It has been an interesting 2018 so far. Hasn't it? And the year is still just getting started it feels like. Especially now that spring has finally arrived. So, as you begin getting more active, I hope you remember the lessons from our podcasts and blogs this year that will guide you to a year of fulfillment and a year of doing what you absolutely love most. One word of caution though. Be aware of your expectations you have for yourself.
The old saying goes "expectations breed pain". This doesn't mean that you should have ZERO expectations. It simply means you should focus on raising your standards rather than your expectations. Your standards define who you are in life and are the foundation for all decisions that you make. Standards are completely in your control. Expectations, on the other hand, are typically in relation to other people and are not entirely under your control because of this. For example, you expect that your child will pick up after him or herself, or you expect your boss will give you enough time to complete a project on top of all the other work you have piling up on your desk. If you are familiar with either of these, then join me in saying good luck with these expectations!
Your standards define who you are in life and are the foundation for all decisions that you make.
Standards on the other hand, define you on the inside and are the root of every action you take. Standards build morality; they strengthen character; they control your thoughts and your emotions; and they instill in you the qualities of the type of person you envision yourself becoming in this world. Your standards are the foundation for your entire life and determine how far you will go and how much impact you will have on the world. Think of it this way: When you get excited about something, and jump high into the air screaming with joy, there are a few things you need. You need something under your feet to push off of; enough space to jump as high as you can; and the ability to express yourself freely in the biggest and loudest way possible. In this example, your standards are like the ground beneath your feet. They provide you with a solid base to push off from. And when combined with your internal drive to seek fulfillment in your life (this being your expression of your excitement in the previous example), you will have the potential to reach as high into the air as possible and feel totally uninhibited and larger than life.
Make the choice to depend on yourself first, just like when putting on your oxygen mask on the airplane. Go on a journey and explore what you love most in life and what you believe you are or capable of. Discover what fuels your fire to live and search for more of it. These are the key components of your personal standards that will help them to grow and thrive. Standards that no one can create for you. We on the outside can only see your potential when you have forgotten what it looks and feels like. We cannot see the standards you create for yourself. However, we most certainly CAN see the standards you choose NOT to live up to.
Your next decision after raising your standards should be to lower all of your expectations to a level that you know will not impact your mission in life and your life's purpose. If expectations breed pain, you will either have too many of them or you will invest yourself too much in the few you do have. Redirect this energy NOW into developing your standards so that you can sculpt your own Sistine Chapel of inner confidence and self-understanding.
These powerful instructions should give you the boost your need to achieve what some people refer to as happiness, others refer to as fulfillment, and we all experience as a sense of satisfaction. If we can learn to raise our standards and lower our expectations, we could all walk out into the world each day knowing who we are.
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.
A Message from an Acupuncturist
It is 9 o’clock in the morning, and you are searching the internet for a doctor who can take a look at your ankle you rolled during an evening soccer match yesterday. The pain is bearable yet still throbbing, not to mention your ankle is now the size of a tennis ball. While searching, you come across several acupuncturists not far from where you live. This reminds you of your close friend's sports injury who told you was helped with acupuncture. Recalling this, you look further and notice some of these acupuncturists appear to have Asian names and some do not. Assuming your thoughts are correct, you choose to contact an Asian practitioner because, of course, they MUST know more about what they are doing since they are Asian. Plus, their methods are probably more authentic. Right?
This common assumption is incorrect and is damaging to the profession of Oriental Medicine. It spreads even further into the many fields of medicine serving the public today leading to further discrimination of minorities, ethnicities, and genders. Since when has it become so acceptable to discriminate against a trained, licensed, and well-qualified health professional whose only interest is helping you live your life with as little suffering as possible? Dare I insert the word “racism” into this message and invoke a conversation laced with hate? This is not my intention, but it seems the injection of such is nearly unavoidable. Sadness ensues me when I hear that simply because my race is different from others, I must “learn to accept the truth” that was etched by others into the foundation of medical history. A foundation seemingly built upon “should-bes” rather than “could-bes”.
Yes, I am not Asian. What’s your point?
