Friday, August 21, 2015

At The Precipice, We Change

I know that the critics didn't have high praise for the 2008 remake of "The Day The Earth Stood Still", but after I watched it again it dawned on me that it does have a message. No, not about the cliché of how love is the pinnacle of human emotion, though it played a central role to the movie, but more about evolution of not just the emotional or spiritual part of the human being, but also of the body and mind.

Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) mentioned that the only reason that his species evolved was that because they were forced to or face ultimate destruction as their star was dying. They were at one point of time, the same as humans. "At the precipice, we evolve," was the statement that Klaatu made. Precipice is like an overhanging rock at a very high cliff, meaning that we are in the brink of a disastrous event.

This actually correlates with our daily lives. If we are always looking for an easy way out or afraid of hardship, our body and mind does not grow. Even worse, it could start to deteriorate. Like being too long in zero gravity, our muscles will atrophy and bones will lose calcium no matter how much supplements we take because the body is not registering that it needs them.

On the other end of the spectrum, if we do to much, the body will break down. This is when you go over the precipice, basically falling off a cliff, you die. What about in the middle? Well, it's business as usual and then there is no growth. Which is fine, if that is the choice.

This is true in physical fitness, studying, spirtual practices, and so on. One will need to push oneself to the precipice in order to see oneself evolve in whatever discipline one is taking. If we do avoid hardship, then we may not know what lies beyond the next level.

I find that meditation is a difficult , painful, and not relaxing at all. This is not the Mickey Mouse feelgood meditation where you sit down like 5 minutes with soothing music and then you pat yourself on the back because you feel you have some spiritual enlightenment. I'm talking about the one where you sit or stand still for hours in silence, being aware and keeping good posture at all times. I've never made it to even one hour, let alone hours. It is painful and it is not relaxing at all. My heart rate actually goes up in order to withstand the pain. My mind is racing. But, it is only pain, I'm not dying yet. Even when I'm dying, moaning and froaning won't change the fact that I'm dying. Yes, it hurts, but I can get past it. I have yet to be able to fully do this, but it's starting to make sense. The pain will always be there, it's a fact of life, but it will be mynkwn decision whether or not I'll get past it. "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is a choice," so the saying goes. Quite a high ideal, not so easy being implemented.

This also correlates with a book I've read, "When Buddhists Attack" by Jeffrey K. Mann. The book discusses the correlation between Zen Buddhism and Japanese warriorship. Mann mentioned about meditation and that it's very practice support the warrior mindset. One of the reason is what I have mentioned above, it actually toughens the mind.

I have yet to speak about any physiological advancements, but as with anything within this universe, the mind and body will adapt to whatever it is subjected to and it will start to change. Too little, no change. Too much, the mind body will be destroyed. It applying the correct amount of continuous pressure that we'll be able to see progress.

A Japanese restaurant owner once told me during the 98 financial crisis that I am lucky because I will face hardship. I didn't understand it then, but I understand it now, almost 2 decades later, though I have yet to face what fits my definition of hardship.

Studying martial arts is the same thing. There is no such thing as using "no power" as many of the new age commercial arts are selling. There is nothing in this universe that doesn't use any power. The concept of "no power" is misleading and could end up being very fatal. What you see as "no power" is actually the result of the mind and body development. The mind and body changes so the person is able to do such feat. Even Ueshiba Morihei Osensei stated that he is able to do what he did because he practiced "hard style". Osensei actually had tempered himself to the point of being able to do what people thought as "no power", on the contrary, Osensei was very powerful, but in what way? That's another discussion altogether.

Where does that leave us with martial practice? There is also another word for practice and that is tanren 鍛錬, which also means tempering or forging. When tempering steel, you heat it up, shape it, using the correct amount of heat and carbon, timing it correctly, hitting it the correct way. It's a good analogy of developing minda and body. This correct tempering actually brings us to the precipice where we will change, or even evolve.