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In my last post, I wrote about Passion with a Purpose – Part 1. At that time, Hurricane Sandy had just blown through the region, and we have since witnessed a stage of how people behave, how they want to be treated, and the good kindness of people. But also since then, we have witnessed some unfathomable tragedies in the midst of the holiday season on both coasts of our country. Sometimes it is difficult to find a spark of “passion” in the midst of tragedy. Our hearts are broken, our minds incensed. Senseless acts may provoke a determination or motivation to act out of vengeance, to help others survive, or just to “do something” to prevent such a thing from happening again.
Rarely do we have the answers as to why these things happen but it never stops us from seeking truth, solutions and comfort. In my last post, I talked about my desire to have studied psychology to better understand people’s behaviors and actions, and instead I content being a student of life, learning it through daily experience. I also promised to return to the blog with discussion about the connection between psychology and martial arts practice in my next post.
In martial arts and yoga settings, practice usually has great physical health benefits: build strength, muscle tone, flexibility, lose weight. People will normally cite these reasons for beginning a practice in martial arts and yoga. There is something more to it, though, that comes from regular training that goes beyond the physical benefits. Something else begins to happen, a shift that allows us to deepen our thoughts and extend them beyond “class time.” One’s physical health is improving, so how can that improvement be carried to other parts of one’s life? We make a conscious effort to eat better, or do less of one thing and more of another. Training, no matter what it is, usually employs repetition or guides the practitioner to practice repetition. Maybe the practitioner starts to feel bored if he doesn’t grasp the importance of repetition: to build a muscle memory, an instinctive reaction, a built-in mechanism to act and do. Some people give up when their training gets “repetitive” because they may not have figured out or tapped into the deeper benefits of the practice beyond the physicality of it. Some just want instant gratification: “I did this” or “I earned this so now I can move on to the next thing.” Repetition builds discipline, and provides a grounding, a home base to return to. With mindfulness, the repetitive motions ground new learnings into our psyche, eventually creating an inward spiral through our tendons and tissues, sewing together fibers to create maybe a new commitment to ourselves, an affirmation to follow, an intention to be practiced every chance we get.
To put some things in perspective about mindless tragedies and accidents, there is probability versus possibility. We train with a group of practitioners on the west coast, one of whom is a retired and renowned police officer. He brings this foundational concept to focus us on mindset and awareness, to practice vigilence and awareness without living in paranoia. It our job, as citizens of the community, to be aware of what is going on around us, when we are pumping gas, walking down the street, sitting in a restaurant. It’s like checking your bags at the airport and the attendant asking if your bags have been with you at all times, and did you pack them yourself, and did anyone give you anything to carry? We sort of go through the motions…yes, yes, no. Sometimes I get thinking, “I packed the bag last night….it sat in my hotel room and I went out for a coffee, and….was it really with me at all times and how do I know that someone didn’t put something in my bag unbeknownst to me?” I can be paranoid about it, which I don’t allow myself to be. It’s possible, but highly improbable.
With probability versus possibility, it is probable that I will not be a victim of a horrendous crime in my lifetime, just like I probably won’t be a passenger on an airplane that crashes. I will probably live a quiet life in the general scheme of things. For as terrible as these situations are that we have heard about and watched lately, they probably will not happen to us, but it is always possible. It’s possible that I will witness some sort of crime or be in a car accident. Anything is possible, but not everything is probable. The nice thing about probability versus possibility practice is that you can ponder it anywhere, anytime. You can also do the same with building awareness. How often could you tell someone the color of the coat the person was wearing who just passed you on the street two minutes ago? Or the make and model of the car that turned on red? If anyone remembers the DC sniper shootings 10 years ago, an initial witness claimed the suspects were driving a large white van. The DC/Northern Virginia area became ultra-aware of big white vans. It turned out when the suspects were caught that they were never in a white van but a car modified to shoot from the trunk. This is a classic example of how one person’s observations influence a community and law enforcement.
As members of our community who want to see it remain safe and flourish, we have a personal responsibility to protect and care for ourselves and for one another. This safety and growth is up to us, one person at a time. It’s rare (possible, but likely not probable!) that one will ever complain about the kindness you extend to them. Watch out for one another. Find something that will allow you to be personally safe and to grow and offer it to others.