Friday, September 26, 2008


Funakoshi Principle #1: Karate begins and ends with courtesy.

Alternatively, this can read, "Karate begins and ends with a bow."

Either way the meaning is clear. Courtesy is something the martial arts values, but why?

What I have learned over the years is that Consciousness has many aspects, and we generally cannot perceive all aspects of Consciousness simultaneously. It's too much for our minds to process all at once. Thus, we tend to break it up.

One aspect of Consciousness is compassion and kindness. From one vantage point, you might perceive that Consciousness "radiates" compassion, love, and kindness. It's definitely one way of looking at it. Another way would be to say that Consciousness IS the compassion, love, and kindness. All of these are ways of trying to say something that words cannot say.

When you go through the motions of courtesy, you are in effect capturing a tiny piece of this part of Consciousness and bringing it into your awareness. When most people are courteous, they are just doing it by rote. There is generally no intention behind it. If you go your whole life doing that, you will be well-liked but you won't get far in terms of expanding your awareness.

However, this principle of Funakoshi forces us to be courteous, with intention.

Ever hear of the principle of "Fake it 'till you make it"? It's absolutely a good method. If someone does not know how to tap into that compassionate loving aspect of Consciousness, one way to eventually learn how to do that is to FAKE being compassionate and loving with intention, and one day the true value and ability will become clear.

Interactions begin and end with courtesy. Be courteous with the intention that one day you will learn to become aware of that which is the source of courtesy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why do you do what you do?

Continuing from my last post, martial arts is one of my personal spiritual practices, and has been for a long time. It is a good example, but not the only example, of something that is seemingly "normal" that can be made into a tremendous opportunity to evolve yourself and grow. As I talk about martial arts over the next few posts, substitute your own activity into all the spaces where I put the words "martial arts", and you will see that the concepts I'm giving are the same for your activity too.

It's all about the intention behind your actions.

Draja Mickaharic once gave me an analogy. He said life is like treading water in a really deep dark pool. At the bottom of the pool is a priceless diamond, and everyone knows that getting the diamond would be a good thing. The problem is that the diamond is too deep to get it. A person cannot hold his or her breath long enough to swim down that far. Most people struggle to get the diamond but never do, and in their despair they give up and drown. They think that since they could not get the diamond, they've "lost" the game. However, there are other people who view the whole scenario as a test to better themselves. They realize that they can't get the diamond, but that doesn't matter to them. The game is actually about learning how to hold their breath longer so they can swim deeper and deeper each time, and one day maybe eventually they will be able to get the diamond. The act of bettering themselves and the journey of working towards that diamond is what matters to them.

Both the people who drown and the people who view it as a test are doing the same actions: they are trying to get the diamond. The ONLY difference between them is how they view the situation, and what their intentions are.

Intentions change everything.

So goes the same for martial arts. Why do people do martial arts? There are all kinds of reasons. Some people want to learn to boot some head. Some people want to learn to break as many bricks as they can, with their head. Some people want to learn self-defense or street smarts. Some people want to get lots of exercise. Some people want to be sports champions and get lots of trophies.

All these things are fine. They all represent different intentions behind doing the same set of tasks. My intention was to learn about my own body, emotions, mind, and spirit. I was lucky to have a class that focused on that aspect. Few of them ever do.

The style I practiced was mostly composed of Wado Ryu, which is an Okinawan style of karate. Later on I got into other things, and before that I had done Goju Ryu, an Okinawan style with some similarities, as well as several years of fencing. On the side, I did a lot of full-contact medieval combat with historical re-enactment groups, but that was not for spiritual purposes. That was purely for booting some head. (I too like to boot head once in a while!)

The father of Wado Ryu, or more correctly, Shotokan karate, was a man named Gichin Funakoshi. Though he was the father of Okinawan karate in the United States, he was also the person who brought the idea of karate as a spiritual practice into the mainstream of thought. Before that time, karate was for life and death. You needed it to survive on Okinawa in the 1700 and 1800's. In the 20th century, however, things cooled down a lot over there, comparatively, and other reasons for practicing karate became more noticeable. Particularly, this man was fairly enlightened to the aspects of doing karate to build character and uncovering your connection to Oneness.

