the old songs that were taught to her by her grandmother, who in turn had learned them from her grandmother before her. As she began to sing Brother Sun peaked his first hesitant gaze out over the horizon to embrace the wide world.

Someone of the people had sung the sun up every morning since the Strong Time, since the beginning when the animals could speak. One of them would sing to Him every morning until the end of days. It was enough that someone sang. She was glad that it was her. Her granddaughter would make a strong singer in due time as well. Sitka did not want to ever miss a sunrise.


My professor Calvin Martin would always get up and watch the sunrise. To him, it was about standing witness to the event. There are powerful moments, moments that pierce through our alone and bring us close to old eternities and infinite present moments. I have had moments like this, where i realize that God truly is everywhere, all at once, including in the very flesh and blood that i call me.

I had one of these moments recently with Bethany and Azlan in the Arizona desert. As we walked about allowing the dog to do his business i spotted some movement in a rabbit hole. A brief white flash disappeared into the Lowerland and i stopped to see if i could catch a glimpse. My stopping caused Bethany to turn around and she witnessed it. The full moon was coming up over the horizon to the east. To the west, Brother Sun was painting the sky pink and gold and orange. We stood in rapt awe as we watched her emerge into full view before our eyes. We were there, present in that moment.

I have seen the full moon actually rise over the horizon only once that i can remember and this time, there in the desert, it rose precisely as the sun set. The moment was one of the most magical of my life and i am honored to have witnessed the glory of the whole thing. I was honored to stand there and watch with Bethany and her dog.

I do believe that these moments are something close to the heart of the importance of our lives. Moments like that break the bonds of the present moment and transcend time. They are like the myths of the ancients, always true, here and now. It is moments like that make everything else worth while. All of the hardships that i have endured and all the trials, they are worth it if there are moments like that included in the pieces of my tiny little life.

Have a great evening and look out for those magical moments.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Energy, Karma, God, the universe, 42, everything


I am sitting in Denver airport. I have been traveling for about 24 hours now, trying to get to my love. I have been posting about it on Facebook and asked for people to send positive energy my way. People worry too much about terms. I don't think Jesus did. If he did the term leper, prostitute and outlaw would have probably bothered him more. I follow most of the things that Jesus taught but i do not consider myself a Christian. I really feel like that term has way too much baggage attached to it nowadays and i do not think that Jesus would have called himself a Christian either. Most of the people who are Christians seem a lot like the Pharisees to me and we know what Christ thought about that bunch. In temperament and philosophy i am much more Jeet Kune Do than i am a Christian as conceived by most of the Christians i know. It concerns me when people let things like "positive energy" bother them and feel that it is against their religion. Does God not have energy? Or is positive the word that is problematic?

Jeet Kune Do was Bruce Lee's philosophy of the martial art but works really well for life as well. Study your experience, analyze it, take what works, discard what doesn't and then add what is essentially your own. I can already hear the arguments, "But TJ, you can not just pick and choose what you think is right." Absolutely. Examining your experience for a warrior, which is what i think Jesus was, is no easy task. Evaluation must be honest. For example, from my experience the idea of shoving your beliefs down people's throat not only is slightly offensive and far from humility, it does not work. Look, if you honestly believe that you have the hotline to God's desk and that if people do not believe like you do that they will burn in eternal hellfire, then i understand why you want to help people to that knowledge. But here is a news flash: trying to force that on people does not work. It makes people uncomfortable and much more likely to disregard what you have to say. If you want to have people listen you have to be a little more patient and you also have to listen to what they have to say. If your religion or philosophy is indeed the one and only truth, then it is on pretty firm footing right? I have found people are far more apt to listen to me and maybe even be moved by what i have to say if i live my life as an example, not as a chance to get into a huff whenever someone says a word that i don't like or has a belief system that may seem hokey to me.

It reminds me a little bit of the people who talk about the ticking time bomb theory of torture. In the case where a terrorist knows about an imminent threat it is OK to torture them goes the argument. The problem with the argument is that torture is actually less effective as far as getting good Intel. Sorry, what you are probably looking for is revenge. Revenge is not about truth.

When i hear people get upset because you are a Buddhist or have a spiritual concept that they do no like or something, what i really hear is a lot of insecurity. It seems to me that there is a lack of faith in your own belief system. I am secure in what i believe, actually in the ideas that i have and if you present me with a valid discussion and good ideas i will listen and incorporate them. This does not mean an argument from the holy book that you espouse. I am all about these holy books, but Bible verses are not a good way to sway someone that does not believe in the Bible just as the Torah, Koran or the Upanishads are not going to change the mind of a Christian.

