Sunday, August 21, 2011

Live your life!

Milton Ray Winebrenner, age 74, died August 7, 2011 in Houston, Texas.

Uncle Milton was the oldest of three children, the youngest being my mother.  He had been married 54 years (think about that for a minute), had no children and led a very amazing life.  As I have mentioned in the past, I lost my dad when I was 14.  Uncle Milton was the “rich uncle” who was always there during thick and thin.  I never knew what his income level was, but he lived in the big city up the street (Houston) and always had some cool gifts at Christmas.  Looking back at his life, his pictures, his memories, I tend to see how my life evolved.  

Uncle Milton was involved in management consulting, Toastmasters, and civic duty.  He was a member of the Army at one point in his life.  He loved cats (his four ‘children’ will miss him dearly).  He was always right on the cutting edge of technology (he gave me my first computer at Christmas, 1982 - all hail the Texas Instrument 99/4A!).  He always treated the family to holiday meals at the local country club before opening up his home and heart to us at the big house in Houston.  On my last trip home, we met up and pizza was the order of the day.  He was still going strong, heavily involved as the president of his neighborhood civic organization, still making a difference in this world, when he passed.  

Uncle Milton had fun in his life.  He took life seriously, but did not take life too seriously.  He will be missed.  Although he has departed, he lives on in all the people he influenced.  That includes me.  The lessons he left behind will not be forgotten.  Stay true to your community, to your family and to yourself.  Pursue your passion with perseverance, but do not forget to stop, look around, and have some fun along the way.  Stay devoted to your soul mate.  Play.  Never forget those who have less than you do.  Do not judge, but treat them with compassion. 

The world will miss you, Uncle Milton.        

Friday, July 29, 2011

The one sure event - Death

For the samurai to learn
There's only one thing,
One last thing -
To face death unflinchingly.
- Tsukahara Bokuden (1489-1571)

In this lifetime, I have been the bringer of death; I have been the enemy of death.  On the battlefields of the Middle East, I was the instrument of death, the bringer of artillery and ruthless fire upon those who opposed our advance.  It was this road that eventually led me to the path I follow today, the enemy of death.  

I now walk a path to make sure that death is held at bay until it is truly welcome.  We all take a journey through this life.  The only thing that is certain is the passing of this lifetime.  At an early age, the age of 14, I learned that death can come at any moment.  It was an early morning on Thursday, May 20, 1982, that my father passed on to the other side.  It would be many, many years later before I accepted this moment in my life.  It only became acceptance when I realized that my dad was gone, the ones alive where those he left behind. We should live, everyday in the Here and Now.

Today, the word goes out that the man who went on to marry my mother, my stepfather, has begun his journey on the other side.  The family grieves and strives to find acceptance on the passing.  He had 70 years on the earth and fathered two wonderful men.  He provided balance to my mother.  Now he has passed on, to find what lies on the other side.

I will not tell you how he died; I will tell you how he lived.  My stepbrother summarized it nicely, “Father, Brother, Uncle, Friend, Obnoxious Jerk at times, but much more often a loving, caring man...”  This is the remembrance we must embrace.  Remember the lessons of life and not the lessons of death.  Hold those precious moments in your spirit so that they may light the path ahead.

The Samurai did not fear death.  It was a natural part of life.  We exit the womb with only one thing that is a surety.

I have no parents; I make the Heavens and the Earth my parents.
I have no home; I make the Tan T'ien my home.
I have no divine power; I make honesty my Divine Power.
I have no means; I make Docility my means.
I have no magic power; I make personality my Magic Power.
I have neither life nor death; I make A Um my Life and Death.
     - 1st Refrain, Samurai Creed, 14th Century

