Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, 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 ~

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Stoked to Practice

Sometimes our daily practice becomes drudgery. It's sometimes difficult to be enthusiastic about our practice every day, and yet it is essential that we do. 

Below is an excerpt that appeared at Zen Habits, while not specifically speaking of martial arts practice, talks precisely about what it is we need to do to maintain our enthusiasm. The full post may be read here.



Cultivating Stokedness

By Leo Babauta

How many days do you wake up excited for life, stoked to be alive and take on the day’s challenges?

If your answer is “often,” then congratulations! That’s an amazing way to live life — but you’re in the minority.

Most people are unenthusiastic about their lives, not looking forward to what the day has in store. That’s not a bad thing — if that’s how you’re feeling, it’s just how you’re feeling. There isn’t a “right” way to be.

That said, if you’d like to be more stoked about life, then there are ways to cultivate that. We’ll explore some of those ways in this post.

Living a Life of Stokedness

What would it be like if you felt more excited by life each day? Or by what you were taking on at work, in your relationships, in your workouts?

Life is incredible, and we are immensely privileged to be alive in this miraculous world. We don’t always appreciate it — and that’s OK, to not always be grateful or excited — but there is the possibility of feeling more awe and wonder in our days.

Let’s say you wake up and you have a bunch of work to do (in addition to other things going on in your life). You could feel a sense of burden, overwhelm, and anxiety about all of it … or you could feel really excited by the meaningful things you’re taking on. It’s not that one approach is right and the other is wrong, but they are entirely different approaches and experiences. We have a choice.

What if you took on each thing with a sense of wonder, and an open heart? What if each act of your day were an expression of your love?

What Gets in the Way

All of that sounds good, but there are things that get in the way of living life this way:

  • A default of not being enthusiastic about life. This comes from years of having our enthusiasm dampened, from feeling disappointment over and over, from learning to be jaded.
  • A sense of pointlessness that comes when we feel like we’ve failed at things over and over, or that people have let us down over and over.
  • Built-up pain from things that have hurt us, to the point where little things can agitate the wounds in our hearts, easily causing frustration, anger, explosions of outrage.
  • Built-up fear from things that have gone wrong, leading to a general sense of anxiety and overwhelm, and worrying about everything.
  • Built-up resentment and anger from injustices and offenses, large and small.
  • Built-up self-judgment from all the things we think we’re doing wrong, failing at, etc.
  • Built-up sadness from many losses, both large and small, so that the world and people around us can easily trigger sadness.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but I hope you can get a sense of what gets in the way of our enthusiasm and stokedness about life. Our hearts are closed more than open.

There is nothing wrong with any of this — it’s a natural consequence of life! We build up conditioning from lots of things that happen to us, from grief and loss to hurt and anger and fear. It builds up, and we lose the open-heartedness with the world.

Releasing the Blockers

If all of the above represents blockers in our hearts, then wouldn’t it be freeing to be able to release these blockers?

The process to release the built-up blockers is simple but not necessarily easy:

  • When the world triggers a conditioned blocker (anger, resentment, fear, sadness, hurt, overwhelm, anxiety, jealousy, grief, etc.) … notice that it’s there, and decide to release it.
  • Sit still for a few minutes, and let yourself feel whatever you feel. Relax, and allow the feeling as fully as you can. Surrender to it, allow it to just be an experience of energy in the moment.
  • Know that you’ll be OK. It’s just energy, and if you relax instead of resisting the energy, it will just pass through you. That said … only do it if the intensity is a 7 out of 10 or lower. You don’t need to work with a 10/10 intensity, unless you have a therapist working with you.
  • After it passes, give yourself some gratitude and love. You have released some of your blockage.

It might take a number of these kinds of releasing sessions to actually release a blocker, but the more you’re able to surrender and feel it, letting it pass through you, the less it will remain in you. You’ll be freed.

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