Heart Opening Moments

BLOG of a Spiritual Stripper

Gift of a Black Belt

Last Saturday I tested for my shodan in aikido and was awarded a black belt. People asked me how it feels. To be honest, I feel no different because getting a black belt was not my aim. At the same time I feel deeply touched because I have devoted myself completely through sunshine and rain, and in a sense, to have come this far without giving up along the way is what I’m most proud of.

Looking back there were numerous times I questioned my sanity when things got tough. Especially when it came to the aikido forward roll. I was never talented at being up-side down nor I enjoyed it very much. The forward roll seemed to me like purposefully tossing myself onto the ground and hoping my body will be round enough to carry me through so I can make it to the other side and be back on my feet again. In a way, I thought I had to be at least a little crazy to attempt such a stunt. I was – a little crazy – priding myself as a good athlete I didn’t want to back down from such a challenge. Wanted to protect myself I often closed my eyes, held my breath and prayed I won’t get hurt. I suppose my teachers were amazed at times that I’m willing to try and other times I would tremble in fear while everyone else proceeded before me. There were times I walked out of it all together. Not to mention injuring my right shoulder a few months into the training when I tossed myself too high off the ground with my eyes closed, and later only to discover that I have landed on the weakest part of the shoulder that was not meant to support such weight. I cried my tears and swore I would never put myself through another ordeal again yet somehow there was another force quietly pushing me forward.

The Aikido Forward Roll

Four years have gone by that I rarely missed any training at all. I selflessly worked on anything else the dojos needed from mopping the mats, updating the website, hosting oversea guests, to teaching the kids class. There was never a day went by I didn’t at least think of aikido. Why? I really can’t say. After years of training my goal-oriented ego has been washed away slowly. I could no longer say I train so I can look good in other people’s eyes because I no longer care. I don’t do it for the money, I don’t do it to gain approval, I don’t do it to even be physically fit. Unknowingly the subtle flow slowly pushed me forward through my sadness, through the obstacles, through sunshine and rain and somehow I found myself on the other side of the forward roll – landing on my feet continuing to walk forward.

What did I give up? A lot. I had to give up fear. I had to give up aggression. I had to give up the need to be perfect. I had to give up indulging in my neurosis. I had to give up forcing a particular outcome to suit my needs. I had to give my limited view of separation of humanity. … The list goes on.

What did I gain? Even more. I gained true self-confidence. I gained a disciplined mind. I gained the awareness when I’m acting from ego. I gained the ability of acceptance and peace. I gained a keen sense of focus amid emotional turmoil. Most importantly I gained love and compassion for myself and the ability to expand that love outward.

The truth is, the black belt itself has no meaning, yet this black belt is a symbol of my perseverance. This black belt reminds me to stick to my path through thick and thin – knowing I will land on my feet and walk forward again each time I fall.

September 29, 2012 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Death & Rebirth, Self Realization, Tears, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Importance of Being Humble

"Who needs thorns when you have meek?"

"Who needs thorns when you have meek? See Beauty born...from Darkest Deep." - SanctusSilva

I’ve always thought strength was demonstrated through un-yeilding boldness. Having had a successful life in my 20s, I resorted to getting things done by my uninhibited determination. I stepped on toes. I made people cry. I was relentlessly running toward the finish line while knocking over anyone stood in my way. Of course I celebrated every win. And I didn’t care if I treated people as means to an end. I thought I was so smart and so tough that even life had to yield to me.

Oh boy, was I wrong…

Life offered me several chances to breakdown my pride and come back to earth.

Years later, I now find joy in humility. Today I choose the path of being humble.