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Situational Awareness

Not a day goes by that our fair city has another crime making the headlines.  Some blame the heat, the education system, the lack of activities for young adults, the drug problem, and on and on.  No matter what is motivating those who turn to crime, the rest of us can benefit from a good sense of situational awareness. 
Many cases I read about involved women who were attacked while they were on their cell phone.  I have a real pet peeve about people who stay glued to their cell phones a majority of the time.  I will be the ‘grumpy old guy’ and tell you that ‘in my day, while we were walking two miles uphill both ways to school in the snow’ that a cell phone was used for emergency purposes.  Nowadays, it is a fashion accessory, glued to an ear while driving, walking, and, yes, even standing at a urinal doing our business (seriously).  One detriment is the loss of situational awareness.  In the cases I cited, the women (and men are just as guilty) become so wrapped up in their conversations, they lose touch with what is going on around them.  I do a lot of walking, a lot of people watching.  You can always tell the vets, the martial artists, the ones who have some training in situational awareness.  Their gaze goes to hands, to center of body movements, to a quick glance at another person’s eyes.  Their gaze is in constant movement, not noticeable to the extreme, just quick glances to all cardinal points, expanding peripheral vision to take in every minute detail, every perspective, every moment in the Here and Now.    
Situational awareness is not just about threat assessment.  It is about soaking in the environment.  Here is an example:  Walked two miles to the river for my morning run.  A period of that walk was before the sun came up through a rough part of the city.  While my ‘senses’ were expanded, I noted several individual youths just hanging out.  I also noticed the large Savannah fountain and how nice it looked lit up.  I hit the river path for my three mile run.  About 70% of that path is cobblestone.  A different type of situational awareness is needed to make sure I navigate the stones successfully.  As I make the turn onto the river, the sun is coming up over my right shoulder.  In the river a tugboat is guiding a large cargo ship out to the sea.  Porpoising in front of the ship are Georgia bottleneck dolphins.  Shop owners are sweeping the sidewalks in front of their businesses.  Other runners pass by and we share greetings.  The city slowly rises from its slumber and a new day starts.  Can you feel the happiness?  Can you feel the joy of a new day?
Use your situational awareness to remain in the Here and Now.  Be ever cautious of those who would do you harm, but don’t let the happiness and joys of a beautiful surrounding pass you by in your journeys.  Live your life!  Have situational awareness!          

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Release your power!

I had the distinct pleasure of addressing the Coastal Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Military Comptrollers this last week.  I love speaking engagements.  It comes from growing up in Texas, where front porches are the place for sit and speaks on the topic of the day.  This upbringing has greatly influenced my job as a counselor and mentor to an organization of 1200 employees.  I was asked to speak in my capacity as Disability Program Manager.  I saw it as an opportunity to speak on Disability Empowerment.  The free crab cake lunch was an added bonus.
I opened with one of my favorite quotes from Doctor Howard Thurman, an influential American author, philosopher, theologian, education and civil rights leader in the twentieth century.
“Don't ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”
You see, deep down inside of us is power.  We all have it.  We all want to do a great job in this life.  We all have some type of knowledge and skill that can contribute to the world at large.  Empowerment is about letting this power out for humankind.  I shared a three part solution for managers on how their employees can let this power out, to empower their employees, and to build a better team.  You can just as easily replace “manager” with husband, wife, teacher, sensei, coach, sergeant, etc.  The plan works for every type of leadership role and capacity.
The book “Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute” presents three means that leaders can use to empower their subordinates.  These are sharing information with everyone, creating autonomy through boundaries and replacing the old hierarchy with self-managed teams.  We share information with everyone, allowing trust to be built up and involving everyone in the process by giving them a clear purpose and direction.  We create autonomy through boundaries, as needed, to ensure open lines of communication and feedback are occurring.  This leads to better self-managed teams.  These self-managed teams move the mission forward and continue the vision well into the future. 
The discussion went on to the broader vision of empowering our lives when working with those who are disabled.  The combat operations this nation has endured for the last ten years has created a large population of veterans who are returning with visible and invisible wounds.  Some of them need to let their power out, to be empowered.  Some of us need to teach them how to be empowered.  That is my path in life.  I am always on the lookout for a few fellow journeyers. 
I wrapped up my discussion by sharing a story from my time while I was attending the Disability Program Manager’s Course at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.  I was checking in and the hotel clerk asked me what course I was attending.  I told her and she relayed that she felt sorry for the “blind guy” who had reported in earlier.  I asked her what she meant and she said, “You know, getting to the dining facility, around base, etc.”
I asked her if he had developed blindness while he was checking in.
I met Joe later; he is a GS-15 Disability Program Manager for one of the Federal Agencies (the highest grade you can achieve.)  We had a chuckle over coffee at the Dining Facility (by the way, he did just fine navigating his way around) and he relayed his side of the story.
You see, Joe was given a second story room by that hotel clerk; in a building with no elevator, just stairs.  She may have wondered how Joe was going to be able to get around, but she didn’t empower him so he could be highly productive.
By the way, Joe let some of his power out and got himself a first floor room.
Let me close with a quote. “Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you're needed by someone.”
Find your passion.  Share it with others so we can all be empowered!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thoughts on the Rapture