Times change. Shouldn’t people do just the same? Sure, I am not fortunate enough to be a descendant of an ancient lineage of Asian doctors famous for serving the masses, developing world-renowned healing techniques, or safeguarding the health of a royal family. What I am, however, is inspired, motivated, and interested. Inspired by the history, literature, and origins of the medicine I practice; motivated by my mentors, teachers, students, and patients; and interested in the unique life stories of people like yourself. Healers are not formed or defined by their ethnic roots let alone by similar patterns repeated in society. They are also not defined by what they see in their patients (e.g. health conditions), but rather by what they help their patients to see in themselves and how they empower them to change and make wise choices for the sake of their own health. More personally, when I search for someone to provide me with care, I refrain from making assumptions about their abilities I have yet to experience firsthand. For these abilities may be exactly what I need on my road to recovery. Of course, one's experience is an acceptable form of measure when making the choice to have someone evaluate your health. Experience, though, is achieved no differently than the height and strength of an oak tree. The seed must be planted and nurtured well enough for it to sprout and begin its journey out into the world.
If only we could learn to listen to someone’s story without writing the end before it was told.
Sadly, during my years of exploring the Asian medicinal and martial arts, I have been a victim of subliminal discrimination, false assumptions, and impossible expectations. I have been viewed as an outcast, thought of as “the unique one in the family”, and doubted repeatedly to the point where others give up and change their career altogether. I have been called in Chinese a "waiguoren", or literally "outside country person", which is ironic because I'm fairly sure I was born in this country where I am also licensed to practice this medicine. Wouldn't that technically make you, the name-caller, the outsider? This is beside the point of this message though, and while I endured this constant bombardment of negativity and bullying, I studied rigorously, forged my mind, and trained my body. Not so that I could defend myself, but rather so that I could learn to open my eyes and heart for the sake of every patient that enters my treatment room. And to this day, I still repeat these previously painful words in my mind so that I may remind myself they are not definitions of who I am or who I have become. For the people who have uttered them do not have permission to define my existence or evaluate my abilities with false pretense. If only we could learn to listen to someone’s story without writing the end before it was told.
Your healing has nothing to do with who I am, only who you will become.
So again, yes, I am not Asian. Who am I then, you ask? I am someone who cares. I am someone with hope. I am someone worth reaching out to who will care for your well-being, no matter your race, gender, appearance, or societal status. I am someone whose hope is for you to create memories laughing and playing with your children while they are still young and innocent; to remember what it was like to open your heart to your beloved mother and father before they took their last breath; to never forget the feeling of the soft breeze grazing across your skin as you stand in your hometown hundreds or thousands of miles away. True healing comes from within ourselves and will take you anywhere you wish to go. Besides, your healing has nothing to do with who I am, only who you will become.
So, I ask you. The next time you search for a care provider, will you choose based on their name, their ethnicity, their gender, or their ivy-league education, or lack thereof? Will you close the fable-filled storybook modern society has been reading to you over the years and begin writing your own story of how you see the world of healthcare and how you wish to be cared for? Have you even asked yourself HOW you wished to be cared for? It is certainly a conversation worth having with yourself.
After all, you may not be Asian either. But there is certainly no one else like you. Never forget that.
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?
As I am making my way home on the sometimes dreaded and unpredictable metro bus last week, the idea for this blog came into my mind. Before I go any further though, let's trace back 45 minutes prior to getting off the bus...
I am standing at Farragut West station waiting anxiously for the next metro train that will carry my tired and aching body deep underground at 60 mph towards my stop 7 stations away. Finally, the train arrives. It is packed full of passengers eagerly searching for a seat or the prime standing location where they can lean against a pole or a wall. All of them look just as tired as I do.
Thoughts begin to race through my mind leading me to question my reason for riding on this very train, in this moment of time, and what my purpose is and if I will ever achieve it. Am I happy in this moment? My answer depends on what I relate the question to. I would say though in relation to the situation in this moment where I stand on a sardine-packed train with hundreds of other people, I would not describe this as a moment of extreme joy or bliss of any kind. My thoughts begin to race faster as I stare around the train at the other passengers. Not one person is smiling...except for the guy two seats away watching something on YouTube it seems. (How does he get a signal and not me?!) I come back to my question of purpose and importance again. Am I really living the life I was truly gifted with, or for? And, am I able to inject my own passion into it without hesitation?
