When is “it” Right?

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” 

What a great quote from Pema Chodron.

My brother, Dennis, and I enjoyed boxing. He was three years older and quite a bit bigger, so he could whip me pretty easily … in the beginning. 

I checked out boxing books from the school library and began training in secret. I learned to hold my own against him, but I still looked up to my brother as a badass.

When I was about 12, he told me to “always be ready.” That seemed like a valuable bit of advice, especially from him.

At first, I consciously assumed a defensive fighting stance when startled. It didn’t take long for that to become automatic. 

Rather than freezing up or panicking, I realized it was possible to change my natural response to being startled. Since the change was for the better, I wondered what other natural responses I could improve.

Since then, I’ve studied natural responses to varied activities with enthusiasm—it’s become a life-long theme—and have realized that most of our natural responses to challenges can be improved.

My key words: When is “it” right, and when is it not right? “It,” being the natural response to any challenge.

If you have never played golf and someone handed you a golf club, every single thing you’d do with it would be wrong; and likewise for shooting a pistol.

In daily life, our natural response to an unfavorable situation is to want it to be different. Which usually makes the situation worse.

The natural response to feeling cold is to become tense, which makes you feel colder.

I was faced with a 40 minute motorcycle ride that I was totally unprepared for, clothing-wise. I knew, by the time I got home, I’d be freezing. I decided to try an experiment. 

For the 40 minutes, I’d be aware of every breath. Specifically, visualize the air coming in through the top of my head, and on the exhalation, imagine the air going down my legs and out my feet.

Each time a thought crept in—I caught it immediately—which returned my attention to breathing. About 25 minutes into the ride there was a phenomenal experience—I was no longer cold at all. I was actually warm and comfortable. When I arrived, I was so shocked at how warm I felt and how much fun I was having, I kept riding around on the dirt roads for another half an hour, and I couldn’t have been any happier. (Street-legal XR-600.)

I used to wonder why a Rinzai Zen meditation period is 25 minutes. That is no longer a mystery.

Give your full attention to something for 25 minutes, and it might change everything about how you live.

I’ll post a new topic each Friday afternoon, in one of two categories. One will be on shooting, and the other will be on living. Or: how I learned to live from what I learned by competing.
Thanks for coming in.