Well, I wanted to welcome you to the other side of the Rapture.  If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you know I had a little fun on May 21, 2011, the so-called Rapture prophesy of Harold Camping, an evangelist from Alameda, California.  If you do not know who I am referencing… well, nothing to see here, move along.  So why did a Buddhist, someone who walks a path of compassion, have such a frolic at the expense of another human being.  Well, it is because this man of God harkens me back to a childhood of “Revelation Churches.”

Let me fill you in on that one.  I was born and raised in a small town in Texas.  Every Sunday, we would travel to an unincorporated township where my grandma lived, a township whose population was about 300-400 and had six churches.  We attended the Church of Christ, one of two in this town.  Of course, ours was the “white” church, after all, this was south Texas and in the middle of the 70’s.  The township’s Church of Christ had broken into two churches during the era of desegregation in the 60’s.  We remained the ‘pure’ church.  Our Sunday attendance consisted of 8-12 worshippers.  Our sermons mostly consisted of quotes from Daniel and Revelations, because Proctor and Gamble had put bar codes on their products and the anti-Christ was in full force shaping the world.  I grew up knowing Ronald Wilson Reagan (count those letters, folks) was secretly shaping the world to his evil means.  Then, the light went out and came back on.

Thursday, 4:32am, May 20, 1982.  My father, who was the song leader for our congregation, passed away.  I was 14 years old, in the heart of my early teenage years, in the heart of susceptibility.   We attended services the next Sunday, where the man who oversaw our church told me that unless I repented and was baptized, I was going to hell.  Now, think about that for a second.  Fourteen, lost his father three days earlier, in the throws of grief, and a man of God is telling me I am going to hell.  It was here that I learned the First Noble Truth of Buddhism - Life is suffering.  Suffer I did.  Of course, I was baptized within the next few weeks.  I took on the mantle of replacing my father in the congregation, leading hymns and reading scripture each Sunday, mostly from Revelations, and looking for the apocalypse in every news story.  Luckily, I joined the Army in 1986, left my small town upbringing, was exposed to culture and diversity and my mind was able to break free of the shackles of my youth. 

Understand, this is not a bash on Christianity nor the Church of Christ, but just the narrow viewpoints of those who blindly follow visions of prophesy.  My path is compassion.  So, I feel compassion when I see fellow human beings following the same path I took as a child.  I feel compassion when I see a man tell his followers he knows the ultimate truth.  In that compassion, I must find some joy and love that is truly the end we must attain.  Over the next few days, if he has not taken his life, we will hear from Harold Camping, he will try to justify how he made a mistake.  It is the circle of life for these types.  I went through this in my early adult years when I confronted the man from my childhood church.  Hopefully, his followers will find some compassion for this man.  In the meantime, I will continue on my path in the here and now.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Know your enemy

The news rolls on.  One of our Nation’s most wanted fugitive has been killed.  Now, the media will twist the story around for the next days, weeks, months, etc until we get sick to death of it.  Some will get it right; others will spin it to justify whatever.  In the end, will it really matter?
My last job in the military involved a lot of battlefield assessments, observing the enemy to help determine a course of action, and providing lethal support to the main ground forces once we were committed to the battle.  So, a vast amount of time staying hidden and reporting what I saw all around me.  This mentality has really translated into what I do for a living now, as an advisor to the commander on management employee relations.  It could not be more relevant to the current news story of the day.
I have sat in amazement as co-worker after co-worker has approached me today and asked about my feelings on the operation overseas.  Some who know me very well have not had to ask at all.  They know my philosophy of “watching the battlefield and gathering intelligence before acting decisively.”  Yes, the ones who were given the task of executing this military operation have reason to celebrate their mission accomplishment.  Yes, I am proud of my fellow troopers who lost no one on this surgical strike.  But, it is early in the operation.  Those who oppose us will undoubtedly retaliate.  Now is not the time to throw a drunken frat party to celebrate the death of one man who lost his celebrated figure head years ago.  Watch the battlefield.  Gather intelligence.  Act decisively.  The question on my mind is, “Where is Ayman al-Zawahri?”  Don’t know who that is?  Then, you need to go back and re-read Sun Tzu.  Know your enemy.
Our Nation will celebrate.  The operators who were involved in the actual action will be de-briefed, take a day, then check the mission board to see what task is next.  It is the warrior way.  They know their enemy.  We should too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One letter for everyday of the week

