Sunday, January 23, 2011

Be like water...

变化. Bian(4) hua(4). Change.

As I've looked around at many things; my city, my home, my life, even specific stores and places, it has become very clear that nothing is permanent. Life is but a series of events, some related and some not...

When many start training, myself included, we have a goal in mind, a destination: A black belt. A competition. To drop a certain number of pounds. To gain confidence or regain lost confidence.

As we train, some reach their goal and call it good. Others find new goals to pursue and other still find that their training, like everything else, is in a constant flux. These ones realize that perhaps it isn't about a goal or destination...but that maybe it is about the journey.

Today I had to pick up some things, so I went to a particular couple stores I hadn't gone to since my ex still lived with me, and one had completely changed its layout while the other had not.
During my busride to the stores, memories flooded; as I passed by the Japanese Cultural Center at Mukogawa I could almost hear the faint sound of the taiko playing Ogi Matsuri in the warm summer with the main door open. As I passed by my old community college, I almost expected my old crew to be out there somewhere waiting for me to show up...all my groups of friends that I've had, many of whom I've lost contact with.

The people in the taiko group I practiced with have all moved out of the area and the SFCC campus has completely changed since I was a student with new construction and destroying of old buildings.

Over the past year, I've dealt with a lot; douchebags and relationships with them, news of my grandpa's health and impending death, a textbook case of existential crisis and a lot more. I've also been confronted very often with demons from my own past, and I think that I finally have dealt with them in a positive way.

One thing many will never understand is that as a martial artist, one eventually turns inward and what we learn is applied to one's self. It is the source of that mystical inner peace that the masters seem to have...and a skill I am still learning myself.

I've learned one thing over the past year, and that is that nothing will ever be guaranteed. Friends grow apart, relationships fizzle out and goals change as we grow. The only constant in life is change. We cannot fight it, as much as we may want to (and believe me, I know from firsthand experience on this one), because it will happen. There is no way around it and never has been. The ancient Chinese were on to something when they developed the I Ching. The Buddha was on to something when he discovered impermanence...sages throughout the ages spent the majority of their lives just discovering that much.

Rather than fight or resisting change, we must adapt and change ourselves (i.e. personal growth). As life goes on, most of us get better at it and realize that by changing, we grow into a new and often more complete person.
It isn't always easy, though...we sometimes cling to the past, to "better" days, because we want to experience the joy and feelings that we once had. But we can't.

A band I once saw live before they broke up has a song about this. It didn't make much sense when I was 20 and saw them, but it does now.

In sparring, a student eventually learns many things:
-Never anticipate and have only one counter ready; if you anticipated wrong, you'll likely get struck.
-each event occurs only once. The Japanese have a saying: 一期一会, one life, one meeting. You may spar an opponent many times or see a technique done by many people, and each time is unique and will never be repeated. Your styles, techniques and art will all grow and develop. No two matches will ever be the same.
-The only way to be successful is to be like water. Flow, adapt, move...

Perhaps through my musings today, I've realized something that I learned over the years...that I've finally learned to be like water in some ways. I've finally learned how to live and enjoy moments for nobody knows when my last one will be. Maybe, I've finally learned to let go of the past and accept it for what it has made me. Maybe, just maybe, I've finally learned how to make some peace with myself.

Be like water...and it will all be okay.

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