I have learned a lot from Jesus, also from the Buddha, Bruce Lee, Lao Tzu, HD Thoreau, my parents, my martial arts teachers, Calvin Martin, Bruce Wilshire, etc. and i have found that behind what seems to be contradictions there is a common thread of Truth. Jesus said, "verily i say unto you, you shall not resist evil." Did not make a lot of sense to me until i saw a hexagram in the I-ching that is the image of Heaven above the mountains. The mountains rise up as high as they can to the heavens and then goad the heavens down to their level. The mountains in this analogy were the wicked of the earth, the heavens the righteous person. If the righteous person goes down to do battle, that person has gone down to the dens of the wicked.

Jesus also said when asked what one has to do responded, "Love your God above all else and love your brother as your self." Did not mention saying his name. Just saying. He also said, and i love this one, "Verily i say unto you, unless you convert and become like a little child, you shall by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven." Again no mention of saying his name.

Anyway, this was a fun rant. Please do not take offense anyone and i do welcome conversation about all of this. I truly, truly love philosophical debate. Hope everyone is well, i love you all as my self because you are my self. We are all part of the same thing and we shape our realities with what we bring to the table.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Heroes


I was thinking recently about the men that i know that really try and be good people. These gentleman have being a good person and doing the right thing as a priority in their lives. It is certainly my top priority. I do not always get it right, but i try to do the best that i can by the people who i come across and sometimes i falter, but i try. I feel like i do a good job for the most part. Others who i can think of off the top of my head are John Williams, Bryan Beard, Tom Laitinen. With these guys, i am confident that they wrestle with and struggle with their decisions to try and make them the most positive that they can be for the world around them and the people that they encounter and deal with on a daily basis. Conversations with Bryan Beard actually inspired this blog. He was talking about various things that he believes in, giving a living wage to the people who work for him and especially presenting a positive role model for the kids that look up to him and those in his show. These things do not have to do with money or fame, but with trying to create a better world by giving a good role model to young people who look up to knights and chivalry. The bad guys do not win in his shows, and they especially do not win by cheating.

I don't think that people who are not in this category are "bad" per se, but i do feel that for the most part in our culture people do the right thing because they do not want to get in trouble and out of fear. I feel that most of the people that i encounter seek their own benefit first and that is what they care about. In crisis situations we can see the hero come out in everyone, but i am talking about during the day to day walking about in life, having your desire to be the best for the world around you that you can possibly be. These are the people that i am talking about now.

Anyway, i was wondering what it is about this group of people who seek out a higher purpose and moral life that they have in common. First, we are all geeks. I think one of the big things that we have in common, bear with me, is comic books. We all have in our head the image of the hero that we want to be. "With great power comes great responsibility." Somewhere in all of our lives we have dreamed of being that hero, being that white knight that saves the day. I see this also, sometimes, in the martial arts world. People who took martial arts classes had this person in the front of the class that they could look up to. Someone with great power and the ability to hurt people who Chose to be a person of peace and a person of knowledge and to help the student grow on their path. This image gives kids something to look up to and that can translate into a life of service. The goal, the black belt, looms large as does the teacher who wears it. Martial arts give you a journey and purpose to achieve.

The hero image. Not a bad thing. These geeks are some of the best people that i know. I trust them. When they say that they are going to do something their honor dictates that they try their best to get it done. When they speak, i believe that the words they speak are true as they understand them. Many people i have dealt with in life and in the business world have an agenda and i learned that most people that i have encountered, will lie to you if it is convenient. They will do what they have to do to get ahead. We are encouraged to do this in our system. The hero image helps to counterbalance this and turn people away from just wanting to make money, to wanting to make the world a better place, to be the best man or woman that one can be.

I am a fan of the samurai concept of telling the truth. The samurai spoke true to you, not because it was dictated by some divine being or book, but because to not speak the truth means that you are a coward. This is morality out of courage, not morality out of fear. John Stuart Mill said he would sooner burn in Hell than convert to an evil God. Do we have that courage?