Then I had a moment of realization. Even if I am NOT living the life I believe I was meant to live, there is always tomorrow! This realization immediately reminded me of my martial arts competition days when we would train the entire summer covered in our own (and our classmates') blood, sweat, and tears preparing for the US National Competition. The final days before the training, particularly the last day, we didn't train nearly as hard. Why? We needed to save our energy, calm our minds, and relax our bodies to allow our confidence to soar and our camaraderie to intensify so strongly that we would resemble (and almost feel like) a clan of warriors more so than a team of competitors. The most important day for us was tomorrow; the beginning of the US National Competition. The day our team of "warriors" had prepared for all year, and perhaps some had even lived for.
Take this for example. I'm sure at some point in your life, you have studied for a test, correct? Did you ever try to cram for a test the night before, even if you felt prepared? How much actually sank in? Did it make you feel more confident or more anxious on the day of the test? What would have happened if you reviewed only the material you felt was most important and left the rest of the day to relax and honor yourself for the time and effort you put into studying for this test? After all, TOMORROW is the most important day! The day of the test!
So, what is the message I am passing along in both of these examples, you might ask?
Tomorrow is the most important day of your life!
Everything you have done today, everything you are doing right now, and everything you will do during the rest of this day before you wake up tomorrow morning is all for the sake of tomorrow. We never know what experiences we will have, what moments will change our life, or what acquaintances will become (or begone) in the day to come. What we DO know is that tomorrow is waiting for us and is depending on us. The night of sleep you are about to embark on before you awake tomorrow morning is your reset button. From the moment your eyes close, your body, your mind, and your spirit recharge until soft beams of light slowly grab hold of your eyelids and gently help them open reminding you that tomorrow has arrived; the day you have lived all of yesterday for (and everyday prior).
Tomorrow has become today. The spotlight is on YOU and your performance of today determines the applause you will receive from life. And here's a little secret...life is ALWAYS cheering for you! So remember, tomorrow is and will always be the most important day of your life. It does not mean that today is less important. What is does mean is that tomorrow gives you a reason to live for...again and again and again.
There is only one today, but there are endless tomorrows.
Remember this phrase and erase every regret you have from today because tomorrow...you get another chance.
I have a dream. In fact, I have many dreams. I dream of my future. I dream of my family's future. I dream of each of my patients' futures. The challenge is that I can't stop dreaming...and I don't want to.
Each and every one of us dreams. We dream of owning our first home; we dream that we have the lucky lottery ticket; we dream to one day sit on the beaches of the South Pacific, or we simply dream about being able to experience happiness once again. Whatever the dream, we are often encouraged to "reach for our dreams" and dream BIG. But what if we changed this dream-reaching idea. What if we changed it to...
Don't reach for your dreams. Achieve them!
What if we decided to live each day as if our dreams were already achieved? How do you think your life would be? Would it give you more incentive to keep dreaming?
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that you live a lie, so to speak, or pretend that something is happening when it actually hasn't. For example, you don't think of what clothes to wear and then never put them on before you walk out of your home and realize your just in your skibbies. No, you imagine what clothes you will wear for the day, then you begin the process of dressing yourself. This is the same when it comes to achieving your dreams. The moment you dream BIG you have begun the process of achieving your dream. So, in a sense, you've already achieved a portion of what you are actually dreaming.
Achieving your dreams happens before
If you lived each day as if you have already achieved your dreams, a number of things would happen:
- Your confidence would increase immensely.
- You would never question (nor let others question) your belief in yourself.
- Your self-esteem would skyrocket!
- You would maintain a successful attitude.
- You would reach every goal you set.
- Every step you take on this path would be more solid than ever before.
...and above all...
- You would experience true and lasting happiness.
Your future, your dreams, your life. They are all in your hands for as long as you are alive. So, why not choose right now that you ARE living your dream? Because really, the only person stopping you is yourself. Eleanor Roosevelt put it beautifully when she said, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
I will close by urging you to start living your dreams NOW! Don't wait for when you will reach them, and especially, don't chase your dreams. Why? Because you have already caught them. I bet I could see it in your eyes without even looking. If you need a little extra inspiration, watch the music video below of Michael Bolton singing a song from the Disney movie soundtrack of "Hercules" called "Go the Distance". Now, GO LIVE YOUR DREAMS!!!
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inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.