Funakoshi came up with 20 precepts.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Normal" Spiritual Practice

If you browse through some of my posts, I have this specific concept of "normal" with regards to spiritual practices and things, if you will. In general, the concept focuses on doing what you have to do spiritually without letting it interfere with your everyday life or your relationships with people in ways that exclude you, set you apart, or make you seem different in a showy sort of way.

Why this concept? Well, in my travels, I've met a lot of people who declare themselves as "spiritual", "psychic", "special" or what have you. Many of them were indeed psychic or special, just ask them! :) However, they were not what I call normal at all. Some of these people were so wrapped up in their games that they had trouble paying their bills, making friends, finishing their education, and a whole host of other "normal" things. They would tell me that they do not need these things because they have some "higher purpose"... as they begin proceedings for eviction from their houses, or as they get abused by their boyfriends, or as they simply forget to feed themselves.

Let me tell you something. There is nothing more "spiritual" than just living your life with mindfulness. If you do that, the changes that come will be natural, i.e. normal, and they will not set you apart or make you fail to survive in the physical world.

"But we must do these cool exercises to evolve, Josh!"

Exercises do have their place. They train your mind, emotions, and body how to pull out of your ego-induced coma that you live in. But why do exercises have to be flashy? Ask yourself that. Maybe you want them to be flashy so other people know you are doing them? That's an ego trap.

The most effective exercises are the ones that people never know you are doing. The most effective things in general are the things that do not call attention.

I also know people that have been working quite hard to train spiritually, and they have friends/relatives who have known them for 10, 20, even 30+ years that NEVER KNEW.

Those people are normal! :)

Ok, so I want to spend some time now on this blog going deeply into an example of a "normal" spiritual practice: Martial Arts.

Let's assume that martial arts is a normal activity. You know people that do them. There's a lot of increased popularity lately especially for something called Mixed Martial Arts or MMA. In essence, this is a sport. Martial arts is every bit a sport as football, and in fact it's not just one sport, it's a family of sports.

So what's spiritual about martial arts? A whole lot! I've spent the better part of 27 years now learning that side of it, and I'd like to share some insights in the next few posts.

Keep in mind that this can be a parallel to any activity of your choice. When I point out the spiritual aspects of martial arts, look for the same aspects in whatever it is you do.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Another close one

Here's another song that I really like, where the artist got really close to some interesting revelations. My comments are the bolded ones.

Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can't help but ask myself how much I let the fear
Take the wheel and steer <---awesome realization... fear drives people and he's realizing it's driving him
It's driven me before
And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal <-- remarking on the seductive nature of fear
But lately I'm beginning to find that I
Should be the one behind the wheel <-- Beautiful analogy for being in the Now! Take the wheel.

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there <-- Oh so close! It's about Now, not tomorrow. I would have used the phrase "Whatever the moment brings, I'll be there."
With open arms and open eyes yeah

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
I'll be there

So if I decide to waiver my chance to be one of the hive
Will I choose water over wine and hold my own and drive? <-- Will I choose to zone out into my own mind or be here now?
It's driven me before
And it seems to be the way that everyone else gets around <-- Realizing that most people are asleep
But lately I'm beginning to find that
When I drive myself my light is found

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
With open arms and open eyes yeah

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
I'll be there

Would you choose water over wine
Hold the wheel and drive

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
With open arms and open eyes yeah

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
I'll be there

This is a beautiful song for showing some analogies between living in the Present and living in times other than Now. When people start to "wake up", they often have these experiences that this singer is talking about. They go through brief moments where they feel like they've been asleep, and that all the things that they thought mattered a whole lot are really in their head. For brief seconds, they can see what is right in front of them, and it's so obvious that it's sometimes able to make them laugh about it.

That's what I would refer to as a "glimmer" of Consciousness in this blog. Occasionally you get rays of light shining through that dirty window of the Inner Self and you can catch a brief inkling of what is beyond. Fact is that "beyond" is right here, right in front of us, and we have our eyes shut.

