This week saw me engage in two of my favourite vices after long absences. Keiko & Surfing. Morris had been away for the Dojo-Cho seminar, hence we had had no formal keiko for three weeks! I had been out of the surf for four weeks due to a rotator cuff injury. My two main activities were no longer available to me. I was out of sorts, off kilter, not my normal self, it seemed.
What I noticed this morning, after my first surf in a month, was how much I had come to depend on this activity in my weekly routine. Keiko & surfing have become an invaluable source of moving meditation, for me. I have wrongly, or at the very least, naively, relied on both to keep me balanced, sane, fit & happy to varying degrees. And why shouldn't I? We all need a past-time, hobby, passion or outlet to release our daily or weekly tensions, surely?
However, have you taken the time to sit & think of what you would do without these acitivities? For me, I ran more to compensate. It wasn't a conscious decision, it was just my body informing me to stay active I think. The benefits are almost identical. Yet, there has been times in the past I could not engage in running due to knee injuries.
This all lead me to query, 'Am I using these passions as a sort of crutch at different stages in my life'? Again, there's nothing wrong with this. It's not like I'm out gambling, drinking or smoking to fill my time, but these activities have, at varying moments in my life, become addictive vices I am lost without. I depend on them, not only as activities, but as identifiers for who I am to some small degree. I will be honest in telling you that one part of the reasoning for undertaking these two activities is that they both allow me to become part of a larger whole, a clan. Our brothers in budo will attest to the fact that we are a 'clan' of sorts. Friendships formed through shared pain and assiduous forging of the body, mind and spirit are unique. They bond us in a very specific way. Surely you have all noticed your sectioning of friendships to some extent? There are those friends we have outside the dojo and those within it. Often they are intermingled and shared in both arena's but the bonds formed in the dojo are of a unique quality & a very particular type of glue. The same is true of surfing. It is often seen as a clan, a brotherhood & that is part of what attracted me to it & to martial arts.
We all know the pull our training has as we approach the night of keiko. We look forward to it in our weekly routine. The day has a little more gloss & shine for the fact that we know once the day's work is over we can get to the dojo. My skin tingles sometimes just thinking about it! The same is true of surfing for me. I place unconscious expectation on the end benefits of a session. My slate is washed clean, my mind has been focused for 2 hours, I have been out in nature, I have got my 'stoke' on!
We may have very noble goals for undertaking the activities we do. Martial arts are an excellent tool for refining one's character, staying fit, building confidence and being able to defend oneself, most importantly. But do you 'depend' on it? I know I do. Is it your crutch for getting through the week? Is it your source of equilibrium in life? I noticed that I may, indeed, rely too heavily on the study of Jissen Kobudo and the art of surfing. Without them I have not been myself this past month. I have been lacking a little patience, perspective (at times) & definitely a valued source of exercise.
The only downside to these questions & observations lies in this simple question..."What & who are you without them?" Perhaps you are untouched or unchanged by these passions you engage in. Perhaps you would always be 'you', with or without them? I envy you. But I know that a balance in life; a bit of work, a bit of play & a bit of sweat, will keep me sane, happy & fit. I hope they do for you too.