Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, September 23, 2016

Budo with a Small 'b'

"Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning." - Thoreau.

As a young man I trained pretty intensively for a while in Yoshinkan Aikido under Kushida Sensei. For Kushida Sensei, Aikido was a beautiful study of Budo. I like to think that I learned a little bit about Budo under his tuteledge.

Strictly speaking Budo is the study of a Japanese martial art as a vehicle to learn "the Way."

There are a lot of paths one can take to study "the Way" that aren't Japanese or martial at all. One of these is running. I call these "Budo with a small 'b'."

Over the past several years I have become a distance runner in my own modest way. I find that there is a lot in running that I found in Aikido.

Below is an excerpt from a post made by Ryan Holiday, the author of The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy. The full article may be read here.

Before we get to that article though, I'd like you to take a quick look at an article on Wikipedia about some Buddhist monks who use running as a part of their practice, and a 1000 day challenge. The article is here. Their practice includes a 1000 day challenge (my personal best has been a little over 700 days in a row).

I’ve run nearly everyday since 2005. Before that there was four years of cross country and track, and before that two years of middle school track and field. I didn’t really enjoy it as a kid, and didn’t treat it seriously for a lot of reasons, so I don’t count those years. Just the last decade or so, because my running has been voluntary.

More than that, it’s been my lifeline.

I’ve run everywhere. New Orleans, London, Manhattan, Austin, Tahoe, Riverside, Montreal, San Francisco, San Diego, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Vancouver, Miami, Vicksburg, Dallas, Oslo, Graz, Tombstone, Tucson, Seattle, Helsinki, Joshua Tree, Dublin, Toronto, Chicago, DC, Vegas, Perth, and who knows how many other places. It’s the first thing I do in most cities–pull out my shoes and a map and see the sights.

I’ve run in the snow, in the rain, in 100+ degree heat, through cities, on military bases, in shitty hotel gyms, along highways, beside beautiful lakes and rivers, through castles, across bridges, on battlefields, up mountains, with holes on the back of my heels so big that my socks were healing into my skin, at two in the morning, on no sleep, when I’m sick, with friends. I’ve got courses in cities I’ve lived in or visit a lot. I’ve traveled to those cities sometimes for almost no other reason that I crave that course.

I run because I love it. I run because I need it.

In the book What Makes Sammy Run? the main character runs everywhere–though not necessarily as exercise–because he has to get away from the baggage of his past. A friend of mine once joked that it’s not enough for triathletes to run away from their problems, they have to swim and bike from them too.

That’s not me at all. Running is how I face what I need to face. It’s when I turn everything else off and am forced to deal. It’s my time to meditate, it’s when I feel flow but not in a work or creative capacity. There are work benefits of course–some of my best ideas have come popping into my head when running (in fact, chunks of this post came on a run), but that’s not why I do it.

Running is instead the time I set aside to not work, no matter how busy or overloaded I might be. Time to step away and be able to look at things fresh, knowing that whatever baggage you bring to a given situation has no place on other people’s shoulders or in their laps. Only your own. It’s a designated place in my life where I unload and disassemble, before it piles up unmanageably high. A lot of people do things because they can’t bear to stare into the void. This is a weakness. We run, to quote Murakami’s famous What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, to “acquire a void.”

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