Here's a link to the video:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Insanity is the word for it

If you read my last entry, it demonstrates an important pattern in human behavior: insanity. Of course, I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist and I am probably not using the exact correct definition of what they would call insanity. However, I do mean something specific by it.

Eckhart Tolle uses the term "insane" to describe a person (or the whole human race) as someone overtaken by and wrapped up in the ego. I like that definition because I think it can be useful in describing things.

For example, when I was in my state of worry over money, I had absolutely no awareness of what was really happening in that moment: I was driving in my car with little or no traffic. Good music was playing. The weather was nice. I was healthy, and nothing was wrong. The only thing that was "wrong" in that moment was my bout of worry about a future time which doesn't exist and may never exist. The worry existed only in my brain. Outside my skin, there was no problem with anything.

That's insanity: making pain for yourself when there is really none to be had.

There are also many different levels of insanity. What happened there in the car was a moment of minor insanity, a minor and fleeting loss of awareness Consciousness, also called unconsciousness.

There is also deep insanity, or deep unconsciousness. Let's say you have an average man who just finds out that his wife cheated on him. Certainly, he will become angry. Most people would, and that's the normal reaction to it. You can be angry and conscious at the same time. However, a "normal" person would have a really tough time being conscious in that situation. Most people would become unconsious and get into an argument with the betraying wife. Fine. However, a small minority of people would become deeply unconscious. They would lose so much touch with their true nature and become so absorbed by their ego that even their mental faculties would be completely gone, and they would perpetuate violence against the women. This is how you explain the presence of dysfunctional people in a simple way, without all the subclassifications of psycology.

Individual people are not the only things that can be insane. Groups also get insane. So do nations, races, religions, and any other types of associations among people. All you have to do to see a demonstation of that is read a newspaper or news blog.

Any time you take up a position on something, either by yourself or along with your group, and you are investing yourself into that position, that is the ego fooling you into thinking that something is real, when it isn't. The same is true if you take up a position against something too, remember! Railing against something because you think it is wrong can be the same as rallying for what you think is right, if it's done with an investment of your identity into it.

Every group and every individual has a connection to Consciousness. These people and associations can be aware of that Oneness or unaware of it, and they can act accordingly.

Monday, September 15, 2008


One day not long ago I was driving to work, and I was worrying about money. It happens to the best of us, as they say! In my head, I was churning around the possibilities of what I can do with the money I have, and how I could possibly get more, because, as you may not be surprised to hear, I feel like I do not have enough money.

Then my cell phone rang. I put the call through to my car speakers via my swanky Bluetooth interface in my luxury car (whose payments are one reason why I worry whether I have enough money or not), and the person on the other end was an old friend of mine from my old job. She needed me to do some consulting work for her, just a few hours on a Saturday. Eureka! Money! At $150/hr, a few hours on a Saturday was going to be pretty decent extra cash.

So, after hanging up with her my mind went right back to work spending that money that I might be getting but did not actually have yet. It was not long before I realized that even those measly few hundred dollars was not going to make a difference in my finances. The amount of money from that work compared to the amount of debt I am in was not significant. In fact, someone could give me ten times that amount and although it would make a decent dent in my debt, it would not end it, and my daily rat race would not change at all. I would be right onto the next gig, hoping to make another score. My mood began to spiral downward.

Then I was struck by something in all of that!

My life was not going to change at all from receiving that money for the consulting work. Financially speaking, my life would be the same before and after: I would be looking for ways to get money to pay the debt. So really there was no point to getting this money. It was not going to change a thing. In fact, to really change my lifestyle in a tangible way, it would take a whole lot of money which was not likely as far as I could see. So why was I beating myself up over this?

Good question.

Then I was struck by a vision of sorts. I sort of split into two and had a conversation with myself:

Self 1: If someone paid all my debts, what would I be doing right now?
Self 2: Investing!! Putting my money to work for me instead of chasing debt!
Self 1: Ok, great. What would that get me?
Self 2: More money!! A positive net worth!
Self 1: True, and what would I do with that extra money?
Self 2: Upgrade my lifestyle, maybe go back into a little debt even?
Self 1: *Laughing* Ok, fine. How long would it take to get enough money invested to actually change my lifestyle?
Self 2: A long time. Years.
Self 1: Years?! So, ok, if I had no debt and a bunch of money in the bank, what would I be doing differently RIGHT NOW, TODAY?
Self 2: Nothing. You'd be driving to work just like this.

