The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Musashi #2: The Way Is In Training

The second principle is "The Way is in training."
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I read this as: the "Way", (the path, the door, the goal, the method.) is in ceaseless, daily effort.  There is a great scene in John Steinbeck's WW2 memoir "Once There Was a War."  In it, he describes the expression on the face of a naval cook, when he realizes there is no way to "feed a man once and for all."  Loved that.  The concept of ceaseless, incremental daily improvement, or constant engagement with the processes of life, goes back to every wise person in every culture since the beginning of time.  "Before Enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water."  The tasks of life go on, and it is in engaging with them that our momentum is maintained.  Just try slacking off after you've gained fitness.  Every run into that high school quarterback about twenty years later? 
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Let's take a look at this second principle in our three arenas.
1) Body.  You need to stretch, move, connect with your body EVERY DAY.  You should stress it at least a couple of times a week, and build to "peaks" a few times a year, just allowing a gentle fluctuation of intensity.  Treated like this, constantly seeking to learn something new about the body-mind connection, is enough to keep you busy for a thousand years.
2) Career/Mind.  Well, we're being specific to writing.  Write every day.  Write a story a week, or a thousand words a day.  Constantly seek to improve in small ways.  Seek higher and higher levels of criticism and feedback.  Improve your resistance to failure, fear, and disappointment.  Work to tap more deeply into your creativity.  Every damned day.
3) Spirit/Relationship.  I start every day with meditation.  Finding that calm center within me, that connection with the divine, that essence that is, in actuality, the only thing any of us need.  Connecting with that space erases fear of abandonment or rejection. Failing to make that connection leads one to believing that outside relationships will complete us.  They will not.  We must complete ourselves, otherwise we will attract only wounded people to us.  Otherwise, we will pass our fears and neediness on to our children. Otherwise, we will reinforce our dear friend's dysfunction, because we need them to reinforce ours.  We will live lives of quiet desperation, and begin to consider our wounds to be spiritual strengths.  But beyond that, relationships, friendships, love, marriages, require daily work.  You have to be there emotionally, physically, financially, mentally, energetically.  All it takes to have a healthy relationship is everything you've got, every day, with complete honesty, compassion, and self-confidence.  This is why I consider our relationships to be our best and finest mirrors for who we are. 
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