You all know I love to speak in metaphors. Well, another one came to me on Sunday morning when I went into the kitchen to make toast, and it has to do with peanut butter!
I put a blob of the good stuff on my toast and started spreading it with a knife to the edges of the bread when it came to me, this is how we ought to be incorporating things we learn. I was covering every inch of that bread with that creamy, sticky butter.
How do we do that in our lives? When we go to school, be it a martial arts school or anything else, we learn lessons, but how much do we absorb them? Do we leave them like a blob on our bread, or do we try to spread them out? The bread is our lives and the peanut butter is the knowledge. Are we spreading that knowledge across every area of our life?
Just consider the kinds of breathing and movement this system teaches you. You can incorporate this anywhere, even standing on a street corner. For me I use it running, cycling, in rehab recovering from injury, even to help me get to sleep. This is a simple example.
There are those who call themselves spiritual, go to church every Sunday but during the week they are just angry. They’re not really absorbing and integrating the teachings. They are not living or practicing those teachings. I believe that for spiritual teachings to catch on, they have to be integrated through different aspects of our lives, otherwise they don’t hold much water. If they are confined to a church, what’s the point?
That’s one of the reasons I am so passionate about this system of martial arts, because it emphasizes integrated learning. Many other martial arts promote this as well. The importance of learning holistically is something I push all the time, because it will make you more alert, more vigilant and more grounded. It will make you a better fighter. The spirit of the martial arts system I believe in is all about living the teachings; about figuring out how they apply outside of the gym.
Unfortunately, many don’t think of martial arts as a spiritual practice, they just see the fighting and assume it is violent. But that’s in part because violence in our sports has become so much more normalized. And in the arena, many see that as entertaining. Remember Russell Crowe in the Gladiator? “Are you not entertained?” he bellowed?
Go back a century. The warrior was quite a different animal. He was not an angry person. He had purpose in his life, and a farm, family and country to protect. It encompassed their entire life. It was less about entertainment and more about living. These days, sports is all entertainment. It seems to have come full circle.
So we need to separate ourselves from that because to entertain you don’t necessarily have to be alert. You don’t have to be vigilant. You don’t even have to be in your body. And that puts you at risk.
Taking your training and spreading it requires contemplation. It helps to ask yourself some deep questions as you reflect on a lesson. My favorite thing about questions is not answering them. I ponder a question without rushing to a quick intellectual answer. I want the response to come from a deeper place, if it comes at all. The point is to reflect on a question, or a lesson, as it opens up something inside of you.
So think about what you’ve learned every week. Every week you come out with a blob of peanut butter on your bread. You want to spread that knowledge in a way it touches your whole life; spread it in a way that becomes yours; you own it. Because in owning it you are empowered.