It was an astonishing revelation. For a few moments afterwards, I pretended that all my debts were gone and I had a bunch of money in the bank, and I felt no different. I was still in my car driving to work. I was still right here, right now.

What you've just seen here is a perfect example of someone being overtaken by ego. When you step back and look at it, all of that stuff was in my head. None of it was real. Money, debt, all those types of things are numbers, especially nowadays in the Age of Information. Money is less real now than it ever was: it's just a bunch of 1's and 0's encoded as electrical impulses. So why do we get beat up about it? It happens because the ego loves an opportunity to draw you out of the Present Moment.

If you ever realize this happening to you, stop. Ask yourself what the logical conclusion of your desires is. If you follow the logic long enough, you will start to see the emptiness and flaws in it.

Go a step further. Close your eyes and spend time pretending you have what you want. Or, more importantly, open your eyes and pretend you have everything you want already and really be honest about how that would change your Present. Would it really?

Use this as an exercise to get yourself into the Present Moment. In the end, Now is all there is.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Practice makes perfect

Hey look it's a double header today!

When I was just starting out learning an Okinawan karate style at age 16, I practiced a lot. Usually, I would practice in my room at night with the door shut, going through all the techniques I was taught, over and over. Over the next couple years afterwards, I did not practice as much. Instead of every night, I probably did it every couple nights or every few nights, and I felt guilty about it.

So one night I went to a sensei and asked, "Sensei, how often do you practice?"

"All the time." he said.

"Huh?" I asked. "All the time? How? Right now you aren't practicing, at least. You're talking to me. So that can't be true. "

He smiled at me, "Oh, but it is true. See, you need to understand something. 'Practicing' does not necessarily mean doing kicks and punches for hours on end. 'Practicing' could be doing your breathing while walking down the street, or working on your awareness and training your mind. By doing these things, you are training too."

It was an interesting revelation. What is a spiritual exercise?

Is it some kind of funky task that you hate? Is it some hugely magical undertaking every night at a precise time? Not necessarily!!

The most potent spiritual exercises are the ones you do all the time, but do not seem like exercises. They seem like normal activity.

Are you sitting in a chair right now? How's your breathing? How's your posture? What noises are there in the background? How are the moods of the people around you? What is your own emotional state? Why is it that way? What do you need to do right now despite how you feel? What are you doing instead of that?

You can run through all those things in your head at ANY time without anyone knowing you are doing it, and that is a spiritual exercise.

Not sitting down? What are you doing? Sorting mail? Then sort the mail!! Sort the mail without thinking about anything else but that mail and how you can best sort it. Enjoy the energy in the task. Enjoy the repetitive motion. Sail through the motion smoothly and easily without effort. Get better at doing it gracefully with each repetition.

Doing that is a whole lot more enjoyable than cursing your job in the mail room, no?!

Whatever you are doing is spiritual. Everything. The only difference is whether you do it with or without awareness to that fact.

Oh, so close!

Most of the music out there is great and all, but it's generally been degraded into the realm of emotion and ego. I guess I don't need to demonstrate that when you look at all the bands that are put together to churn out tunes to the masses in such a way that is optimized to demographic and music sales. However, music, like all other art, can also reflect a piece of Consciousness. Put another way, Consciousness can inspire music in such a way that it does not get clouded by mental and emotional barriers that hide the presence of Consciousness. An artist, or musician, that is inspired in this way gets glimpses of Reality without a mental filter in place that labels everything. When the artist expresses that unfiltered Reality in a non-egotistical way, the result is always something beautiful and breathtaking, like a sunset. Viewing or listening to it will stop your mental chatter in its tracks, and for a brief second, you too will see things without your filter.

Sometimes, artists are expressing their emotional crap, and most of the time it's nonsense, like most emotional crap. However, occasionally, once in a blue moon, you get an artist that's expressing something emotional which is just on the verge of a breakthrough, or a lessening of the ego, or a glimpse of Consciousness.

I want to give an example. This is a song that I really like, by Stacie Orrico, with my comments in bold:

I've got it all, but I feel so deprived
I go up, I come down and I'm emptier inside <-- Starting to realize that there's a "rat race"
Tell me what is this thing that I feel like I'm missing <-- It's your undeniable pull towards things that are Real!
And why can't I let it go

There's gotta be more to life...
Than chasing down every temporary high to satisfy me <-- Damn right!
Cause the more that I'm...
Trippin' out thinkin' there must be more to life
Well it's life, but I'm sure... There's gotta be more

(Than wanting more) <--So close!

I've got the time and I'm wasting it slowly
Here in this moment I'm half-way out the door <-- Great line! She's realizing that there's this thing called Presence, though she hasn't figured out how to pay attention to it yet
Onto the next thing, I'm searching for something that's missing

I'm wanting more

I'm always waiting on something other than this <-- And you always will, until you learn to disidentify with the wanting
Why am I feelin' like there's something I missed.... <-- What you're missing is right in front of you!
Always... Always...

More to life
There's gotta be more to life (more to life)
There's gotta be more to life (more)
More to my life

I think that's such a beautiful song because it expresses so perfectly the people that are just figuring out that maybe this whole game of "getting stuff" and "being somebody" is just that: a game, but worse, an unwinnable and unending game.

As long as you try to get and you try to win, you will never be happy and you will never win.

The secret is to let go of the game. Be in it, not of it. Play it, but realize the whole time that the game is not the point. Being there in the first place is the point.

By the way, here's the video to the song:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Live, dammit!!

Someone approached me today asking indirectly how they could save someone who was dying. My initial reaction was to try to tell them how the person could be saved, even though I knew almost immediately that doing that sort of thing when uneducated fully in the situation was hazardous, or worse, useless. Then I pulled back a step and realized something as I read the information about the dying man. He doesn't want to live!

The people who were trying to save the man were not saving the man for his own benefit. They were trying to keep him around for their benefit.

Ok, I can respect that. People feel that way when their loved ones are getting close to passing away. They just do.

However, what was not present in this situation was any awareness at all about whether or not this dying man had any true reason to be kept around. There were lots of emotional reasons, certainly. There were also lots of mental ones. But was there any spiritual reason?

I don't know the answer to that.

What I do know is that people often get wrapped up in their own emotional and mental images of a situation which blinds them to the real situation. Do any of these people in this dying man's family realize that he doesn't want to live? Do any of the people who are trying to save him realize he doesn't want to be saved? Do any of them realize anything that's going on outside of their own internal struggles?

When Draja gave me my first lesson, "pay attention", I thought he meant I had to notice every physical detail around me, and while that did help at the time, it was not the true essence of what he asked me to do. To pay attention also means to be able to detect your own emotional and mental walls that you put up between yourself and Reality, and to also see those walls when they are put up by others.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Enlightenment, meet Laziness

One of the things I have always found to be hard to do is be content. When I say "content" what do you think about?

I'm guessing everyone will say that content means being happy with what you have and wanting nothing more, and that is true for the most part. But wait a minute. If someone is truly content and wanted nothing more, why would they do anything at all? Why not just say, "No thanks, I am not going to go for that promotion." or "I know that I tend to live outside the present moment, but I am not going to work on training my mind at all" because you are content with what you have?

Or worse, what if a person says, "My family is barely scraping by and that's enough for me. I'm going to just chill and do nothing."

Or even worse, "I know my house is a mess and there is garbage all over the place, but I'm content with that and do not see the need to clean it up."

What if you just wind up being unemployed and sitting on a couch all day because you are content? Is that something "spiritual"?

The answer is no.

The Dalai Lama says, "Do not confuse contentment with complacency." in his book "The Art of Happiness at Work".

Contentment is a feeling that exists in the Present Moment. If you are present, and you are paying attention to that underlying Oneness or Consciousness in the background of everything, you can feel content. You can even rationalize contentment by looking at all the "good" things you have or have achieved. Contentment is a form of Acceptance, and Acceptance is one manifestation that Consciousness can take in the Present. According to Eckhart Tolle, the other two are Enthusiasm and Enjoyment.

