Long Life vs. A Good Life
For centuries, wars have plagued our world and wreaked havoc on its economies pushing them to the brink of collapse and forcing societies and cultures to transform in order to meet the needs of the struggling people. Ways of life have morphed into forms that no longer resemble living. The concept of "being" has been overshadowed by the practice of "doing". We are never not on the move. We are chasing life, running from death, rushing to the next thing, or running from the last thing. We constantly live in the past or in the future. Then, before we know it, we have ticked our last tock. Long life or not, our time has run out.
With the passing of each moment, we no longer live in the past. The point of time where we rushed out of bed to rush and make our morning coffee to rush to work to rush home, all the while rushing to retirement and running away from death as fast as humanly possible, we are always on the move. Never stopping...always going. Never being...always doing. Life is meant to be lived and this requires action. But when one moment has passed and another is yet to come, should you fight to run from or towards either of them? Should you let your history define your present? Or should you let your history guide you to your present?
We, and all of existence, are born to live in the "now"; to live in the present. When your day at work has finished and it's time to go home, that day of work no longer exists. It is time for you to go home; to the home where you live physically, to the home where you live mentally, and to the home where you live spiritually.
A long life is by no means symbolic of a good life. Ancient texts that preserve the secret methods of longevity may have been testing the limits of time to see how far they could push them. We will never know their true purpose of this quest, nor what they were afraid of, if anything, that led them to desire the need for longevity. So I can only question their potential desire by asking, what's the point? Why focus on the need to live a lengthened number of days? Why not focus on the most effective ways to live a "good life", a happy life, and a life that exists in the present and nowhere else?
Making the choice to live a "good life" is to make a choice to ignore all distractions in your life; eliminate all stressors in your life; erase all dissatisfaction from your life; and ultimately, dismiss all sense of time in your life. Choose "now", and nothing else exists. Not even time, a concept created by humans. The fact that we only get one life to live should be enough reason for us all to make the right choice: the choice to live a "good life" versus a "long life". Enjoy the moment you are in now and I guarantee you that you will forget all about your desire for a long life.
That, my friend, is a "good life". And it will win every single time.
The Pursuit of Excellence
Yesterday evening I hosted our monthly Ask The Expert live interview with Jamie Gallagher, founder of Origin Fitness Fairfax and CrossFit Burke. (Listen to the Live Interview Here) At the end of a great interview, I asked him one final question, the same question I close every interview with each month:
"What gets you out of bed every morning?"
His response? "The pursuit of excellence." Knowing Jamie for some time now, I couldn't agree more with him that this is truly what he looks for each day. But what exactly is the pursuit of excellence? What actually does excellence mean? To answer this question, first ask yourself the same question I asked Jamie during his interview: "What gets you out of bed every morning?" More specifically, what is your purpose in life you are so passionate about that drives you to get up everyday and live every moment to its fullest?
The pursuit of excellence is ALWAYS exhilarating!
Excellence is built upon the standards you set for yourself because they are the blueprint of your life. If your accomplishments in life do not match your overall blueprint, then how could you possibly achieve excellence? From this blueprint, this innate schematic leading you towards fulfillment, you are driven to use your body in a certain way. You mind is flooded with only certain kinds of thoughts. Your spiritual beliefs tie them all together with what you see as your higher purpose in life. Without these connections, we are just an empty, lifeless shell following the robotic actions of what we were taught that society "needs" from us.
By allowing yourself to not just move against the current, but step out of the water altogether, you allow a transition towards personal freedom. From this moment onward, you understand the power of choice. For in every moment lies a new choice in life; one that can create opportunities no matter what lies before you. Be it negativity, pessimism, or doubt, you know that you can step away from that current and walk in the direction of excellence every single time. Your ability to hold the light as you walk to the end of the tunnel rather that walk towards the light that someone else is holding sets you apart from every other human being. However, the light you hold is actually a light shining from within you that is now so strong it has begun to illuminate outward and requires no holding at all. It is a self-generated luminescence that comes from your heart, your soul, and your newfound ability to unlock your personal potential.