“In humility is the greatest freedom. As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your piece of heart. As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadows of other people, you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities and there is no joy in things that do not exist.” – Thomas Merton

The word humility refers to the quality o being humble, which stems from the Latin words humilis and humus and is also related to the Greek word chamai meaning “earthy, be on the ground.” We often confuse humbleness with being inferior. Today I invite you to examine the meaning of “modest and unpretentious.” To me, humility is a quality of true understanding of suffering. Bestselling author Caroline Myss in her book Entering the Castle explains that being humiliated by someone can activate our shadow side that foster feelings of vengeance or resentment. By maintaining an attitude of humbleness we can then transcend to the level of healthy detachment to feel the feelings of our shadow side yet still be liberated from the urge of shadow actions. Like a lotus flower, we can experience the pain of growth stemmed from a bed of mud yet still radiate love as we bloom. A lotus flower endured the pain of becoming yet it chooses to maintain its un-competing soft modesty. By gazing upon a lotus flower you might discover the grace of humility with expressions such as: understanding, endurance, resilience, compassion, patience, wisdom, forgiveness, gratitude, etc.

I knew of a man who was filled with pride. He was not balanced. One day another car took the parking space we waited for, he nearly pulled out a gun. The smallest disagreement can set him off into a nuclear explosion. He pretended to be a peaceful man while secretly lived in emotional turmoil. He had to dress up in suit and tie to maintain an image. If someone made a humorous remark at his expense he would threaten to inflict physical pain on one’s family. Nevertheless he always told me that he is a peaceful man and I had to agree or else… I also know a meek man who is filled with compassion. He is grounded in his integrity. The day he was deeply wounded he chose to walk away. He did not have to had the last word. He wore t-shirts from fifteen years ago without any sense of shame. Humility gave him the strength to help the one who injured him. He is never too prideful to say sorry. He walks through life with his chest forward and shoulders relaxed. And he always greets people with a sincere smile.

Looking at these two examples I wonder who can bring-forth peace on earth…

If you too choose to walk the path of humbleness we can embark our journey with one another. Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to remove the blocks of being humble as suggested by Caroline.
1) How does fear of being humiliated control your life?
2) When have you been humiliated?
3) How have you humiliated others?
4) List ten positive and ten negative associations with humility.
5) Why being humble is difficult for you?

I gained much perspective by working through these questions. I also gaze upon paintings of blooming lotuses to remind myself the beautiful of soft modesty. Today I choose the path of being humble. Thank you for sharing your journey with me as I leave you with this quote from a true master Bruce Lee – the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Choices, Death & Rebirth, Emotional Freedom, Inner Growth, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Follow-up on Forgiveness

The Little Soul and the Sun

The Little Soul and the Sun (A Children's Parable by Neale Donald Walsch) illustrates the purpose of experiencing darkness in order to find the light.

A few days ago I got an email from a reader of my blog. Seemingly confused, he wanted to clarify what he had read in the post A Forgive-ful Christmas. At first I laughed to myself because forgiveness is such a simply yet difficult concept that most of us spend our lifetime digging away the rough carbon to find the real diamond. Like formation of a diamond, we too can find our inner diamond by not shying away from heat and pressure but instead using them to find our true glow.

His request was simple: “Question please… In your writings you mention that during your martial arts, you are aggressive, attacking, and defending, yet at the end you BOW to your opponent as a means to say [thank you] for what has happened, could you please help [me] understand this logic? I am [in] sales and I go hard for the deals and sometimes, I don’t have a closure. I love your writing around this, I just don’t fully understand the complete meaning. Thanks, J.”

My answer might be slightly complex so I will do my best to stay true to my heart by sharing the heat and pressure of my own experience.

My first conscious experience of forgiveness was during a personal-development seminar with Christopher Howard. On stage, Christ illustrated a beautiful children’s parable called The Little Soul and The Sun. This story began with the Little Soul found that he is the Light. But he also wanted to experience himself being the Light. The only problem was there were no easy ways to experience himself when “there is nothing but the Light.” God had a wonderful idea to allow the Little Soul to experience being the Light by the use of darkness. “Then God explained that, in order to experience anything at all, the exact opposite of it will appear … You could not know Warm without Cold, Up without Down, Fast without Slow.” Little Soul then selected a special part of the Light to experience called Forgiveness but didn’t know how the simulation would take place. So the Friendly Soul jumped up to volunteer as darkness and do something really bad to the Little Soul on earth so the Little Soul can experience himself as Forgiveness. Initially the Little Soul couldn’t understand why the Friendly Soul would become dark to do something against his true nature as the Light to help the Little Soul. ” ‘Simple,’ the Friendly Soul said. ‘I would do it because I love you.’ “

With no conscious understanding of what had hit me, I bursted into tears before Christ can finish the whole story.