However, even when you are content, there is still an unexplainable current that pulls your mind forward in time. In the realm of time, PEOPLE DO THINGS. They just do. Most of the time, they do things driven by their egos and animal selves, but even if the ego could be eliminated completely, people would still do things because that's what people do in the realm of time! Things!

Complacency is ignoring the simple functional fact that people do things. You can picture time like the current of a river. You are swimming in that river. That really leaves you two choices if you are going to stay in the river: you can let the current carry you, or you can swim against the current. People who are complacent are swimming against the river. People who are content let the river carry them wherever it may, and they are trusting of the process that pulls them along.

So should you get that better job? Should you feed your family filet mignon instead of ground chuck? Should you vacuum your house today?

The answer is yes.

The caveat is that as you do those things, make sure you do them for the simple fact that this is what people do, rather than getting your identity mixed up in those things which causes your ego to trap you.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

To the new visitors here...

I usually try to say this at the beginning of every month, because as I make more posts, this information tends to move down into the archives where nobody can see it.

Anyway, as I've mentioned, this blog is best read from beginning to end. If you are just joining us and you start to read the most recent posts first, you might be a bit confused because a lot of what I say builds on older info.

That's about all for now.

In other news, I am about 3/4ths of the way through writing a small book on my experiences training with Draja Mickaharic as a kid. The tentative title, which I'm sure Draja would approve of, is "Growing Up With Draja Mickaharic". I should be done with writing in a month or two, and however long editing takes will determine when I can get it out. I will attempt to self-publish it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Over the hill

Movement is a curious thing when taken in perspective of Consciousness and the Present Moment. Normally, movement is just that: a change in position. You go from one place to another. That could be going from one time to another time as you watch the seconds tick by on the clock, or it could be going for a job around your neighborhood, watching the houses and picket white fences rush by you. In that "normal" state of consciousness, movement means change, or at least it means something.

Often the problem with this is that after we get to where we are going, we either want more movement, or we become disappointed because we now feel like we haven't really moved anywhere.

Those moments and movement itself are key to pointing your way towards the Present.

Consciousness occupies everything. It is fullness and form, and simultaneously it is emptiness and space. The Asian traditions refer to fullness as yang and emptiness as yin. At first it is tough to grasp both fullness and emptiness simultaneously. Often you can just settle for one of them in a particular moment, but it does not matter. Either way, Consciousness is just there, in all its fullness and/or emptiness. When you pay attention to this awareness, you realize something: the awareness is still... ultimate stillness and calm.

Movement still exists! But it is contained within the stillness. When you are jogging through that neighborhood, your space is stationary. The neighborhood moves around you, but at the same time, the neighborhood is also contained within your stationary space.

Time is the same thing. In the passing of time, there is a stationary moment that does not move. Time moves around that moment, but also within it simultaneously. There really is no "inside" or "outside" of the moment.

This stuff gets difficult to explain with words.

Still, if it is difficult to internalize what I just wrote, understand at least then the pitfalls when it is not being internalized.

Do you ever expect to get somewhere?

Do you ever get disappointed when time passes and you don't get the results you wanted on something?

Do you ever get to where you are going and feel unfulfilled?

This is part of the illusion that the ego sets up, and is in turn always disenchanted by it. The thought that something other than here or now is necessary and you must get there or feel some sense of failure if you do not is a trick used by the ego, once again, for self-preservation. The ego has problems with the Present, because in the Present it does not exist. It can only exist as long as it can fool you about putting your mind and emotions into some time or place other than here and now.

A sensei once told me, "Without expectation, there can be no disappointment."

This sounds like a cynical phrase when applied to some things, but it really is about a deeper meaning. The ego expects things and is disappointed when they don't turn out as expected. When you anticipate something and identify with that anticipation and expectation, you will be disappointed invariably.

Ideally, feelings of expectations can arise in you as normal things happen in your life, but instead of identifying with them, you watch them happen as an observer. Then later, when the results do not match the expectation, you can watch that too. Even if there is a feeling of disappointment there, you will not be identified with it.