During the busy nights of drinking last week an interesting conversation happened that I want to share with you...my co-worker, Jae, is a devout Christian. He was raised Christian, and later began to practice voluntarily (not just out of habit). Because he is a practical, smart, single young man in a business of high stress and pressure (PT sales), he is a great mirror through which I try to understand how devout Christians apply their religion to their complex daily lives.
Over many sessions, he and I have discussed the difference between his religion (Christianity) and mine (martial arts). We did so again last Thursday. He related a story to me of his business trip to the US in September, and of nearly having a plane crash on a flight from Chicago to San Francisco. All around him, people were screaming, franctically trying to make cell phone calls, and basically in a chaotic panic. Eeven seasoned flight attendants broke down hysterially. As far as they could tell, it was their last few moments of life. What would YOU do?? Jae told me that he closed his eyes and realized he was helpless, realized he loved Jesus Christ, and that he would go to heaven. He was no longer afraid. he asked me if martial arts would give me the same comfort and piece of mind. He called it a "near death" experience. I call it a "near-life" experience. These are the times that help us break through to the other side of our conciousness and really truly begin to understand ourselves and our lives.
I have not been near death in a long time (last time I was 21 years old). At that time, it would have been hard to say I felt anything but anger. Not fear, anger. That was a long time ago, and now I am married with a family of my own. What would I feel this time?
I contend that our study of The Way is designed to give us courage in the face of hardship, including death. Many take the words of books like Hagakure "The Way of the samurai lies in Death" to mean that one must not embrace life and long for death in every waking moment. Wrong. In fact, study of death through martials arts should yield an appreciation of our own frailty and mortality; and at the same time, our ability to overcome these limitations and be so much more. We must discover the joy of every day, knowing that each morning could be our last. This means leaving nothing unsaid, living each moment as fully as we can, so that even until the last breath, we have been fulfilled and are thus satisfied and ready to let go.
This makes me especially sad when I see people like Seagal-sensei, who has trained for so many years and still knows only anger. Or my wife's yoga teacher, who has trained his whole life and does not know peace. If so, did they both waste their time?
I hope that my last lesson to my boys will be the lesson of how to let go with courage and dignity. Until then, they and the others close to me will know that I love them, because I will tell them and show them often. I will live my life 100% without regret.
On the mats as well, I will give 100% so that I get 100%.
And if today is my last day, so be it.
If it is not, see you on the mats tomorrow.
Have you had a "near-life experience"? What was it??