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Understanding Selflessness — And Why It Is Important

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By James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast episode #121


We all have a choice to make.

We can make it right now.

We can spend the rest of our lives living in the light or we can do the opposite.

Maybe the rest of your life is too long to think about, how about this moment? If you can commit 100 per cent to being a light in the darkness right now then that is getting somewhere.

If you can do it right now, this idea of what right now really means can become a way of life, and this idea of being a true light shining in the darkness can start to make some major impacts not just in your life but in the world and maybe the universe itself.

Most people walk through life with blinders on. Maybe they don’t want to or are unable to see the truest nature of reality. Maybe they are just so caught up with the delusion that swirls around them that is fed by culture and society and the endless churn of information we get flooded with.

You see, the society or better yet, the view of reality that we are all fed is nothing but a lie. The truth of our lives and our reality is far different than most will ever really see – to get there you have to get down to some fairly serious training.

I’m not going to get into what that means right now. But let’s just say that our self-centered view of reality, the I, I, I, me, me, me is not only the central aspect of our delusion but maybe the beginning of a radical shift in your view of things, what causes so much trouble in all of our lives.

We cling to things. We want things. We worry about things. We fear things. All of this happens in the shifting sands of how we see life. Generally we spend way too much time dwelling on the past or fearing and fretting about the future. Here is a little mind-blowing secret: none of that exists. The past is gone and of no value to you. The future isn’t here and also of no sense worth worrying about. What you are left with is right now in this moment.

When we start to understand that all we have is now and there is no guarantee of anything else and add to this that all the other myriad of things around us also face the same fact but end up suffering from skirting the magnitude of this mixed with an obsession with self, what you are left with – if you really want to be a light in this world instead of just more darkness – is that there is just one option left; to help.

The level of helping can be in big ways or in small ways. You can make a conscious effort to mitigate the level of harm you cause in the world – of course you won’t be able to completely avoid it. Wash your hands and you are killing things, walk down the sidewalk, the same, eat food, yup, more death and destruction.

What I try to do is balance it.

Help as many people and things as I can. When given an opportunity to help something, you do what you can.

Are you going to always succeed? Nope. You’ll fail and you’ll fail some more. What you can do is turn these failures into lessons and opportunities to expand your world, expand your perception, expand your view of life and your place in it. And the best part of failing is learning and doing better as a flawed human.

In the Army when I was in training and throughout my career we were bombarded with the concept of service before self. This means putting serving your country and its peoples ahead of your own desires and in some cases your own life. In military terms this means being willing to put your life at stake for the greater good.

Interestingly enough, this same concept is what Buddhism pretty much is pointing at as well, albeit from a different angle. This path is one of putting the liberation or the relieving of suffering of all living things ahead of all other things so that it is literally what you are looking at as a huge part of your training. It is what some call the Bodhisattva path.

Now some of you might be like, yeah, ok whatever, I’m not a Buddhist. Well, you don’t have to be. What you can be though is a super person who makes selflessness the central tenet of whatever training you make yours.

You train in the martial arts? Great, instead of focus on how to destroy someone, how to harm someone, make your training be about how to defend yourself for sure but to mitigate the damage you would do to someone else. Make violence itself something that you avoid. Ask yourself how you can do kickboxing or jiu-jitsu or karate or whatever else but from the standpoint of protection of others, of not letting your ego grab hold, of helping others first and foremost.

When you make this what your training is about and less about building yourself up, less of competing with others, less of a self-focussed view of training and more of a view of what you can do to help others you will find your whole training change and more importantly, your whole life will change.

What things can we all do to help cultivate this self-less approach? Well we can judge less, we can be critical less, we can gossip less, we can be mean and thoughtless less. We can smile more. We can be kind more. We can help more.

An amazing thing will happen when we start down this path to help spread light in this world. We will find that it changes our outlook and not only that, it makes you less likely to react to things as you once did, it will make you smile more, it will make you actually look for ways to help more.

So here is a little practice that you can do anytime of the day, it just takes a few slow breaths. As you breathe in, think about the people and things in your life, even those you have issues with, and send them and visualize them being surrounded and getting loving-kindness. See them in that light.

You want this to be a thing that you think of regularly.

You see an ant wandering down the sidewalk, send it loving-kindness.

Some woman in the grocery is dealing with a screaming kid, loving-kindness.

You are getting choked out in jiu-jitsu, defend yourself but then send loving-kindness.

You can work this in whatever way you want. Sometimes when I’m out for a walk or riding my bike and I pass someone or see something I just say to myself, “I hope you have a life of happiness and joy.” I’ve known Zen masters who make it a practice to make a more formal bow and recitation when they pass things.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter. It is similar to how I was raised in the martial arts that when you bow to someone in the dojo you think to yourself of how grateful you are for them to be here training with you, that you have gratitude for them being in your life and that you hope they never have to use what you will be training in together and that you do your utmost that nobody is injured in training.