I want to warn you though. This is not something I read in an inspiring book or heard on some podcast similar to mine. This is real and this is powerful. How do I know? Because, through experience, this is my life every single day. This is also Jamie's life every single day. Now, do we both stumble? Do we both have our days full of doubts and find ourselves questioning our purpose in life? Darn right we do! But do we ever veer away from the direction we believe to be "right"? Never. No matter the obstacle that appears before us, even if it's in our minds, we look forward to the challenge. Some might even say that I love the game more than the result myself. I might agree with this. That is because the pursuit of excellence is ALWAYS exhilarating!
The power of choice determines your understanding of your own potential and your own ability to empower yourself. This is not to be confused with destiny either. Your destiny points you in a certain direction, but it is your daily choice to get up an start your day with a specific mindset; a day that stems from a desire to pursue something. And the goal of this pursuit should be nothing less than the pursuit of excellence. THIS is personal power. THIS is inspiration. THIS is a life of fulfillment. I challenge you from this moment forward to join Jamie and me together in this pursuit; a pursuit of excellence.
Right now, we live in a culture of wasting. We waste water. We waste food. We waste gas. We buy the most unnecessary products, which we end up throwing in the trash most of the time anyway. Do we really need gigantic SUVs that burn less than 20 mpg to carry all your passengers and everyone's waste with it? Does The Cheesecake Factory really need to serve portions that could quite literally feed an entire village for a week? People of the world today are all experts in wasting. And worse, this destructive skill is tearing our world apart. We even have challenges figuring out what to do with our waste.
By covering up our waste, it doesn't mean it will disappear forever, no matter what we build on top of it. Trash cans and landfills are not black holes, but yet we treat them as such. It's kind of like dealing with a problem in our personal lives. Sometimes we just cover it up and hope it will either disappear or resolve itself. Out of sight, out of mind. Right? Wrong.
All three of these resources are infinite on a macro scale, but as individuals, they are as finite as life and death.
The good news is there are three resources you have complete control of simply by making a decision and sticking to it. These resources are:
Since we are experts at wasting material resources, it comes to no surprise that we are also experts at wasting immaterial ones. Therefore, it should be our sole responsibility in life to focus on conserving these three as much as humanly possible. It is easy to waste your BREATH by arguing about something pointless. It is easy to waste your ENERGY by either using too much or by not using enough, the latter of which is more a pity than a waste. And perhaps the worst of all is wasting your TIME, because it can happen at any moment. Especially when we consciously decide to participate in actions or interactions we have no desire to join in the first place. For example, going to a job you completely and utterly hate but continue to go to anyways.
Once your resources are depleted, it will be too late.
All three of these resources are infinite on a macro scale, but as individuals, they are as finite as life and death. How you use them, and how well you can conserve them, may ultimately determine the quality and duration of your life on this planet. So, I urge you to focus on the important elements of your life; your health, your family, your passion, and anything else that provides you with the ultimate life experience. Because once your resources are depleted, it will be too late.
Isn't that enough to make you think twice about how you use your breath, energy, and time?
I certainly hope so.
Join us for a free 15-minute consultation, a personalized acupuncture appointment, a Tai Chi class, or one of our events as we teach people this month on how to avoid wasting these three life resources. We guarantee you we will stop wasting them if you do. But we can't help you if you don't! So, come on by. We're ready to eliminate all waste!
Success is Only a Label.
Every single day people get out of bed and go on with their lives and their routines. What sets some people apart from others is their point of focus. They focus on their purpose, their WHY in life. They find drivers for success and always move towards them.
Sometimes, however, people get caught up in the idea of success. They have the thought flowing through their head that success is the only option. They are constantly bombarding their brains with success this, success that, no failure this, no failure that. They shield themselves from the rest of the world by opening an umbrella of success. In most cases, this works in the long run. As long as you don't focus on the label and, instead, focus on the contents of the success jar in connection with your vision of what success looks and feels like..
It doesn't matter what label you put on the jar because it will be meaningless if you don't focus on filling it up with the necessary contents or ingredients for your success! Yes, you can have an image or vision of what your success ultimately looks like, but if you only focus on the outcome, you never get a chance to observe the environment and the landscape you are traveling on. You will never appreciate the journey and what you learn along the way because of your unbeknownst ignorance.
So, if you are working your tail off to achieve the success you envision for yourself, then label the jar and be done with it. Then focus on filling it with as many awesome things in your life as you possibly can. It doesn't matter the experience, the size, the weight, or any other method you use to measure with to see if they will fit in your jar. Because the moment it is filled is the moment it's time to get a new jar and pour the contents of the old one into it. All the while using the same label.
