Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Practical Application

The master stonecutter patiently struck the stone again and again.  One hundred times. Two hundred times. Day after day.  On the thousandth strike, the stone broke in half, revealing the beauty of the quartz within.  The stonecutter smiled to himself, knowing it was not that blow that made the stone split, but the thousands that had gone before.

It's been a tough five months.  Since early November last year I have been deeply involved in a big project at work.  It started around September of last year, but by November it was clear this was consuming me, overshadowing everything else in my job and, ultimately, everything else in my life - period.  I began to work more and more; with late night calls growing from once a week to two, then three nights.  Finally I was on late night calls every single night (either internal or external).  I was here at work from 9AM to midnight every day.  On Fridays I would go to teach class (my unbreakable promise to the students and to myself), but then come back to work at 9PM and do more calls. More and more I began to miss the last train home.  I never saw my family except on the weekends, when I was still mentally and physically exhausted from work.  Frequent business trips to London and New York made jet lag another layer on top of it all.  I slept maybe 5 hours a night, usually less.  The stress would give me chest pain and make my hands shake.  There was no time to go to the gym, and my failing health/lack of sleep made me worried that a workout would only cause me to collapse on the spot.  Sometimes I had to stay in a business hotel near the office, since I was so busy I could not even take the time to commute back home.  Still, inch by agonizing inch, I have moved this project forward.  Now, the light of day is visible, maybe a month or so away.  What will I do when I get my life back??  What will it feel like when I finally shrug off these chains??

We often think of martial arts training as being learning to fight.
Still, I have continued to tell students that the battle in martial arts training is always the battle with THE SELF, as many zen sword masters have clearly explained.  It is a constant battle to overcome our weak mind, weak body, and weak habits and exercise our willpower to force the self into the moment, where we can be fully free and fully connected.  Good training gives us the strength to endure the unendurable; the discipline to stay the course when we think we cannot hold on; the conviction to press on until the objective is reached.

Many nights as I traveled home I wondered why I keep doing this.  Why I don't just give up. If it would all be worth it in the end.  I really don't know.  I DO know that I must finish what I start, whatever the cost.
I am now past any limits I thought I had to my ability to focus and concentrate - far past any capacity I thought I had to work hard.

Martial Arts is my religion, and my religion gives me the strength to carry on beyond any limitations I thought I had.  People ask me if I have ever had to use my training.  I always tell them I use martial arts EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Now maybe they will better understand what I mean.

See you on the other side.

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