Adrian Varanini at UCSD asks the following life-decision shugyo question:
I hope you don’t mind, but I have a question for you about something that’s been bugging me for some time, and I thought maybe others might have a similar question. I know I strive to live my life as a martial artist. We gain strategies and helpful insights from our kata, from the Sensei and from our training in general. I find that I am able to take many of the things I have learned and apply them to everyday life.
There is one aspect of my life where I find it extremely difficult, and that would be in the workplace. Over the past four months, I have experienced more negative energy than I have in most of my life. I find myself getting caught up in it to the point where it affects most of the things I do. I find myself more irritable and frustrated (which in turn is frustrating in itself). It even gets to the point where I feel truly exhausted. In the past few months, I have listened to negative comments, experienced political movements to try to discredit what other people are trying to accomplish, and other such negative energies. I understand that this is part of everyday life, and will be a part of many future endeavors that I may be involved in.
chuckle I am not even sure what my question is… I guess I am wondering what we can do as martial artists to bring more positive energy to such negative events? Do you have any thoughts or helpful strategies?
I have many useful thoughts, but they only go as far as thinking. Placing into practice the use of these thoughts is where the training gets rough. That is why we call it shugyo or severe training.
To start out we want to identify what is going on with our adversary. Our negative compatriots are suffering. They are suffering and so they lash out at the world trying to find fault and trying to gain comfort. Their lifestyles are generally insufficient for their desires. They want more than what they have but yet have so much that they can’t afford to have it. This leads to a set of compromises; time vs money, prestige vs being oneself. In such situations they find themselves entwined between what they-want-to-do and what they-must-do.
Some people simply go for what they want-to-do. Others grind and grind on in doing what they feel they-must-do. Still others find a balance which allows them comfort and progress.
Let’s take the must-doer first. The must doer drives himself to gain the wealth, fame and power that he wants. He drives himself and everybody around him. He may be incessantly driven, uncaring about anything in life short of his goals. As he struggles through this quagmire of difficulties he finds a native indigenous helper; epinephrine. Epinephrine is the fight-or-flight hormone (one of them) that prepares the human for desperate combat. He learns he can initiate its release from the cells of the brain and the adrenal cortex by thought patterns. But the thoughts are not good thoughts. They are ones that border on threatening or frightening. He learns to seek these types of thoughts because they give him the boost of adrenalin (epinephrine) rush helps him feel invincible,, in control, the ruler, the almighty, the omniscient. This gives him another burst of energy to continue for another burst of energy, and another, and another, towards our goals.
The difficulty is that the half-life of epinephrine in the body is not long. Enzymes deactivate it in less than a minute in the blood stream. It remains around then as a set of breakdown products which are absorbed by other cells in the body before the breakdown products are released to the urine. These breakdown products create more lethargy and generally make us feel terrible. So for a minute of fight-or-flight we pay with 30-60 minutes of lethargy, drudgery or jitteriness. But there is hope…
That hope comes from more negative and threatening thoughts. Our negat, as I like to call a person addicted to negative thinking, can get hooked onto one more threatening, frightening, negative thought he can get another period of relief. So there he aims and goes…off into the never ending black hole of self-created negativism. All for just another “drink of (epinephrine) whiskey.” It is an addiction. It is an addiction just like alcohol. It is an addiction where the person continually bolsters a self-destructive “negative” environment around him so that he can drive himself to oblivion (and usually everyone around him).
What can you do for your friend? Nothing.
Unless your friend has hit bottom low enough to want to change he will continue in his pattern of self-destruction indefinitely. He won’t want to change his drive for money, power, fame, lust, gluttony or prestige. He won’t want to change the patterning of his years to think about all the negative he has created, learned about, collected, codified, hated for all his years. He won’t want to forgive and accept and tolerate others and their behaviors. He is built for fighting. He feels it in his bones. And when he doesn’t feel well, then it’s just plain time for him to get out and locate something really negative in his view so he can get his morning (9:00–9:22–9:29–9:48–10:10AM) fix of epinephrine.
By the time the day rolls to an end this man is so conglomerated with epinephrine and its degradation products in the body that he is hardly civil. He goes home with the overwhelming antagonism of a day spent in negativity. The wife doesn’t understand (how could she?) The children don’t understand either (they were never supposed to). He may resort to drinking alcohol, taking drugs, more destructive negative thinking as he watches the news, talks with neighbors, calls friends.
And soon, he will have no friends and could have no family, and could be found in a hospital in the psychiatric ward or worse the Coronary Care Ward.
What can you do for your friend? Nothing. He must do it himself. He must come to the point that he sees his choices in life as destructive to HIMSELF. But that is a thought which transcends his wildest expectations. He isn’t wrong…they are. It isn’t his fault the experiment failed, it’s the Universities fault, or the lab technicians fault, or the crummy weather’s fault.
What can you do for yourself? Now that is the big question.