We take this same concept we use in the dojo and expand it to mean even more in life.

For me, in the past few years I’ve really amped up this aspect of my training and have found that it makes a huge impact. Give it time and it changes the way you see most things and how you react to them as well.

When it comes to training, whatever that means to you, we need a kind of practice that actually has an impact on our lives. One that changes us and for the better – without that we will find ourselves habitually following the same patterns we always have, spinning our wheels in the mud.

I want more from my life. I remind myself constantly that even the dimmest light in the darkness beams outward.

See how it goes. Better yet, let me know.

We can add to the darkness and delusion of this world. We can be ambivalent to it. Or we can decide right now to be a light casting all of that away.

What are you going to do?

I know what I will be doing.   

 Listen to the full podcast episode at Warrior’s Way Podcast    

The True Meaning Of Discipline

Ways We Can Bring Discipline Into Every Moment And Transform Our Lives

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by James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast episode #120

Discipline can mean different things to different people.

Some people think that everyone needs to be like they were trained in the military, up before most people would ever want to be awake, workout, have a fierce look on their face, and treat everything like you are going into battle.

Others look at discipline as being a detached stoic, treating everything in a hands off way.

Some think of disciple as best dealt with through almost obsessive control, monitoring every small detail so that everything fits nicely, monitored and recorded.

None of this is necessarily wrong. Life though, doesn’t always fit into our framework, follow our plans, or listen to us when we tell it how it should be.

Life is messy sometimes.

Discipline for someone who trains the mind, who trains the body and who strives to put the two together in understanding and living within what is ultimate reality means that we stick to training in a way that understands that attachment to our own delusion and BS and attachment to beliefs, ignorance and aversion is the opposite of what we need to do.

Discipline is all about cutting through all delusion. It is about being the calm in the storm. It is about understanding what we are told by society, by selfish desires, by things we cling to lead us down a road that takes us away from what is true.

So what is true then and what is discipline?

Well, there are a ton of people who are going to lead you down a road of their own explanation of discipline that is actually about ego, things that are fueled by selfishness, by want. They will make you buy into this idea that we have to be hard with ourselves so that we can get stuff done. The truth is that this is, from a training perspective and especially from a Zen sort of viewpoint to be just a delusional view of reality that so many of us are constantly told we need to buy into. It is as if the only way you can live a real life is by doing things, by getting after it, by accumulating.

Look at the world around us and ask yourself what kind of damage has been done by this societal view of needing, of wanting, of taking. It is a me, me, me perspective. It isn’t discipline. It is delusion and has consequences not just with ourselves but with the world around us.

What we and the world needs most is for us to all be less delusional. To see what life actually is. You aren’t going to get there by running yourself ragged, by getting no sleep, by trying to control everything and everyone. That isn’t freedom, that isn’t peace and is nothing more than a tyrannical capitalist view that you are trying to enforce on yourself.

That doesn’t mean that you should do things or have some level of control in your life. You definitely should but discipline doesn’t mean to become an obsessed person fostering ulcers because you are trying to live like some young kid learning to be a soldier in basic training.

I don’t love the term mindfulness these days. It has become just as clichéd as some have twisted what Zen means to fit a whole host of ideas that don’t really mean what it actually means. However, mindfulness in its true sense is the most important aspect of what discipline needs to mean. In other words, we need to learn to think with a big, huge, open mind that is also able to discriminate between what is real and what is fake, what is important and what is not, what is life and what is delusion.

I remember when I was in basic training myself and a Sgt who was putting us through the game that was the training told me that the reason they do room and uniform inspections that you can never really pass is that they are trying to get people who let their minds do whatever they want to do, to instead retrain them to focus, to concentrate on small things like making a bed or polishing boots and doing these things to a high degree and an even higher standard. He said that when you can force the mind to concentrate and gain discipline it changes everything about that person.

I remember thinking that this was like the kind of thing my first Sensei taught us when we were kids and what my first Zen master taught me when we would do working meditation or eat in meditative silence in the Zendo.

Discipline. True discipline has to start with the mind. It has to start with the way we view ourselves and what reality actually may be. True discipline means cultivation of true stillness and what that not only means but what we begin to see when we knock on that door.

Unfortunately this understanding is something that is lacking these days when it comes to training and people look at discipline as more of a physical thing, something that we have to push ourselves to do. It is true we need to be disciplined as in our stick-to-it-ness but derived from compassion and our understanding of impermanence and our desire to be free of delusion. In this way discipline also means being understanding of our failings, it means being compassionate to ourselves and others, it means being in a state of constant questioning of what it is that we are being motivated by and through training to mind to focus, to concentrate and to try our best not to be controlled by a mind that is like a crazed monkey jumping and leaping from tree to tree throwing fruit at everything around it.