Here.  Now.  Seven letters.  Seven days of the week. 
Been a while since my last blog.  Some of my family knows the reason for my absence, those who do not just need to be aware that life in general offered me a challenge to grow or wither.  I chose to take the offer, push through the mud and murk to bloom on the other side. 
There are lessons to be learned when life hands you adversity.  You can cling to the sorrow, the pain, the suffering. You can spiral into doubt, depression, the sadness and despair.  You can find reasons to quit, throwing in the towel.  You can say, “I can never _____.”  Or you can live.  I am a firm believer that any amount of adversity can be overcome.  It takes perseverance.  It takes staying in the here and now, right here and right now.  It takes placing your sword over your heart.  It takes realizing that, “Even though an enemy has a blade over my heart, I will succeed.  I will win.” 
The root of what I teach veterans (of both wars abroad and at home) is the mantra of “Here and Now.”  As I stated, the words Here Now are seven letters, which I have assigned the following seven words to contemplate one day at a time.  They are H-Honesty, E-Endurance, R-Reality, E-Effort, N-Notice, O-Onward, and W-Worthy.  Let’s explore.
HONESTY is the key to staying grounded.  Look at why you are straying off course.  And then LOOK at why you are straying off course.  And once you open that path, REALLY look at why you are straying off the path.  In other words, somewhere buried deep down below the initial obstacle is the true reason.  Embrace that reason with honesty and integrity.
Have the ENDURANCE to face the challenge.  Endurance doesn’t mean going full out 110 percent.  It means keeping your eyes and mind aware through the challenge to find the opening.  It means staying the course waiting for the moment when you can make that one move that will stop the conflict.  It means persevering. 
Stay focused on REALITY, this reality, right here, right now.  Relax in the moment and let the present play out.  Is the event that is causing you distress really happening in reality?  Stop and look again.  Is the event that is causing you distress really happening in REALITY?  Think about that for a moment.
Understand there is no easy path.  We can’t just give it up to a higher power and continue to hurt.  It takes EFFORT.  Strength gainers don’t just look at a book on exercise and become stronger.  Runners don’t buy a Wii Fitness and expect to finish a road race.  Likewise, mental strength doesn’t come from not pushing yourself beyond your limits.  Push.  Put the effort in.
A key component in Here Now thinking is to NOTICE everything around you at all times.  This helps you stay grounded in the moment.  Sometimes there is an advantage in letting your mind and spirit wander.  This is good.  But, liken it to your annual vacation from work.  You reward yourself for a good year by taking that time off to relax.  Your moments that you wander should be that vacation, not the hard work you put in day after day.  By noticing your surroundings you develop the capability that no amount of adversity can surprise you. That doesn't mean staying hypervigilant, just stay aware, where you are, when you are, why you are.
When you deal with the present, keep in mind that it will slip into the past and you will press ONWARD.  In the few minutes that you have been reading this blog, time has slipped by.  You have moved onward from where you were.  How simple was that?  Those moments that threaten to derail your life are the same.  Push onward.  They will be the past in just a few moments.
The last aspect is to recognize that you are WORTHY of this effort.  You affect someone.  You also affect yourself.  You have some worth to someone.  Somehow you got to this blog.  You have worth to me just for stopping by, whether you comment or not.  Adversity can try to derail your worth, make you think there is no reason to carry on, but this is so untrue. 
I close with these two phrases from the martial path I follow.  Banpen Fugyo – 10,000 changes, no surprise.  A complex phrase with a simple message – persevere, even when faced with a blade above your heart. 
The second phrase is the essence of budo – Ganbatte Kudasai! – keep going! 
Endure, survive, because this is the here and now!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Detachment from war