Labels are things that keep us confined and comfortable within a specific set of boundaries we or other people have created for ourselves. The label does not matter. NOT AT ALL! The contents of the jar are the most important and require the most attention. In order for you to be fulfilled, your jar of success must also be Full Filled.
My question to you then is...
What are you going to put in YOUR jar today?
The Secret to Martial Arts Mastery
Over the past almost 20 years, I have been part of the martial arts community training and teaching people from across the world. I have judged and competed in numerous tournaments where I returned home victoriously carrying the titles of U.S. Men's National Champion, U.S. Men's Internal Grand Champion, Black Belt Champion, as well as U.S.A. All-Taijiquan Grand Champion. I was even a competing team member on the U.S. Wushu Union National Team. I have taught martial arts and its philosophy at universities across the east coast, and several years ago I opened my own Acupuncture clinic, My Metro Medicine, offering Chinese Medical Therapy, Rehab, and Chinese Martial Arts instruction in order to help heal people and pass on an art form that has changed my life and which holds a strong position in modern medicine. Reflecting back, I am amazed at my accomplishments and proud to have honored my teacher and our martial arts ancestors.
My deepest learning, though, is one that will take a much longer period than a mere 20 years and is one which reminds me to not focus on the superficial level of my accomplishments I have just listed. Nor is it connected with the speed of my punches, the power of my kicks, or the number of black belt degrees I have been awarded over the years. This learning involves a study that reaches the depths of the individual which one could argue as being the soul of martial arts. A soul that only comes alive through the awakening of the martial artist. It is the study of "Wu De", or Martial Morality.
Martial Morality, or Martial Ethics, is a genuine lesson in altruism that commands a perfect blend of Daoist and Confucianist standards. The art of Martial Morality consists of two complimentary areas of practice; Morality of Deed and Morality of Mind. An understanding of the Morality of Deed is defined by one's ability to demonstrate the acts of Humility, Respect, Righteousness, Trust, and Loyalty while one's understanding of the Morality of Mind is defined by one's ability to embody and exhibit the Will, Endurance, Perseverance, Patience, and Courage necessary no matter the hardship. The virtue and honor found in a living illustration of this practice and way of being are truly a rare find.
Sadly, over the years and even now, I have witnessed countless disrespectful students, abusive teachers, and ignorant martial artists who have embellished in their own grandeur and who are only concerned with the reputation they have built and become attached to. Let it be known that reputation is nothing more than a tale of one person, within which exists the potential of transformation into an anecdote of distorted outcomes; a tale that could easily lack the essence of Martial Morality and be deemed as worthy and deserving of respect by the naive and untrained.
In martial arts, we have a saying, "Wu Lin Yi Jia"; translated literally as the "martial forest is one family". When you were a newborn baby, you were brought into the world and raised by a mother and/or father. In the martial arts world, your teacher is your father or mother who nurtures you, starting as a "newborn" martial artist, just as your own parent would, and your classmates are your older or younger brothers and sisters. This important and supportive group of people are considered to be your immediate Gong Fu (Kung Fu) Family. Even the teachers and students of other schools are considered to be a part of your (distant) Gong Fu Family. Everyone in your "martial forest" deserves to be treated with the same respect and honor of what could be called the tenets of Martial Morality.
Reputation is nothing more than a tale of one person, within which exists the potential of transformation into an anecdote of distorted outcomes.
So, if martial arts mastery has little to do with physical practice and more to do with mental and spiritual practice, then why perform the movements or exercises of martial arts at all? This is because by testing the limits of your body, you learn to control the limits of your mind. In turn, the limits of your spirit are revealed creating a three dimensional harmony of all that we are capable of as human beings.
In martial arts, one must perform the physical training to ensure the health and vitality of one's body. Also not to be forgotten is the practice and experimentation of breathing techniques as well as the training of one's ability to manifest and move the body's energy (Qi). Since the early developmental years of martial arts and Qigong, it was known that the first stage of training involved the regulation of the body followed by the breath, the emotional mind (Xin), the Qi, and ending with the spirit. If one does not complete each of these stages successfully, the skill of the person is considered "empty". Furthermore, if the practices of Martial Morality are not exhibited by the person even after mastering these five levels of regulation, this would also be considered "empty".