Think of discipline as stability. When we are able to live a life without our mind being like that monkey, without the mind leaping around, fixating, dealing out whatever its impulses want then we are able to begin to see the truth with a capital T. We are able to focus. We are able to live a life far more free from the suffering that a crazed monkey mind creates and dishes out.

When we do this a whole new world opens up for us.

The best thing is that you can start right now. Take a look what is going on between those two ears of yours.

Is there are monkey there?

Listen to the full podcast episode at Warrior’s Way Podcast

In this episode we discuss the book In The Footsteps of Bodhisattvas: Buddhist Teachings On The Essence Of Meditation, by Phakchok Rinpoche, pick up a copy of the book here.

Get Your Meditation Practice Going

A few fundamentals you will need to help keep your meditation practice going strong

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You might think you don’t need anything to mediate — and that is kind of right but also a bit flawed in its approach. To meditate and keep on meditating you are going to need a few things to help make it a thing you can stick with instead of something to aspire to.

Zafu. You can call it a meditation cushion, a pillow or zafu but whatever you call it, this is something most people who meditate for years sit on daily. Get whatever colour you want, it will be under your backside.

Zabuton. You have a zafu and may think that is good enough but eventually you are going to wish you had something soft under your knees and legs. A zabuton goes under your zafu and make sitting — especially for longer periods of time like meditating on a cloud. There are loads of things to get you distracted and having one less thing makes a huge difference. Believe me, you want this.

Meditation Bench. Yes, that’s right, a meditation bench — you don’t have to sit on the floor, on a yoga block or even on a cushion, you can sit on a cool bench and this is one of the best I’ve seen. Check it out!

Meditation bell. Start and end your meditation sessions with intention. Not only does it sound great but it makes the training aspect far more formal and dedicated. I think this is a great way to train.

Tibetan Meditation Bowl Bell. I personally like using this for starting and ending my meditation sessions. I love the resonance that these bowl bells make. Again, it puts some tradition and seriousness of ritual into your meditation. Not a bad idea at all.

Buddha Statue. Make your meditation space your own retreat center. Make it into your own Zen Temple. This Buddha is 15” tall and meditating with the Buddha nearby just sounds like a good idea don’t you think?

Big Buddha Statue. If you have the room, why not have a nearly life-sized Buddha? I think this would be a great addition to any space you want to transform into a place of peace and stillness.

Respond To Life, Don’t React To It

How Cultivation Of Stillness Enables Us To Respond Wisely To What Life Throws Our Way

Photo by Prasanth Inturi on Pexels.com

by James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast episode #119


We all need to understand that not one single one of us is perfect. This is something that we should all be learning from the moment we are old enough to understand words. We are all a work-in-progress. We are all trying our best and need to push forward, take risks, fail lots and understand that we are simple flawed but awesome beings living and learning.

Too often we expect too much from others but not ourselves. That is why so many of us are critical and so judgemental these days. We expect more from other people than we expect from ourselves to such a degree that actually set people on a pedestal and then pretty much look for ways to knock them off.

Think about how often we are quick to judge. Think about the stones we have thrown at others either in judgement or anger. Think about the gossip and the back stabbing.

Most people engage in this to some degree but why? When we stop and think of the fact that we are all just trying to figure this life thing out as we go through it and hopefully learn as we go it seems from that perspective ridiculous to get on any sort of high horse.

From a training perspective – if not a life-lesson one – the greatest things that can actually happen in our lives is making mistakes, especially when we learn from them.

When I think of all the things I have learned by falling flat on my face it is almost ridiculous. You live long enough and get to certain perspective and you will undoubtedly look back on your life and wonder how on earth you ever did so many dumb things and wonder who that person actually was and what was going through their head at that time period but more importantly, you’ll feel almost grateful for that fall that landed you flat on your face because of what you learned from it.

This learning comes in big ways and small ways.

When we are serious about this training thing and living and breathing it, we let it swirl around and grab onto all the different aspects of our life.

What maybe first started with learning to kick and punch turns into how to breathe and that in turn leads to learning how to be more aware of the moment, then maybe how to practice stillness and reflection whether that is full-on Zen meditation or something similar.

In time this practice of stillness changes too. At least if you are diligent and train properly.

What you find is that the practice of stillness leads you to understand more and more about yourself as you stumble around in this life figuring things out, making tons of mistakes along the way.

More and more, this practice will lead you to finding yourself less reactive to the events of the world around you. You will find yourself realizing that you have become, at least at times, the calm centre of the storm.

