How To Find True Freedom

…And How Not To Be Like A Dog Chasing Hornets, Getting Stung And Then Chasing More Hornets

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

by James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast episode #118


We are creatures of choice. Perhaps that is one of our defining features. Humans make choices. Of course just as in the biblical story of Adam and Eve and the apple, sometimes we make good ones and sometimes the choices we make are less so – all choices have consequences though.

This seems like common-sense but how many of you have made a decision to do something, or not do something, and then afterwards you felt like kicking your own butt around the block a few times – or more than a few times.

We all make choices — every moment actually. Some choices you are going to decide are good. Some you will decide were stupid. Some you’ll not even think about.

Regardless of the fact that I have been training for decades, I can honestly say that it has taken me all this time – now in my 50s – to truly see how the decisions we make or fail to, each and every single thing we do actually, has consequences.

In Buddhism we call this Karma. What it is though is cause and effect. Every breath you take causes an effect, every action you make causes an effect. Think about that for a second or two – everything you do as a living and breathing thing sends out ripples that change everything.

It isn’t just the so called bad choices — everything we do sends out ripples. Everything changes everything. Forever.

I am first to admit I have made a lot of ridiculous choices in this life. And I’m not naïve – so have you, so has everyone, so has my dog for that matter. My dog loves chasing hornets, she will leap and bite at them in the backyard for hours if I let her and yes, those same hornets will sometimes sting her and in pure dog form, a few seconds later she will be right back at it, snapping and jumping and running.

How often are you and I like that? Virtually mindlessly doing things that make no sense to anyone watching?

Maybe you engage in gossip without thinking about it.

Maybe you drink too much.

Maybe you do any other shopping list of things that someday you are going to look back on and be like, ‘hmm, interesting, why on Earth didn’t I know better?’

I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much about any of it.

For one, what is in the past is in the past. Learn from it and move on. The second is that we are all just simple and flawed human beings doing are best to get by. Sometimes we are like my dog chasing hornets not realizing what is going to happen next – the thing is though, we need to train ourselves to be better, and most importantly, to learn from our mistakes.

This goes for everything we do.

I’ve been involved in the martial arts for about 40 years and in that time I’ve met so many people who want to believe their own hype and act like training in the martial arts makes them into some sort of big screen superhero. They walk around like they are imbued with super powers; invincible, better than anyone else. Of course this is ridiculous. Actually beyond ridiculous.

Do you think that the belt that someone has given to you makes you any different than anyone else? It is ludicrous. Does the fact that you train in whatever martial art make you unbeatable – they also thought the Titanic was unsinkable.

I’ve known people who are stellar martial artists who have been killed. I’ve known people who were certain they were a cut above everyone else brought to their knees by life. I’ve known people who you’d think were ok thanks to their training who took their own lives.

I myself have been through my own share of usually naively self-created life drama.

These days though, I have taken a different path.

I first off try to do as little harm as possible. This means a lot of different things. I am a vegetarian, I try my hardest not to speak against others or gossip, I make cultivation of compassion my central training, I try my best to think first and act second, I remind myself about a thousand times a day that right now is all I have so don’t fear the future and don’t live in the past, I remind myself as well throughout my day that everything is impermanent and try to grasp what that means. Added to this I aim myself down a road where I try very hard to not be angry, not be selfish, not be cruel, not be critical.

Of course this is all very, very, very difficult.

The difference though is that if I don’t try to steer myself down this path. To understand that this is the Way. That I will realize I’m just like baby shark-dog snapping at hornets that bite back and then bite back at them because they are biting at me.

Nobody said training is easy.

To be honest, the world is full of people who give it all half an effort. And by that, I’m not talking about just training, I’m talking about life.

When all is said and done though, I think most of us want to leave this world a better place for having been in it. We can be mindless or we can be mindful.

We can be unkind or we can be kind. We can be uncompassionate or we can be compassionate.

I know the choice I’m making.

I pass and I fail all the time. The thing is, I learn from it now like never before.

My aim in this life is to be, as I’ve said before, a light in the darkness. Sometimes that light will hopefully be blazing bright and sometimes a subtle glow but light in the darkness is far better than simply bringing more darkness.

What are you going to do?

What are you doing today?

You can sit and meditate. You can kick and punch and choke people out. This is all well and good but ask yourself, what use is any of it if you are mean, cruel, angry, judgemental, selfish and cold?

Instead, how about you make your central aspect of training to be about more than something superficial. How about you make your training about being a light in the darkness.

Imagine if everyone decided today to leave the past and all those dumb choices behind them and made the present something far greater?

What are you going to do?

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

This week we talk about author and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. Pick up her book Real Change here.

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