You may have seen recently that I have decided to start a kid’s martial arts class starting on September 10. I want to share with you a few reasons why I chose to restart this old journey. First though, let me share with you a story about how I began working with children.
Nearly 15 years ago, in a small western Pennsylvania town, I was offered my first opportunity to teach my very own children’s martial arts class. When I received the news, I was both excited and fearful. I knew it was something I was prepared to do, but I had zero experience doing it on my own. I thought for days about what material I should focus on when teaching these rambunctious 4 and 5 year olds. Dare I teach them to how to make a proper fist, how to kick, how to eventually wield a long wooden staff or metal sword? Was I qualified to do so? I mean, what was it my teacher saw in me that said “teacher” written on it? So many thoughts ran through my head, I had trouble standing on my own two feet from the weight of it all.
Then, all of a sudden, one single image entered my mind.
I imagined myself being a child. I wasn’t sure why, but I was immediately moved to tears. I began imagining myself standing there with these precious children having no other responsibility than simply trusting and following the instructions of the teacher in front of them. Then I began imagining myself being a child standing at the front of the room, as the teacher. Sounds silly, but let me share with you why this image completely changed my entire perspective on teaching to this day.
In order to be a fearless leader, you have to be a fearless follower.
I believe that in order to guide others, you must be able to imagine yourself walking with them, speaking their words, carrying out their actions as well as their ways of being. You have to become one of them for as long as it takes so that you understand how they best learn and absorb the in knowledge you are teaching them. And in order to be a fearless leader, you have to be a fearless follower. I had to make the decision to not be afraid to be a child again. I had to build trust through finding a way to connect, and in the moment of imagining myself as a child again I found exactly what I needed. I had no obligation to meet another adult's wishes or expectations, nor did I have any obligation to teach these children to do perfect punches, kicks, tumbling techniques, or prepare them to win a national championship like I would do several years later. I was simply there to teach. To teach like a child, to build a sense of trust, to be their friend, and to be their leader. I finally realized my ultimate goal when it came to working with children 15 years ago, and even to this day, was to help sculpt the future of every child by leaving a lasting positive impression in their minds and perhaps even a few words of wisdom all by seeing myself as a child.
Our potential should never be clouded by the thoughts of another but rather lifted up by them.
Our roles in life are so often clouded by our own expectations of what we think other people want us to do that we forget what it is we actually CAN do. Our potential should never be clouded by the thoughts of another but rather lifted up by them. The responsibility I see myself having as an instructor is to walk side by side with those I teach. My skillset and experience are the guiding instincts leading us together on the journey inwards to self-understanding and then again outwards to understanding the people in our lives.
So, if you think I am starting this new class to expand my business and add a little revenue to my balance sheet, you’ve only focused on the portion that matters to your typical business owner. I, however, am not your typical business owner. Yes, these factors are certainly important, but I believe focusing on people like you is a much more valuable approach, and it is the driving reason for what I do. My purpose, whether it be while I teach classes, treat patients, or speak at events, is to help as many people as possible, children and adults, experience what it truly means to live life at their fullest potential and help them understand how they can do it every day of their lives.
In the end, my contribution to society is to enhance the future of our world by starting at the very beginning, with the pure and uninhibited minds and bodies of children. If I can help even one single child explore the amazing world around them through gentle guidance and endless encouragement, my purpose in life will have been fulfilled.
With that said, I hope to see you at our first class on September 10.
(More info on the class and registration can be found here.)
Peacefully and Passionately,
Planting the Seed of Potential
The past is a seed that is planted in the present and grows into the future.
Yesterday, I met a group of friends, who also happen to be acupuncturists, over a delicious meal and good conversation. After not meeting with them for four months, I was reminded of the importance of having my own community of friends; to share our life stories, the current day-to-day happenings, and our visions of the world transforming into the ultimate living environment.
As I filled my mouth with extraordinary flavors of a savory Chinese beef dish, I held my cup of hot tea and listened to the friendly and inspiring conversation. My friend Brooks began to describe a moment from a course he teaches about the roots of the medicine our small group sitting at the table practices and shares in common. A student in his course, a native from China, began to declare at one point that his ability to speak English was "not very good". Brooks, drawing on some wisdom from his days in the same program, invited the student to change his declaration to one with more possibility: "My English is better than it was yesterday." This tiny shift in words has the potential to create a huge shift in the person speaking them. This sharing from my friend Brooks reminded me of the reason I recently shared something about my late grandmother (shared below).
When we live with the constant mindset of "I need to improve myself.", "My skills aren't quite where they need to be.", or "I'll NEVER be THAT good!", we bring ourselves to a screeching halt on the road of life's potential. If these kinds of phrases are running through your head or coming from your mouth, you have then exercised your ultimate ability to withhold yourself from experiencing your full potential. In essence, you've tightly tied a tourniquet around the moment in your life that comes just before the moments of tomorrow.
In moments of what we consider failure or areas of our lives where believe we are lacking in something, we must acknowledge all we have done up to that point. We should instead take a moment to reflect on what we've accomplished. It is important to understand that all of our actions we've taken were opportunities to learn from (just like the quote from Thomas Edison above). Repeating an action, like speaking English, gives us a chance to improve upon it each day.
We should be thankful for this seed, plant it with care, nurture it, and watch it grow into something magnificent. Every moment in our lives is important, valuable, and not to be considered wasted. I will leave you with the words I recently shared about a person who had great impact on who I am today; my grandmother.
Life Without Stress
I have one question for you.
What would your life be like without any stress? Can you even imagine it? Would you know how to live without it? Would you eventually want it back?
Now, I'm not pretending that I know what "stress" is for you. In fact, I don't believe the word "stress" is an accurate description of what anyone claims it to actually be. In my experience, we simply use this word as a label, like we do with many others, because we are unable to describe what it is we are actually experiencing when the things we call "stressors" appear in our lives.
Sure, you cannot control certain situations, such as when someone comes to your desk asking for your assistance with a task when you're already buried in work. What you CAN do is manage the situation by observing your response. Observe what happens in you physically:
Does your breathing increase in frequency?
Does your heart start to pump faster?
Do you hold your tongue and prevent yourself from saying what you REALLY want to say?
Isn't it interesting how our decisions and our reactions/responses change our bodies' physiology in an instant? Also, did you know that the chemical response of generating an emotion lasts approximately for 90 seconds only? Interesting, considering the stories that go on in our heads easily continue for MUCH LONGER than 90 seconds. (Perhaps we should all call ourselves great storytellers like Bill Cosby.) But seriously though, after 90 seconds of listening to your co-worker ask for your assistance and you then responding to his or her request, do you often find yourself hung up on the situation repeating it in your head, or making stories up about this person never doing any work and always passing it off onto others? If so, you're digging your own grave at a very rapid and emotionally-charged pace. By learning to manage your reactions/responses in simple situations such as these, it is quite possible that you may never even reach the 90 second point.
Awareness of your emotions is the key to the door for managing stress.
Observe what happens inside of you during similar situations. Do the same things always appear? Does your breathing always rise up into your chest and occur more frequently? Do you clench your jaw automatically? Does your face always blush? If you picked apart each physiological response that happened in these situations and pondered about them, I'm certain you could come up with a way to limit the length of its presence in the moment, and perhaps for good.
Understanding what happens inside of your body and how it manifests on the outside will determine your ability to live with or without "stress". So, the next time you encounter what you consider to be a "stressful" situation, keep your senses open. After the situation passes, reflect upon what just happened and understand why your body did what it did. Do this and the relationship you have with your body will strengthen, and who knows, maybe even your relationship with others will as well.
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.
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inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.