The next conscious experience of forgiveness I can remember took place during a conversation with a friend named Sandra. She confessed to me she had so much stored up anger and sometimes she can feel her chest caving in. She was dealing with a divorce where her husband left her for a younger woman. The anger was consuming her and whenever a younger beautiful woman walked by she would switch to her devil eyes glared with judgment. At the same time I was feeling guilty because my loving nature had caused some people to believe that the love I gave was more than platonic and I didn’t understand love enough to communicate it otherwise. And that became the catalyst that drove one couple to the edge of divorce where I was perceived as the angel who helped them to face therapy turned into the devil who nearly broke their marriage. The circumstance was the husband contemplated getting a divorce and he conversed with me intimately about his life-long feelings whereas the wife believed his emotional intimacy with me was an affair she cannot forgive and it broke her heart.

As Sandra and I opened up to each other played the parts of the wife and the other woman, we were able to see the hidden suffering in each other’s story. For Sandra her marriage was who she was. When she got married in her early 20s she had quit her job to take care of the house and a new baby. When the child grew up and left for college she no longer remembered who she was before her marriage. She spent her time cooking and cleaning while feeling more and more empty. The passion between her and her husband was gone and she projected onto him the anger she felt for herself. Secretly she wished she had done something more with her life. She was not satisfied being only the mother and the house-wife. She was mad at herself for giving up her career for the family. She eventually opened up to me and spoke responsibly, “in a way I’ve always dreamt escaping this jail I built for myself, now after the divorce I am finally free!” A year later after our conversation she had stopped blaming her ex for her dissatisfaction in life and re-entered the nursing program and became a nurse at the age of 50.

As for me, I saw the pain Sandra had to go though and I felt an intense sympathy for the wife who accused me of an affair and I forgave her for attacking me. In the past few years I’m slowing forgiving myself for being the Love that I am as I’m learning to communicate the difference between romantic love and platonic love. Because of the wife’s upset to my emotional intimacy with her husband, I am now protecting myself by my certifications in the art of psychological therapy occasionally working as a life-skills coach.

The third experience I’m sharing is of good humor. Similar to the post A Forgive-ful Christmas I was told to throw a full punch in martial arts training. As you know in martial arts one of us pretends to be the attacker so the other partner can learn the self-defense technique. Only this time I couldn’t throw a punch into the gut of a friend who I love very much. I didn’t want to inflict pain in cause the punch was not blocked. “Stop!” Sensei yelled out, “you must attack like you are really going to hit her.” I told him I didn’t want to as tears filled up my eyes. Sensei took us both aside and spoke in a softer tone, “if you only throw soft punches then she will never be able to learn. If she doesn’t move in time and gets hit, the next time she knows to move faster. Now train!” We ended up training with tears in our eyes. Nowadays I don’t take it easy on her and whenever we do hurt each other we scream out “ouch!” and after that we giggle together.

Looking back, I have learned so much from my past experience. I don’t pretend to be the expert in forgiveness but I have certainly noticed this: whenever I feel the emotions completely from a painful experience without getting stuck in the mode to blame the other, I move forward with a greater understanding beyond circumstances to kick-start my psychological healing. Finally I naturally see the good in the painful experience and always end up thanking the person for giving me the gift of heat and pressure so I can find my true glow. Did you notice the words in “for giving me the gift” contains forgive? Hmm, interesting…

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Emotional Freedom, Inner Growth, love, Self Realization, Tears | , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments