I’m Not Scared To Re-enter Society, I’m Just Not Sure I Want To

How we can re-adjust to a ‘New normal’ In a Post-Covid world

Photo by Ryanniel Masucol on Pexels.com

by James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast episode 113

I don’t know about you, but I am reminded daily by how much the pandemic has changed me.

I don’t think for a second I am the same person I was when this all started if I really examine who I am right now, what has happened since the start of this crazy train we’ve been riding and everything I’ve done to fill the spaces within that.

Don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t been all puppies and rainbows. This thing has been hard. If you have spent the time wisely though I think it has also had huge potential.

I’m not saying by any stretch that this gong-show has been good. It has been a dystopic brutal horror that has made untold millions suffer and millions die. The rest of us have also seen our lives we thought we had completely rear-ended and changed – likely forever in one way or another.

That said, I myself have used a lot of discipline and purposefully used this long year and a half plus to deepen my meditation, to work on my fitness in new ways, to develop my martial arts and training and to create in big and small ways.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and reality that before all of this never would have dawned on me.

I’ve filled my days with a structure I don’t know that I had in the same way before this. More time working on my Zen and in a different and deeper way than ever. Focused time on fitness, spending time daily on full-body strength workouts, running or cycling and yoga five days of the week. Due to all the things I’ve had to come up with teaching online classes and social distanced in person, I’ve created so much new material that I’m actually blown away with for creative development of different aspects of martial arts and movement that has been now added to what I train and what I’ll be teaching. This includes some completely new ways of training that I’m really excited to be starting to teach now to my students.

All of this and I’ve also learned how to play the violin – and I’ve gotten pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

I’ve also found that I spent more time outside of all of this just being.

I noticed the cherry blossoms this spring like never before. I feel a kinship to the hummingbird the visits me every day outside of my home office window. I walk the dogs and feel appreciation for just being able to do exactly what I am doing in being outside, walking. My relationship feels better than ever and I look forward to all the little moments of sitting watching a movie or sitting outside having a tea like I don’t remember ever feeling before.

When it comes to the students who have stuck it out through this daunting time with me and each other I feel inspired by them. I feel immense gratitude for having people who are there for each other and me. For those who dropped along the way for whatever reason, I hope they are doing well and still getting things done.

My son Khaelys has been a key player in keeping interest up for the online training I’ve been doing and recently set up a Discord page for us to use for our online training and discussions about everything and anything and I feel like we are really on to something there with using technology not as something to use to fill space when we are bored but using it as its potential was from the start – for something that helps us, fosters growth, support and a future we have dreamt of for a long time into our present. I’m still trying to figure out how we can keep using the technology as things change and move through this because honestly, why lose something that works.

All of this is exciting.

What does the future hold? Change. That is it. Life is impermanent that means that it always has been. Everything changes and we cannot think for a second that we can hold onto anything. This isn’t something to stress about though this is something that we can use to understand how amazing this moment you are in right now is. It is something to make you realize how special everything that is in your life is. It is something to make you realize that you can do amazing things if you set yourself up to do so and to grow and to help others to grow.

I’ll tell you something. People talk about wanting to go back to how things were but honestly, there was a lot that wasn’t so golden. The way things were before wasn’t so great. Before this most of us just went through life with blinders on. We consumed. We dreamed. We didn’t live. People acted indifferent to people. People lived in a world of greed, selfishness and utter delusion.

Of course some of this won’t just go away. I’m not living in some fantasy that the world will finally become the place it could be. There will still be people who don’t care about anything other than themselves. There probably always will be.

The pandemic though forced us all – or many of us at least – to hit the brakes. To see how grateful we need to be for having a life at all. You missed Jiu-Jitsu or going to the movies or travel? Well good. That means that there were and are things in your life that you should be more grateful for and express that gratitude for. This means that we need to learn to judge less and be kind more. We need to be less petty and more compassionate. We need to see our lives for what they are – these things that somehow out of the infinite cosmos somehow beat all the odds and managed to exist.

You are here. I am here.

The question that remains is what are you going to do with that?

Sure. You can go back to living a shallow life. Spend it filled up because you think you need to be distracted. This is your life though. Who knows what comes next?

Become friends with that hummingbird. Talk to that crow. Eat a carrot and be grateful to the farmer who grew it and the worker who picked it and the driver who transported it and yeah, to the sun for shining and the earth for nurturing it all so you can be alive.

Training means that we examine our lives. Never before in a hundred years have we been sent to our rooms by life and told to think about what we have done.

We have a choice now as the door starts to slowly open to a new day.

What are you going to do from here?

What kind of life do you want?

What is important?

For me, I think I am just at the start of something bigger than I could ever have expected. I feel like my whole life has brought me to right now as I’m sitting here right now. As I’m sitting here I’m laying the foundation for what comes next.

If you are listening to this podcast you have made it too. I bet if you examine your life since COVID first hit you will see the changes that have come in your life. It is easy to see them all as negative but honestly, pick yourself up and look with new eyes. See what really happened. The profound lessons learned, the person you are now compared to that other one – if you are like me you’ll probably wish you could go back in time, especially during the hardest, bleakest days and say, ‘hey, you just wait, this is going to be ok, just be kind, just be compassionate, just be light in the darkness and support others to be that way.’

Remember the human cost of all of this. Never forget it. But be like the phoenix that is going to rise from the ashes and become something greater.

Going on from here is going to take a bit of courage, more compassion and more understanding. You don’t need to go back to the so called old way of doing things. Your old normal life is gone. I’m saying that you should let it go. There wasn’t nothing all that special about it – we can all do better.

I know I am sure going to try, otherwise this whole experience has been a waste of a very valuable lesson – a lesson that can make our whole world better.

Listen to this full episode at Warrior’s Way Podcast

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.