While i was working in a business someone once told me, "you don't have to be nice to them, they would not be nice to you." A lot of people follow this idea. It is all right to bad to those who would not be good to you. I think this is a weak excuse for a positive life. I am good to people not because they are good to me, but because i believe that it is the right thing to do regardless of who i am dealing with. I do not try and be the best person that i can be because i expect a reward, but because it is important to me to follow the highest standard that i can and do what i believe in. I think that is what is behind Jesus saying, "Even Caesar loves his friends, love your enemies as well." We should be our best regardless of consequences and regardless of what we think we are going to get in return. I feel that way about the people i listed above. I try to be that way myself. Of course the side effect of this is that when you live your life and do the best that you can, people tend to treat you well because you are a decent human. It is a nice side effect, but not the reason to do your best.

I ama also a fan of the Greek concept of arete or excellence. Do everything you do with verve and gusto. Live your life fully. John Williams and i in beginning to write our Men of Action show coined it like this, "Don't stop living til you die and don't be dead while you are alive."

If you get a chance, try it out, be a good person just for the sake of it. There are philosophical arguments to be made about what it means to be a good person, but i have decided to be a Man of Action and go out and do what i can come up with as the best that i can be. Sitting in a room philosophizing never got anyone very far.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Lost Art of Strategy


When i owned the martial arts school we would have a lot of birthday parties. In these parties, kids from our school would invite lots of friends and many of these friends trained in other places. During the party amongst the games and fun birthday activities we would also do a little bit of martial arts training. I would usually hold the focus pads for the kids and they would do kicks and punches and things while trying to avoid getting tagged by me. The kids from other schools would almost always come in and start flailing away and were very easy targets. The kids who trained with us were hard to hit, elusive, capable of defending themselves to some degree. I think that what happens at a lot of places is that people are taught some kicks and some punches and techniques and then they are sent out to spar. There is no strategy, no game plan.

It would be the equivalent of being a carpenter and learning how to use a hammer and nails, screw driver and other tools, but never making blueprints or a plan for putting up a house and then trying to do it. I am so happy that i met my teacher, Craig Stanton in the 90's. He was a full-instructor under Paul Vunak with Progressive Fighting Systems and introduced me to that system of Jeet Kune Do Concepts. The most valuable thing of this whole experience was that it gave me an actual game plan and strategy for fighting. A lot of what was taught was developed by Paul Vunak to teach the navy SEALs how to fight in a short period of time and it is reality based, practical with few bells and whistles. This is what those students that are so easy to hit in the head are missing. They have no idea what they are going to do and just flail around. I find that fighting and sparring with those who are traditionally trained follows this same pattern as well. They have no game plan and sparring with them is typically easy. I do not mean to make a blanket statement here, i have met many fine fighters from all sorts of different styles but the ones that are good have a concept of strategy. Most of those who are good fighters and a challenge come from styles that emphasize practicality as well.

Boxers, wrestlers, judo players, fencers, kendo practioners, etc. who train and actually compete in the class room and can weed out what works from what does not. Your body needs to learn to respond in the high pressure situation of someone trying to actually hit you and defeat you.

Some of the things that i feel are the most neglected areas of training are footwork and defense. Footwork is fundamental and should be trained until it is instinct. You do not have to think about which foot to place next when you walk across the room and you should not have to think about how to move about the ring or the street when you are trying to execute in a fight. It should be natural. You should not have to stop your movement and get flat-footed when you kick or punch or try and do a takedown.

Defense should be trained as well until you are comfortable that you will not be hit. The elusiveness of boxing is a great skill to develop. You have to have someone actually trying to tag you however. Shots that stop short of your face do not teach you how to get out of the way of an actual punch. This does not mean that your training partners should constantly try to beat on you for damage, but if they are not trying to at least tag you and touch you they are doing you a disservice. That touch is the only thing that is going to let you know if you are executing correctly.

We need to train for fighting the way it really is and not the way we hope it would be. Ask yourself the honest question about whether what you are doing would work or not. If your training partners are not making it difficult on you, they are doing you a disservice. A non-compliant attacker who does not have your best interest in mind will be a rude awakening if your training is not a good simulation of an actual fight.

For me, the spiritual quest of the martial journey is not separate from the practical. It is spiritual growth for me to find the truth in simplicity that actually works. It should be an honest quest. We would like to think sometimes that the fancy move will work when in actuality, sometimes the fancy move will only get you knocked out when a non-impressed assailant gives you a large dose of reality.

Happy training everyone and good luck on your own journeys.