Thought some of you might appreciate a photo I took from the air yesterday morning near Seattle. I’m calling the image Volcano Land. Presently, I’m in Spokane, Washington, flown in by the Kalispel Tribe to speak at their Tree of Healing Conference. They’ve set me up pretty posh in their Northern Quest Resort and Casino, but it’s really not my kind of scene. I don’t gamble, and these sorts of places - casino resorts, shopping malls, theme parks, cruise ships, tourist traps, etc - they’re all built to be self-contained, luxury habitats for those who, as far as I can tell, are here trying to buy happiness, if only for a brief moment. It’s sad, because to me it shows that a lot of people probably never experience deep satisfaction and sustained joy in their lives… you know, real pleasure in just being who and where they are normally, every day. They chase the little shot of hope that the products presented at these kinds of places offer. Casinos are the worst. They demonstrate that even our senior citizens, with extensive life experience, are still drawn to something as simple as blinky lights, and the slim potential of getting lucky rich. No offense to anyone with a different perspective, but I really value my energy, and I’m pretty careful how I expend it. I’m not selfish with it; I’ll volunteer my energy toward pursuits I think are beneficial. But to me, sitting half the day at a slot machine seems pretty much a complete energy sink, and I wouldn’t even do it if someone paid me for it. I’m here because it’s an opportunity to share some of my perspectives with a relatively wide audience of health care professionals, psychologists, social workers, and educators. But in order for me to do this, and not become moody or passive aggressive about what I’m witnessing, I have to find ways to draw my attention toward other aspects of the place.
My main approach has always been to immerse myself in the wider ecological happenings. In this respect, it doesn’t matter where I am, and what kinds of crazy stuff the humans are up to, there’s always nature to turn toward. Early morning is a good time for this. The birds wake up hungry, and will happily lead anyone who’s interested to all their seasonal sources of food. Following birds around in the morning like this is a surefire way to get the big picture about what’s currently important to them, in their perspective of the place. But really, any time of day, when I get a chance to direct my attention toward nature, is enjoyable. It releases me of my tensions. When I’m in places like this casino resort, I particularly like finding examples of where animals are repurposing something the humans have made – be it the jewel spiders setting their webs up next to the electric lights to catch more moths, or the house sparrows picking their meals off the grill of a car.
Now that I’ve returned to martial arts, I have a second source of retreat… that being my own body. For instance, while attending a couple of the conference sessions this morning, I made a point of maintaining good posture while sitting and listening to the speakers. I once met an Okinawan karateka in his eighties who was still really vital and fit. When asked to share his secret, of whether or not it was from his daily karate practice, he admitted that while the martial arts helped, the true source of his health was in a rule he’d set for himself many years before, never to lean on anything. In other words, core balance. That wisdom has stuck with me, though I’ve never had the discipline to completely institute it in my own life. The posture exercises are a start, and I added several sets of stomach tightening to keep things interesting. After the sessions, I went downstairs to check out the hotel’s fitness room. To my surprise, it was completely empty of people. I did a few circuits with the weight machines, and then got curious about the kettlebells. I’ve never worked with a kettlebell before, but I’ve seen others do so. What I was thinking is that they might be useful for developing the muscles used specifically in our CLF form. So I played with them for about the next half hour, and actually really enjoyed it. Think I might even buy one for at home when I get back. I’ve posted clips from some of this training below.