I suppose each of us has his or her own reasons for starting the long road of training in the Martial Arts. The great part is that over time, we realize benefits we did not foresee. In my case, self defense was the initial motivator, but I quickly found the spiritual side of the training to be a good guide for the rest of my life as well.
In my early teens, for some reason, I become obsessed with my own mortality, and wanted to overcome my fear of death, to be able to have "right action in the right moment without hesistation" which can only come from living without fear. Over time I learned that this is much more about not being afraid of Life than it is about not being afraid of Death. By this, I mean not being afraid to take chances and reach for your dreams; not being afraid of failing as often as it takes to reach your goals.
After several years of training, and some of my own close brushes with death, I was convinced that I had overcome such fears and was free to act. That is, I was no longer afraid of dying. The truth is, though, that at that age (20 or so), I had nothing to lose that I put a high value on. The rest of my life had yet to unfold. With nothing to lose, throwing away one's life no longer seems like such a noble gesture. Rather, it was just the angst and wasteful stupidity of youth.
Now, at nearly 40, my life has become rich beyond my wildest expectations. I have a wonderful family, many friends, and a challenging job. I have been able to take part in the happiness and success of those around me, and actually play a vital part in their lives, which is what I really wanted. Am I still unafraid to die? Could I let go if I had to??
I have to say YES, if I had to, I believe I could still give up my life (of course, one never knows until that exact moment). The very fact that I can say YES now is much more important now than it was when I believed it at 20. I have so much to lose now, and so much to let go of in such a case. The only things I will have are the belief that I have lived my life well and fully, without regret, and the desire to leave one final legacy for those I have known, which is the lesson on how to die with dignity when the time comes.
When I think of the heroes on United 93 (now a movie), I imagine what a man thinks about before he puts his life on the line. How does he decide to let go? What message does he send to those he leaves behind? Can he really have dignity in those last final moments? Those brave people defined the word HERO for me, and many of them had to let go of an awful lot to be free to have right action in the right moment without hesitation.
That brings me to the point of this post. All of us will end up wishing we have more time. We don't. That moment will come when it comes, and training in the Martial Arts is not about making us want to throw our lives away at the earliest opportunity. Rather, it is about experiencing a richness of life so great that we use our lives to the best possible result, and be willing to accept that finality when the time comes (and it will for us all) and face it with dignity and without regret.
I have seen lots of people engage in self-destructive behaviors of a wide variety (and have been guilty of many myself). Now that my life is good, I would like those extra minutes/days/weeks I wasted back. I can't have them. They are gone. I have only now, and the unknown future ahead of me, to do the best I can until the inevitable happens.
My advice here is simple: when you smoke that cigarette, slam that shot, or use drugs (and the list of self-destructive behaviors is longer than I can list here) just remember...YOU WILL WANT THAT TIME BACK SOMEDAY...unfortunately, you can't have it again. It's gone.
Make today count. Please.