Tag Archives: Buddhism

To Be a Duck

I was awakened on this snow day out of the office by a call from The Home Depot.  It seems the estimate for new countertops was off by a whopping thirty-three percent – a difference so dramatic and unexpected that I became instantly alert and annoyed.

“Am I locked into this?”  I asked with irritation clear in my voice.  She said I wasn’t, and I could call the suppliers if I wanted to make changes.

As I wrote down her name and telephone extension, I realized that I was upset about something relatively minor.  Either I could get the cost reduced by changing my choices, or I could pay the balance quoted straight out of my tax refund, without going into debt.  It was more than I wanted to spend, more than I thought I would have to spend, but at least I have it in the bank.

There was no need for me to subject anyone to my irritation.  She was just making the phone call her job requires her to make.  I wasn’t rude or surly, but I didn’t have to be so unquestionably out of bounds for me to be aware – almost immediately – that I was overreacting, however slightly.

This is the mental and emotional effect of my fall from grace with Sifu, the part two to yesterday’s elation with the positive physical effects:

I was not mindful that my obsessive training in the guan was bothering the head of the school.  I was not aware that how I communicated being hurt by his lack of praise at my tournament success made him unwilling to care that I was hurt.  I’ve decided to pay more attention to the subtle reactions of others and to my own, how they’re communicated and how they are not.  And it’s working much too well.

I’ve been uncomfortable often in the last couple of weeks, seeing many traits that I’ve always intellectually known are a part of me, but didn’t clearly see in action: impatience, selfishness, sense of entitlement…. Did I mention impatience?

Talking about all this alone at dinner with the adult who loves me most, I confessed that I may not be all that nice a person.  She quickly dismissed that notion, as a biased person would, and told me that what she’s seen for the last dozen years is that I’m a nice person who needs to let more things roll off my back.

“You don’t need to learn how to be a nice,” she said.  “You need to learn how to be a duck.”

It’s the significantly more challenging effect of the fallout with Sifu, but I’m doing my best to embrace it.  In fact, it feels more like it’s embracing me!

Cause and Effect

Omigod, Omigod, Omigod, Omigod, Omigod!  Loving life so much, I can’t get it out of my head in all its forms: Oh. My. God.  Sometimes it’s necessary to search for the up side in a so-called bad experience; at other times, the positive effect from the negative cause is glaringly obvious.  And that’s where I am today.

I could never have imagined that having Sifu eliminate my self-training time and space, erase my teaching schedule and impose what amounts to probationary status would feel, in less than a month’s time, like one of the best occurrences of recent years – but it does.  As a result of all of the above, the following is the new state of affairs.

I’ve found a convenient, affordable place where I can practice staff forms whenever my schedule allows.  All practice rooms that are available to me have well-maintained wood floors that are significantly easier on my battered, cartilage-lacking knees than the rug-covered concrete floors of the guan’s basement.  Additionally, all rooms are kept at a temperature of at least 70 degrees.  The basement of the school is probably 55 on a warm day; and the first class of any day of the week is no warmer than 65 degrees at best on the main floor.  I spend significantly less time warming up the beleaguered joints and muscles when at the gym and can practice longer on the gentler floors.  The result: I’ve gotten better – in a week!

The breadth of space I have enables me to practice a complete form without having to shorten steps and movements for lack of space. The greater continuity has made my long staff form faster without sacrificing the precision of the moves.  It just doesn’t get any better than that for me in martial arts land.  But wait; there’s more!

I’ve also been able to improve the open hand form I came to dread because of the stress on my knees and back.  When I did the open hand (Lian Huan Tui) during Saturday’s class, having practiced it more than a dozen times over the last week with warmer joints on softer floors, it was the best it’s been in ages.  I didn’t do it well enough a month ago to compete with it in the Florida tournament, but I will be subjecting it to judgment in next weekend’s competition.

Those are just the physical improvements resulting from what was a gut-wrenching experience that put my whole family on edge.  I’ll get to the mental and emotional ones next time.  While I ponder and appreciate them a bit longer, everybody enjoy the rest of whatever day you’re in.  I know I will. 🙂

Missing Mindfulness

There are several things I’ve known for years that I periodically have to be reminded of…painfully.  They are:

  1. If it’s urgent, it’s probably not spiritual – whatever the “it” may be.
  2. If it’s urgent and therefore not spiritual, run whatever I want to say or do by a person I trust to tell me the truth before I act.
  3. If such a person isn’t available, do nothing until one is.

The weather will close the guan today, even if it doesn’t keep me out of work.  That gives me extra time to consider this and other forgotten blueprints for mindfulness, a component of my martial arts life that I’ve apparently been missing….

“Why Am I Here?”

There was a time I had to be told to go home – back when my now 17-year-old was only two.  It was my first job on a live, nightly program.  That’s an altogether different animal than creating two-minute taped video packages for news programs or even a thirty-minute stand-alone special on a subject of my superior’s choice.  Live TV can carry an adrenaline rush purely because technical glitches and/or human error can lead to the unexpected; and when it’s live, the show must go on, no matter what.  Figuring out how to make that happen seamlessly and without panic can be the greatest challenge of my job.  And I’ve been lucky enough to rise to it well.  These days, I only spend three hours a month in the control room for a live production, but at least half of my work hours in any given month are spent properly preparing for those three hours.  The other half are spent on another program to which I am wholly unattached.

In short, times have changed.  I no longer have to be told by colleagues or bosses to go home.  Instead, I find myself asking, almost daily, from the moment I walk in the door, “Why am I here?”  I read a quote this morning attributed to Buddha that I haven’t been able to shake from my brain:  “Your work is to discover your work and then, with all your heart, give yourself to it.”  Dismissing the fact that this probably didn’t come from Buddha, the sentiment rings true for me – loudly.  And I want to follow it.

My day began by reading a response from my Sifu on an email I sent him about the aptitude of the new students.  And that felt right.  It was certainly more welcome than the emails I receive on the weekend about items that can wait until Monday.  It was significantly better received than the phone calls from the assistants of so-called VIPs that have kept me on the clock until midnight, because the option of not answering simply didn’t exist without suffering repercussions on the job.

Talking about my kung fu students is exactly how my workday should begin.  Tending to my students should be my work.

But I love pizza delivery and sushi bars, baseball games and movies.  I love giving the perfect birthday gifts and making road trips through the old home state.  I love standing reliably by, cash in hand, when my children have holes in their sneakers or needs braces.  I love the security of a regular paycheck and benefits, which teaching kung fu full-time would likely never give me.

I am currently choosing security over passion.  That’s the hard cold truth of my daily dilemma.  That’s the answer when I walk into the office to “Why am I here?”  The choice is mine today and will remain mine indefinitely.

Six months until the braces are paid for.  That gets me almost to the end of baseball season – more than enough time to fill up on pizza while I can still afford it.