Of course this doesn’t mean that things won’t happen that will make you sad, angry, upset or any other human emotion.

For instance, someone the other day surprised me with instead of a normal friendly greeting, decided to, as we describe it in the Army, to jack me up, to freak out on me and try at least to put me in my place. Now once upon a time that sort of thing would have really upset me, I might even have responded with an equal dose of ill-founded anger. Instead, I looked at them, wondered what the heck set them off, smiled and just kept truckin.

Was I upset, well of course I felt less than great, especially given that this person’s outburst came in front of a room of others. Who wants to be treated like garbage? Not me, not anyone.

The thing is, who knows what they were going through? Why were they upset? Nothing usually happens in isolation.

What we have though, through our training is an understanding that what we put out into the universe has a way of coming back to us. You slap someone, you generally are going to get hit back harder. That is, unless we actively work to let that go – to defuse it.

Another way of looking at it is to view it from a training perspective. I keep a bit of a slogan constantly rolling around as a focus point in my training of simply, be calm, let it go. This goes for my martial arts, say when I’m doing rolling in jiu-jitsu; be calm, let it go. This goes for my meditation when the inner dialogue starts up; be calm, let it go.  This goes for my walking around, day to day life and whatever comes my way; be calm, let it go.

There is a lot that we can react to and get overly involved with these days, whether it is some social issue, climate issue, political issue or whatever else. We can be in a constant state of reactivity if we let all of this and more run the show. But there is a better way.

Kindness, compassion and understanding are far greater especially when applied. These are life-changing things to foster as the key elements of our training and our life.

It is possible to make no mistakes in this life and still fail. However, when we live a life that is about training and train to be less reactive, to let go, to be compassionate, to be kind and understanding and to learn from it all, we go from being people stumbling in the dark and into a world where we are actually learning how to turn on the lights.

Recently in an MMA competition a competitor I choose not to name but I’m sure you know who I’m talking about snapped his leg. Sitting on the mats with his ankle and foot flopping around like it was made of rubber he chose to continue the trash talk of his opponent and even the guy’s wife. This is where the martial arts and humanity is headed if we don’t choose now to live a better life, to strive to be better people, to make humility, kindness, compassion and living in the light our whole focus.

Sure, we are going to fail. We are going to fail a lot. Like I said, sometimes you are going to do everything right and still fail. The thing is, you have been given this amazing opportunity to do something with this gift you have been given, beating literally all the odds possible and being born. You can waste that gift. You can live a small, mean, petty life or being reactive or you can choose a better path.

It won’t be easy. Nobody said it would be.

The Way is not for the faint hearted. It is like walking through life carrying a mirror and truly seeing every single thing you have done, seeing who you truly are, seeing what people see you as – and then trying to make something better from all of that.

Be calm, let go.

Simple words but ones that can not just change our training but that can change our life.

How are you going to train?

What are you going to do?

When are you going to start?

All you have is right now – so you are best to get going. The time is ticking.

Listen to the full podcast episode at Warrior’s Way Podcast

In this episode we mention Stephen Batchelor’s latest book, pick it up here.

The Fountain Of Youth

Supplements to help you stay youthful and healthy

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First off, I’m not a doctor, I don’t prescribe anything to anyone. That said, people are always asking me what sort of supplements, vitamins etc do I take.

I don’t think that there is any sort of ‘everyone should take this’ or anything. What I know is what I take daily to keep myself feeling healthy, strong, fit and hopefully allowing myself to live a long life of quality.

Here are things I take:

HOST DEFENSE MUSHROOMS/MYCOMMUNITY. These come from Paul Stamets who if you don’t know who Paul Stamets is, you really need to get doing some research. These supplements may well contain the fountain of not just youth but health and wellness, full of things to boost your immune system as well as maybe even fight cancer and other illnesses.

HIGH POTENCY RESVERATROL. If you have read anything on longevity research you’ll see a common thread that researchers advocate and that is the fact that RESVERATROL has been found to increase the longevity of subjects studied. It comes from grapes and while drinking enough red wine to get your RESVERATROL levels up might sound good, taking a high potency supplement might be better.

TART CHERRY. If you want to have a body that stays young, this means that you need to do things to reduce inflammation and promote joint health. Tart Cherry extract is a means to that end.

VITAMIN D. Taking vitamin D has a wide range of benefits and most of us don’t get anywhere near enough of it.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR GUMMIES. I know, you don’t know how something made with vinegar can be a gummie but these things are not just packed full of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories, they taste amazing. I swear by them.

This is my main go-to list.
Here is the thing, you also need to eat healthy. Don’t eat too much. Drink mainly water. Exercise. Meditate. And you need to live a life that matters.

This is what works for me. I’m not a doctor. I’m not saying you need any of it. Do some research, or try it out for yourself.