The Anxiety Of Ending

Photo by Ben Mack on Pexels.com

by James Eke

from Warrior’s Way Podcast episode 112

I don’t think for a moment that anyone from crackpot-conspiracy theorists to hypochondriac germa-phobes and all the rest of everyone in-between will escape from COVID unscathed.

We have all been through something hard. Something bizarre. Something that has changed the way we think, act and feel.

Many people have lost those they cared about or lost businesses or simply their view of who they thought they were.

Where we go from here is anyone’s guess.

Will COVID ever be gone? At this point it doesn’t look that way. How will we have to respond to it? Well, it probably depends on where you live.

I’m in Canada and our government took things very seriously. My martial arts school for instance was shut down with imposed restrictions during the first lockdown, then we were allowed to open for a few months and had to stay six feet apart with masks on, then we were shut down another 8 months and as I’m recording this we probably have another month before we can open, likely with the same six feet apart rule.

More than one person has asked me what I think martial arts training is going to be like or, maybe more honestly, how they can feel ok with getting back to things like they were before.

My best advice is 100 per cent in line with my own personal blinking neon sign view of training – be kind and compassionate to yourself and to others.

What does that mean though?

COVID has been a very valuable lesson for us in terms of view of self and our relation to others. It has been valuable in teaching us patience and being in the moment.

Before COVID most people in the West looked at their lives as somehow solitary special moonbeams but suddenly we all had to realize that the things we do could not just impact others but could kill them – most importantly, the simple fact that all of us are connect to each other in ways we probably never realized.

I think that moving forward through the place we are with the pandemic and where we are headed it is important for us to be kind and compassionate with ourselves and others. Not everyone will be in the same place with this. We need to let go of the need to get things back to whatever normal used to be – whatever it is we remember that being. Truth be told, there was nothings so inherently great about the greedy, selfish, self-centred way things were before.

We have been given a chance to make a new normal for ourselves and for our world – a world that is kinder, more understanding, more supportive, more able to adjust to things.

We know now how important people who have our backs are and how important it is to have others backs.

We know now that we have to think about others perhaps more than ourselves.

We know now that we have to take care of this planet and our communities.

All of this is valuable.

As for what you need to do to move on from here, I think that first of all you need to make sure you are training your inner self to be resilient, calm and compassionate – this means meditation, this means learning to let go, this means training and cultivating compassion which can be a lot harder than learning how to sit and breathe.

I think you need to stay in shape physically. This means working out for sure but also getting back on the dojo mats and training. At first this might be some solo work or training that you can do at an arms-length.

Martial arts done in a kind and compassionate manner but allowing us to release frustration, allowing us to interact with others in a safe environment is going to be a salve for the wounds left by COVID.

We have to move forward. We have to follow that light at the end of the tunnel. We have to do it in a way though that is not going to harm others or cause any more misery.

Martial arts and training has always had a power to it – a power that has the ability to heal. This is going to be even more important in the months and years to come.

We have to have faith and understanding in our training partners. We have to have admiration for our teachers and schools that have weathered this terrible storm and ensured that we have dojos to train at when so many didn’t make it. We have to love our systems and styles that have given us so much and will continue to help us to evolve and grow.

Most of all though, we have to have compassion and kindness for ourselves. Don’t push ourselves too hard when what we need is to be slow and understanding.

This path of training is long and difficult but if we stick to it amazing things can happen. There is nothing to fear when we keep our light of compassion shining and our mind open and able to see what is right and what isn’t working.

We can push through this – we’ve made it this far together and we can and will be standing together in the new world that will replace that old one we have already lost. Let’s let it go and find something better together.

LISTEN TO THIS FULL EPISODE AT WARRIOR’S WAY PODCAST.

The secret to happiness? Thinking about death!

by James Eke

from Warrior’s Way Podcast episode #111

I’ll let you in on a little information. In the midst of all of this COVID that is swirling around us I spent a week in all I can describe as an existential experience. Not an existential crisis but more similar to some sudden cracking through a barrier of the mind and ego.

I think that what brought it about was partially that with the COVID pandemic, the ever looming spectre of death has been floating around like those Dementors in Harry Potter. The other is that in my own meditation practice things have been changing in a way that is probably the most productive change in the decades of daily sitting.

It started in the morning with a seed of thought and then grew. If I remember correctly, I was standing looking out the glass door at the wind blowing the cherry blossom covered trees in the backyard while playing my violin and suddenly I had this overwhelming realization that all of this, everything would some day be gone, me included. It wasn’t thoughts of this but more of a light switch going on and suddenly a new light was shining on things and seeing everything differently. I realized down to my bones that all these people who are now gone had lived in this home, before that it was a settlers farm, before that forest and into the future that other people I don’t know will stand where I am. That everything outside of that door from the hummingbirds to the trees and myself were all going to go.

Like I said it lasted about a week. And when I say it lasted a week I mean it literally lasted a week, every moment of those days. Everything I saw this light shone on it and, yup, that person too, that dog, that bird, that flower.

At first I have to say I was a little overwhelmed by it. But I have had some pretty good teachers in my life and I took the advice that my Zen master had given my over 25 years ago to let go of every experience and not cling to it. See it, acknowledge it and let it go.

This one though was a biggie as you can imagine.

I googled Existential Crisis and everything else I could to see what anyone had to say about this. And yeah, it all came back to Buddhist teachers mostly with similar messages as the folks in the story of the trip to Bhutan.

Now, I don’t think you need to go off the deep end on some existential transcendental Zen death trip. Honestly, without some serious time spent in training I don’t know if something like what I went through would be benefitial to most people you might end up going to the doctor to be put on something. For me though, the other end of that was a much truer understanding of impermanence.

Now, the reality is that I seem to feel like the green leaves are more green. The sun on my skin when I sit on the front step to have my daily afternoon tea feels more alive. When I take a deep breath I feel the good healthy breath filling me with vitality. Life feels like more.

Does that mean I have somehow transcended or anything for that matter? No. I’m still the same bumbling fool I’ve always been. What I think though is that I caught a glimpse of something that is the truest lesson we can learn.

Too many of us run through our lives just blind.

We accumulate.

We grasp.

We delude ourselves.

What my week of … whatever you want to call it…taught me was that all things will change and always have. All things are impermanent. All things are not quite what we see them and wish them to be.

All of us are in it together.

What this means is that right here, right now – man, that is a gift that most of us don’t even fathom. Think for a second of the infinite universe. The small odds that you somehow were lucky enough to be born on this tiny little planet, that even that was somehow made possible. That everything and everyone around you is equally infinitely improbable. Yet we are here.

What does that mean?

To me it means that we need to celebrate this very moment by paying back gratitude. By cultivating compassion and loving kindness. That our time here isn’t about accumulating things that we really can never really possess but that our time here can be used to do good – for the greater good.

In the end, I think that is what this podcast is about.

Training is about turning on the lights and really seeing.

Understanding life and death and then life again. That is the greatest of lessons.

So, you are listening to this. You are alive – right now. That is what you have. What are you going to do with it? And if you have more ‘now’ what will you do with all of that you have left?

Figure it out.

It is the most important thing you can do.

Listen to this full episode at Warrior’s Way Podcast.