I’m finally creating my full Morning Ritual program. Part of what I need to do is unpack it so that I can really understand why so many of my teachers insisted on a Daily Ritual of physical motion, emotion, and mental focus across a balanced set of goals. The Morning Ritual is magic, a body-mind sigil of transformative power. It doesn’t care if you believe it works, only that you do it. If you do, you will change.
This morning’s thoughts deal with a tiny piece of that puzzle that transformed me.
I’ve talked about the fact that it took me seventeen years to earn my first black belt, due to bullying in my childhood. And that it was a simple visualization exercise performed for a couple of months (visualize a glass tube filled with water. Glitter is suspended in the water, swirling. Watch until it all settles) that set me free.
And what I saw was that fear wasn’t the problem, it was (as Terry Letteau had said) lack of clarity. I thought that the fear MEANT something. That I was small, or weak, or cowardly. That I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, or mustn’t. I had experienced not just fear, but guilt, and shame, and confusion, and other secondary emotions, each of which drained away the energy I needed.
If I’d had the resources THEN that I have NOW? Simple.
- I would have realized that what I was experiencing was an emotional storm designed by my ego to protect itself.
- I would have used “the Spider Technique” in my heavy-bag workouts. Basically, spend ten minutes imagining the toughest guys at my school cleaning my clock, beating the hell out of me. And then…work on the bag, working myself into a lather for 15 minutes until I entered second wind.
Just do these two things, and I’m using my fear to power my practice, raising my game. That is what fear is SUPPOSED to do–“Fight or Flight”, remember? Aid in your survival by making you more prepared for combat, or fleet in escape.
Depression, from this perspective, is fear with no one to fight and no where to run.
I was in an emotional knot for SEVENTEEN YEARS because none of the therapists, gurus, biofeedback specialists, coaches, or instructors understood the body-mind as deeply as I needed. There were answers…I just hadn’t found them. And once I did, it was obvious I’d been pushing a door marked “pull.” There really are answers. You just need to believe that, and keep asking until you find someone who can help you.
But there is another question: WHY COULDN’T I QUIT? Why? If I believe that we seek pleasure over pain (and I do, totally) then wouldn’t the sensible thing to have done is just stop spending time, energy, sweat blood and money to practice odd Asian arts of…well, of hurting people? WHY DID I KEEP AT IT?
I remember CLEARLY driving down La Brea avenue in Los Angeles, tears streaming down my cheeks, totally miserable, and praying “God, will you either take away my urge to practice these arts, or just let me do it??? Please??”
I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t go forward. WHY COULDN’T I STOP?
I know now. I didn’t then. Man, I wish I could send a note back to myself when I was about twenty-five. This is what I would say:
Steve, this is your future self. I know you feel emotionally trapped. Let be explain what is happening to you. When you were a kid, your Dad wasn’t in the home, and you had no brothers or uncles to explain male hierarchical behavior to you. Those bullies? They don’t hate you. They’re just looking for where they sit on the hierarchy of power, which will influence the money they earn and the women they can attract. THEY ARE AFRAID they will be low. May have been told that at home, or by society. So they will step on you if they can, just to raise themselves up. If you’d kicked their ass back behind the gym? Most of them would actually relax, knowing where they are, and make their peace with it. A very few would keep coming at you. An even smaller percentage would try to snake you when your back was turned…but that can be dealt with, too.
What is important for you to know is that it wasn’t your fault. You took it the wrong way. In some ways, the negative attention was a complement. They KNEW there was something special about you, and had to try to take you down. What they sensed, but could not understand, is that you won’t be stopped. Won’t quit. Ever. They hungered for that, and I promise you that if you encounter ANY of those guys twenty years after high school, not one of them will have kept the dreams they had in school.
You, on the other hand, will. That’s who you are.
Why? Because at some point in your life, you made a decision: “I want an authentic life. Not an easy one.”
Understand that? Your entire experience of existence is built around answering two questions: “who am I?” and “what is true?”