I recently marked the twentieth anniversary of the ‘first’ Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm.  I served with the lead brigade of the 1st Armored Division as an Ammunition Team Sergeant on a 155mm howitzer section.  My 100 hour experience was filled with constant firing of artillery in support of the infantry and armor units to our immediate front.  For those unfamiliar with this operation, a 155mm artillery piece makes an earth shaking boom with every shot fired.  And we fired a lot.
Since that time, I have had the distinction of two more combat tours in Iraq.  Each time was something unique.  Each time had its own level of horror.  There are specific memories that bubble to the top of my consciousness, less frequently as time passes, but challenging to deal with at the least.
I think back to the times I experienced after the initial campaign in Baghdad in 2003.  We had relocated west to the town of Fallujah.  It would be these last few months that would be the pinnacle of the deployment.  These moments are the times that I spend the most energy cleansing from my spirit.  I found it remarkable that some memories that I had suppressed came flying back as I thought about my times in the deserts of the Middle East two decades ago.
They say that only the dead have seen the end of war.  That is not true.  The survivors of war live with it every day.  It shapes how we deal with people, issues, conflict and day to day interactions with the rest of humanity.  It can consume us if we let it.  Sometimes we have to make a drastic change in our lives to put the past behind us.  Sometimes we have to detach. 
Let me clarify here.  Yes, war is bullets flying while you serve your country on a foreign battlefield.  War is also surviving an abusive relationship, whether that is parental or spousal.  War is a thug who accosts you in a dark alley way as you are walking home.  War is waking up at 2:00am to realize there are burglars in your house.  War can take many forms in our lives. 
I spoke of the dangers of attachment in my last blog.  Warriors (someone engaged in or experienced in warfare) need to be able to detach from their experiences.  Warriors need to strive to constantly remain in the Here and Now.  Warriors need to be self aware to remain mindful of the dangers of becoming too attached to warfare.  It will consume the body, mind and soul.  Detach.  Empty your mind.  Have “Mushin” – no mind.  It is not an easy path.  But, neither was surviving war.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Journey from Head to Heart

This has been a very compelling and arduous week for me, beset by obstacles and challenges.  I am tired and exhausted and feel like my karmic batteries are flashing that little ‘warning’ light.  This week has been a confrontation of the past fraught with the challenges of being able to stay grounded and focused on the here and now.  It has been rough.  It has been demanding.  It has been truly a testimony to the first Noble Truth of my Buddhist beliefs, “According to the Buddha, whatever life we lead, it has the nature of some aspect of suffering. Even if we consider ourselves happy for a while, this happiness is transitory by nature. This means that at best, we can only find temporary happiness and pleasure in life.”
Truly, life is about suffering.
The spiritual path I follow says that the root delusions of this suffering are attachment, anger and ignorance.  Because of these we do things that cause problems to ourselves and others.  We use the power of our mind to create this suffering.  It is only when we can change the way we see things, when we can reach a state of calm and clarity that we can begin to let go of this attachment.  If we can control our body and mind in a way that we help others instead of doing them harm, and generating wisdom in our own mind, we can end our suffering and problems.  It is not an easy road to follow. 
The comfort lies in the fact that suffering is always present, but we can eliminate the causes of it by changing our mind, our outlook and our way of thinking.  Suffering is delusional.  When we possess the proper wisdom, we can rid ourselves of the delusions, if we follow the proper path.  When we learn to give up our need to harm others, we can generate wisdom in our hearts and end our own suffering.  In Buddhism, this journey is known as the eight-fold path.  The set of attitude and action guide markers are correct thought, correct speech, correct actions, correct livelihood, correct understanding, correct effort, correct mindfulness, and correct concentration. 
By following a middle path, there lies a potential for happiness, compassion, love and joyous effort.  Here is wishing everyone a compassionate day and a fuller life.  The hardest journey is the eighteen inch journey between the head and the heart.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Walking with Musashi

