Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking a lot about thriving and the idea of turning challenges or problems into opportunities. I believe that this is one of the most valuable things we get from our practice of martial arts and meditation.
What we as a human race are facing right now is undoubtedly a challenge. It seems to be one of the greatest we’ve faced thus far. How we respond to that challenge will likely define us in a lasting way and be something we tell our grandkids about. Will we respond well? Will we look back and see ourselves thriving right now?
In self-defense, it can be quite obvious if you are responding well or not. Many of you have heard the story of a student years ago who came home to find two men robbing her house. She froze in fear and stood still until the robbers ran right past her and out the door. I would say that was not responding well, and she would agree.
Take the story of another student who got attacked more recently. He was on his way into a grocery store to buy bananas. A man jumped out of his car, yelled and threw a punch at him. The student ducked, landed an uppercut and an elbow before pushing the man away and running. He ran all the way to the next grocery store, went inside and bought his bananas. This is a good example of responding well because our student was able to keep himself safe while staying calm.
Responding well and thriving
There isn’t necessarily one “correct” way of responding to a situation. Rather, there are many terrible ways and a few great ways. The student who got attacked outside the grocery story could have frozen and gotten punched, or maybe continue beating up his attacker beyond what was necessary. Neither would have been responding well. He could also have run into the grocery store he was already at instead of the one three blocks away, which may have worked just fine.
If we are able to think and act from a calm, higher state of mind, then we will be able to respond well. During our most challenging times, it certainly isn’t easy to be in that higher state, to be thriving. In fact, trying to meditate now in order to get to that state is a bit like planning for a fire as your house is burning down…or like meditating while your house is burning down. If you haven’t been doing the work leading up to a crisis, it is quite difficult to deal with that crisis.
Yet here we find ourselves. If you haven’t been meditating or practicing the best mindset, that’s even more of a reason to start now. This may be one of the opportunities for you to seize. Use the free time you have (stuck at home) to hone your mind.
Another opportunity that I’ve been talking about is tied to one of the most difficult challenges we face: staying connected. While this quarantine has knocked us out of our normal routines and we aren’t seeing the same people that we normally would, it opens up the possibility of reaching out to others. If you are like me, there are important people in your life who you just haven’t taken the time to talk to recently. Maybe these people live far away, or maybe they just don’t fit into the grind of your normal day. Now that we find ourselves outside of that grind, we have the perfect opportunity to reach out. Reconnect with those you haven’t seen or talked to in a while and spread the calm, determined energy of a Martial Artist around.
Some of you have kids at home that you are taking care of at the same time as getting all your normal work done. I can’t even begin to fathom how challenging this must be, but the opportunity here is to form a stronger connection with whomever you’re stuck at home with. As you start pushing each others’ buttons, make sure to take the time to keep yourself sane. If you find that you have even less time than normal and you’re just barely keeping up or falling behind, it can be very easy to let self-care slip. Double your efforts to set aside time to exercise, meditate and do whatever keeps you in the moment. If your kids protest, tell them Sifu is making you do it.
Seeing opportunity instead of problems is about thriving vs surviving. There are plenty of people in the world who worry about surviving and are actively fighting to do so. If your survival isn’t at issue, fight to thrive instead. When we as individuals, families, as a society and even as a planet can be creative and take this opportunity to grow, we will come out of this even stronger than we would have otherwise.