And you understood long ago that the kinds of men you respect, and the kinds of women you desire, will not be attracted to you if you cannot be authentic. And you have identified an area where you lack authenticity. You are an intellectual head case with scrambled emotions that prevent you from having a direct, simple connection to your animal survival drives. SOMETHING HAPPENED TO YOU along the way: you had pain, fear, shame and a warped, twisted view of yourself hammered into your nervous system. You found out that if you put your head up, you became a target. You are very very smart, but afraid to really shine: your Mom, bless her heart, helped to imprint that self-doubt on you as an attempt to protect you from a racist world. DON’T BE TOO EXCELLENT. “THEY” WILL KILL YOU. When people mock the ‘don’t achieve’ meme in some inner cities, they never ever ask why that belief exists. How it protects from pain.
How is it protective? Because there really are people that would threaten your life if they could. Some are white, afraid of your mind. Some are black, who have internalized racist standards, are afraid to even try to achieve, and are intimidated by anyone who shakes off those chains.
But here is the truth: you MUST be the best you can be. You must grow up, wake up. Because otherwise the forces of evil win.
And you cannot allow that. You could write and be a great writer. You could marry and be a decent husband and loving father. But if you never make your body alive, never reclaim that part of your psyche that is pure primal male animal…first of all you will NEVER attract and hold a primal female animal (and you know damned well that’s what you want) because you will never know who you are.
You will never have access to all your emotional and physical energy: you will have access to PART of it, but skitter back from the full “white light” of human experience, the balance of human and animal, male and female that actually drives excellence, creativity, sexuality…everything.
You were programmed by your society to be a partial human being. But the other thing your Mom gave you was a connection to Spirit. You sense that you were born to be more…we ALL were. That anything less than the best we can be is a denial of life. You crave an answer. When you see masterful martial artists, you know you hunger for that kind of confidence and power. For the way others, male and female, respond to such men. And if you don’t discover how close to it you can come, you will have cheated yourself.
When faced by a choice of ‘should I try?” “Should I have goals that large?” Ask yourself one simple question:
“How long am I going to be dead?”
And…armed with the answer to that question, dare to pursue your dreams. ANY dream that anyone else has ever accomplished with roughly your resources and origin point is possible. You cannot live a life small enough that death will not notice you.
You wonder if the struggle can possibly be worth it. The answer is: yes. There is NOTHING more important than knowing who you are. Completing yourself as much as possible in the one life you have to live.
There’s this thing called the Spider Exercise I want you to try…
And know that when you are on the other side of this problem, you will understand yourself, and human beings, in a way few do. Because most people turn back from the challenge of shedding their skin and being reborn. They identify with their histories, or their emotional storms, rather than their true Self.
Do this thing, and what you learn along the way will be able to help people in a way, with a clarity and power you cannot dream of. YOU WILL KNOW things that theorists can’t dream of. Because because of your past, martial arts are a cauldron for you, a forge that tests your heart in ways that no one who can practice it easily and simply could ever do. You may not be the “fighter” they will be…but you will learn to fight for the things that are most important to you: honor, dignity, truth, love…and be as lethal IF THOSE THINGS ARE AT STAKE as any of them can be. But most of them will never learn this, because they are blinded by the prizes along the way, the trophies, titles, and money, which are fine as long as you don’t lose your perspective on what is really important:
The Two Questions: ‘Who am I?” and “What is true?”
Who are you, Steve?
A damned fine answer: You are a human being, standing in the center of a wheel of archetypes, all the potentials of life. Healer. Artist. Lover. Teacher.
What is true? That you like all animals was born with an innate instinct to preserve personal and genetic life. And that ANYTHING scrambling that signal is an interruption of a billion years of evolution, millions of generations of creatures who could hunt, fight, or evade predators surviving to have sex and reproduce. It is your heritage, your terrible birthright, just as is the tenderness with which you hold a newborn child.
The two are linked. The children are not safe, unless someone can face the wolves.
Keep going, Steve. What you feel, what you are, is part of that authentic journey. Keep asking your questions: you will find the teachers you need. Keep loving, and hoping and striving, and at the end of life, either you will have missed your goals but had an amazing ride…or you will realize that your life has been more than a blessing to yourself and others, it has paid respect to the uncounted generations of men and women who came before you.
You stand on their shoulders, and can therefore see further.
You have no right to quit. You have an obligation to discover everything you can be and have, and do in the world if it is in alignment with your values and ethics.
Go for it, young man. The world is yours.
And that primal woman you seek? She’s looking for you. How can she find you if you do not shine?