I have spent the last week re-reading The Book of Five Rings (五輪書, Go Rin No Sho) as well as looking over The Way of Self Reliance, both by Miyamoto Musashi, a Japanese swordsman from the Late Warring Period and the early Tokugawa period (15th-16th centuries).  He is most famous for his duel on April 13, 1612 on the island of Funajima. Musashi faced an opponent wielding an impressive long sword known as a nodachi.  Legend has it that on the ride to the island, he carved a bokken (wooden sword) from a boat oar that was longer than his opponent’s weapon.  The duel was short and Musashi walked away the victor.  It would be in his later years of life that he would collect his knowledge into the works we now call The Book of Five Rings.
The book is a work devoted to his style of martial art and the philosophies from a lifetime of combat and study.  Musashi was a master of making the other opponent out think himself.  He would show up late or early to duels, used bokken to duel instead of blade, and generally changed his approach to each confrontation or conflict as needed based on the situation.  The mental skills and his application of knowing the thoughts of others must have been truly impressive.  There are lessons to be had by studying his work.
Let me be clear before we go any further; I am no Musashi.  In my line of work, I must look into grievances in the workplace and attempt to informally resolve these conflicts before they can escalate into serious matters.  It requires a lot of mental focus and knowing the habits and cultural backgrounds of a diverse group of employees.  I put aside quiet periods of the day for mental focus, whether it is at 4 am when I rise, on the bus ride home, moving meditation as I run my few miles a day to work or the Go-Gyo forms that form the basis of the martial art I now study.  Everyone should do some mental training daily.  I am sure Musashi, and history recounts this, spent hours refining his mental prowess.  We should continue his example in our daily lives, whether it is a devoted block of meditation, a quiet moment to settle the thought process, a pause before replying to a question, or a moving meditation during exercise.  These moments assist in the clarity of the heart and ensure we are proceeding as we should when faced with the sword.   Just as we stretch our bodies to develop fluidity and flexibility, we should stretch our minds to develop the ability to adapt to any situation that confronts us.  Strive to keep an open mind and understanding of your surroundings; how your actions, reactions and no actions will affect the environment you find yourself in the here and now.  Miyamoto Musashi did.  We should strive to walk along side him.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Setting goals and sticking with them!

First off, let me say thanks for stopping by.  I guess I can add some credentials to this writing so you understand where I am coming from.  I have been an avid fitness enthusiast for all of my adult life, graduated the US Army Physical Fitness School in 1994 as a Master Fitness Trainer, held certifications from the American Council of Exercise (LWMS), National Strength and Conditioning Association (TSAC-Coach) and am a 27-year veteran of the martial arts (Korean and Japanese influences) where I am now studying the classic kihon of To Shin Do Kasumi-An over the last year.  I believe that physical exercise is a key part of the three legged stool that makes up an individual (the others being the mental and spiritual aspects, but those are for another blog.)
I wanted to address goal settings and give you some food for thought as to your target for the coming year.  Every year those of us who are “gym rats” see the seasonal January crowds come and go.  We see the “oh, summer is here I have to spend two hours a day in the gym” crowds in May, and the inevitable November guilt crowds.  Maybe you are one of those who are considering stopping your exercise routine you started three weeks ago because you are not ‘shredded’ yet, can’t run that marathon, or hurt too much. We need to push through this moment and continue to the path of a healthier, fuller life.  Here is some food for thought:
1.  Obstacles.  They will drop right in front of you and try to throw you from your chosen path.  Learn to flow around them or, better yet, pierce through them.  Look and think outside the box.
2.  Set measurable goals, both mini- and long-term.  Start small “I want to lose 5 pounds” and strive towards it with determined focus.  Don’t start with “I want to lose 100 pounds” and then be discouraged in two weeks.  Start small, but look to the big.  A journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step.
3.  Keep it mixing it up.  Your body is an adaptable piece of machinery.  It will settle into a routine pretty quick, usually within two to four weeks.  This is the time when it is recommended to change it up.  Change your tempo, your resistance, your time.  Challenge yourself.  I have an advanced five week routine that changes focus every week; what is called microcosms and macrocosms.  You wouldn’t drive to an unknown destination without a map, would you?  Chart those workouts and increase as needed using Progression, Regularity, Overload, Variety, Recovery, Balance and Specificity.  I will discuss the PROVRBS acronym in a future blog.
4.  Build your support team, both mentors and travelers.  There will be a day when you are “dun” as I like to call it.  That is the time to reach out and within to gather your forces.  Friends and mentors can provide that little bit of encouragement needed to get cranking on your planned workout. 
5.  But, I don’t have the time.  Analyze what you really do in a day.  Keep an hourly log for a week, then go back and look at it.  There is a good bet that your daily hour of exercise is staring you in the face.  Renowned weight lifter Bill Pearl used to get up at 4 am everyday to get in his workout before he started his day.  Yeah, he probably missed his favorite TV show at 9 pm every night, but that show eventually ended and he still drives on.  It is all about priorities.
6.  Reward yourself.  I cannot lie.  I love chocolate covered honey buns.  They are evil incarnate.  But, I know that if I push myself hard Monday through Saturday, mile after mile, rep after rep, workout after workout, if I want a chocolate covered honey bun on Sunday, I can get away with it.  A friend of mine recently wanted some cake instead of working out.  I challenged her to have a small piece after her workout.  She went out and trained.  The urge for cake passed.  She is healthier and stronger because of her workout.
7.  Understand you will have slips.  Falling is natural.  The challenge is how to absorb the “fall” and spring back to your feet.  Don’t beat yourself up over it.  Right here is right now.  That slip happened in the past.  What are we going to do right now to make the future better?
Remember, keep training!  The best time to start is right here, right now.
Now, get off the internet and go get ‘em!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Live every day to its fullest potential!