So, because of my accomplishments, am I a Master of Martial Arts?
I humbly announce that I am not.
In the end, this is not a question that any martial artist can answer on their own. It is determined by their own actions as well as their inactions. In my own respect, even though I have achieved much success in martial arts, I am always reminded by my martial arts family that I have only just peered through the surface into the uncharted depths of an art I hope to preserve. To close, I will leave you with one final martial arts teaching. "Shi Fu Ling Jin Men, Xiu Xing Zai Ge Ren". Translated into English, this means "the teacher opens the door, it is up to the student to walk through it."
So, the door to mastery has been opened. Now, will you cross the threshold?
How to Practice Gratitude
Thich Nhat Hanh has been a great inspiration for millions of people across the globe. His rich publications, inspirational quotes, and his healing presence have all been important reminders for all.
He has directed us on the path to finding ourselves:
He has taught us to love again through the shadows of hate.
And he has given us reason to say two powerful words: Thank you.
Unfortunately, these two words are routinely (and often weakly) uttered after we have decades of practice. Fortunately though, there are many opportunities that exist each day to emphatically share these two powerful words. Not with the intention to change someone's life, but rather to take a moment in their life and yours to stop, look at them eye to eye, place a hand on their shoulder, and firmly say "Thank you." By doing so, we assuredly recognize the other person for who he/she is and the value he/she has in our life.
Acknowledgement of another human being raises awareness of the undeniable connection and relationship we all have with each other. Beyond acknowledging another human being, we can express our gratitude to the earth beneath our feet and to the heavenly space above us. Both of which provide us with everything we need in every moment of our life.
A study found in the NIH library states that "An existing body of research supports an association between gratitude and an overall sense of well being...". Sharing gratitude is an important step to a healthier you, a stronger community, and any loving relationship. Never forget the power of these two words when expressed with full intention. And just as important, never forget how to accept this acknowledgment for yourself, for when you thank another person, you are in fact thanking yourself for the very same reason. I thank you for reading.
Take a moment this coming Thanksgiving Holiday to practice sharing these two powerful words with someone in your life.
With sincerest gratitude,
Natural Acts of Kindness
As we approach the end of August, it is almost time to say our goodbyes to the summer season and open our welcoming arms to the breathtaking landscape of Autumn. You may notice as you walk outdoors that it seems the leaves on the trees are nearing the end of their time as their color shifts to a dark shade of green and they hang heavily from their branches towards the ground. Or you may notice in your garden a plethora of full-hearty produce begging for you to pluck it from its exhausted branches and vines.
This is the wonder of the harvest season. The season of abundance, of nourishment, of being nurtured, and of gratitude. This is a time in nature where we honor the richness of life and say thanks to all that has been offered in support of our growth and experience of life.
In your day to day life, how many times do you actually say THANK YOU to others and to yourself? When someone holds the door for you, do you say THANK YOU? How about when the metro brings you safely to your destination? Do you say, out loud or silently, THANK YOU?
How about the other way around? When was the last time YOU held the door for someone? When was the last time you randomly did something for someone else because you were feeling "in the mood"? Coming back to Mother Nature and the change of the seasons, we must remember that Mother Nature does not take a moment to think before she provides what is necessary for us and the rest of the world to survive, let alone thrive. She just does...and so should we.
What if Random Acts of Kindness were no longer Random? What if we considered them to simply be Natural Acts of Kindness? Moments of unconditional love and nurturing from ourselves to others; a moment of spoken or unspoken gratitude to another for simply being present in our life at this particular point in time, and above all, without judgment. Just as nature provides for us during this time, we should make the decision to act the same by sharing kindness to ourselves and others. No strings attached.
We should willingly bear fruit for the plucking and satisfaction of others.
When others can reap what you sow, you nurture another human and change them in ways you can't possibly imagine.
One final thought I leave you with is an opportunity. One that may change a person's life forever. The opportunity (or challenge, if you choose to view it as such) is to show at least one Natural Act of Kindness towards someone you don't know. But don't stop there. Notice how you feel afterwards, and notice how the other person responds. Cultivate this feeling in yourself and continue to spread it and plant it in other. Because, just as this season provides a harvest for us now, it also holds deep within itself the seeds for the next year's crop. You hold this same power, the "seeds" of kindness to be planted in the next generation.
Yours in peace,
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inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.