An email goes across the workforce to inform us of the loss of a fellow employee.  For most of the workforce, this leads to a comment or two, some condolences offered and back to work.  For some of us, who knew... well, let’s just call him <*P*> to protect his identity at this point, this hits a little closer.  <*P*> was a gym rat, like myself.  Every day we would run into each other at the building fitness center.  He was 47 and married, at the point in his life where fitness means something different that the single 20 year old who thinks the gym is a social engagement.  We would pass through the strutting roosters, our headphones on, towel in hand, from station to station, bench to bench, mat to mat, grinding out the iron and reps to make sure we enjoyed the other 23 hours of the day to the fullest potential.   We were like quiet sharks, circling a cross cable machine with presence while the young’uns decided they were finished and would let the “old men” have at it.  He would always strike up a conversation while I did some of those ‘crazy routines’ I am known for from my martial and military past -plyometrics, bench drops, rolls into explosive strikes on the bags.  We would share a chuckle at the seasonal crowd; you know the group – the January surge, May “summer is here” procrastinators, guilty November groupies, etcetera, etcetera.  I would have my last conversation with <*P*> on the afternoon before he departed this earth.  He was in a point in his life like me, had not drank alcohol in over a decade and a half, watched what he ate, kept in great physical, mental and spiritual health, loved what he did for a living and lived every day to its fullest potential.  The next morning he did not show up for work.  It would be a few hours later that word reached us of the cause of death – aortic dissection caused by a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect.  In the end, genetics got him.
So, what is the lesson here?  Our time here is short in the grand scheme.  Live every day to its fullest potential.  Enjoy your time here; make a difference in your community, your family and yourself.  Fill your cup to the rim every day and empty it every night before bed.  You will be missed, my friend, but the lessons of quiet perseverance and indomitable spirit live on.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A warrior's path

The warrior class is a unique and rare group.  True warriors do not concern themselves with being warriors.  They just are.  Truth, honor, loyalty and integrity are the cornerstone virtues of a true warrior.  The defining characteristic of a warrior is the willingness to close with the enemy even when that may be walking away to live another day.

Some people are born warriors; others are born to be warriors.  Both groups must strive to embody these virtues through right action, courage, tenacity and iron will in the face of temptation, especially in a society such as the one we live in today.  True warriors are protectors, to those in need, to those in distress, to those who have been overpowered.  A warrior protects the community, the family and themselves against those forces who would seek to do harm.  The application of mushin no shin, no mind yet mindfulness, guides the journey every minute of every hour of every day.  

It is said that when the student is ready the teacher appears.  Always consider yourself a student and embrace change – be willing to give up who you are today for whom you could become tomorrow.  Believe in yourself.  Believe in change.  Believe in your teachers, your mentors and fellow travellers.  Choose the path carefully. Remember, if you are facing in the right direction, all you have to do is keep on walking.