More people are killed in crosswalks than jaywalking

Sometimes safety makes us careless

I read something this week that I thought was interesting and perfectly applies to our martial arts training and mindfulness.

Now I don’t know if this is true or not, but the principle is sound, so I want to talk about it.

The suggested idea is that people who walk in crosswalks are less aware than people who are crossing the street at random and therefore unprotected by the structure and rules of crossing.

The idea in your mind that you are in a safe environment can cause you to let your guard down and actually be less safe.

There’s a similar example that claims one third of all car accidents happen within a mile of the drivers’ home.

Same idea. You think you are safe, so you ditch the awareness.

So how do we increase our actual safety? By increasing our awareness.

We can train ourselves to have a habit of observation. The more we keep our eyes open and try to notice things, the better.

Making sure we don’t get into patterns is also important.

This is not to say we shouldn’t make certain things in our life automatic. We should. But there is a difference in the type and importance of the things we set as automatic and those that we should be consciously in control of.

Things like crossing the street should not be something we are not consciously aware of.

OK. You know what? I think there’s a better way to go through this.

I was going to try to make a short list of some things that you shouldn’t do without being aware while you’re doing them, and some things that you can be more automatic about.

But it’s not easy to assign things to one list or the other.

Why? Because it’s not the activity itself, but the skill level of the person combined with the environment of the activity that determines the need for awareness.

Let’s take skateboarding as an example.

Let’s say you’re good at skateboarding, have been doing it for years, and feel balanced and in control when you’re on a board. And let’s say you are at a skate park that you’ve been to a hundred times and you know each dip and turn pretty well. And you are the only one there.

Well, I’d say you can get on your board and ride without much thought. It will be automatic and you can be relatively unaware.

But now let’s put other people in there with you. Or put you in a skate park that you’ve never been to before. Now, it would not be wise to not be aware.

Whenever any part of the experience is dynamic – meaning it can change – you need to add awareness.

When you cross a street, you may be very good at walking (or running), you may know the street very well. But if there are any cars on the road, then you can’t set that task (crossing the street) in the back of your mind somewhere while a game on your phone, a conversation with the friend walking next to you, etc becomes or remains your focus.

So the way to know which activities you can set to automatic is to assess how dynamic it is.

There are things you can practice, practice, practice until you get so good at them that you can do it with your eyes closed. But those are only the things you have full control over.

Anything with a dynamic element needs your attention.

That being said, you should work on making things automatic every day. Every day you should practice something that you will someday be able to do without being aware.

Then you free up your focus more more and better dynamic things. Then you can work on becoming a master in life.

Should we beat up bullies?

I saw a video a while back of a kid in school who was being picked on by another kid. After a bunch of verbal abuse and then some actual punches thrown by the bully, the victim had enough and picked the bully up and slammed him to the ground. I thought “yes, justice is served!”

I think we all have a tendency to want the bullies of the world get what they deserve. We want to see the victims rise up and knock them out.

But this is not the way. The feelings inside of us that long for justice and vengeance are not the only feelings we have in these situations.

I recently saw another video where a girl at a protest was yelling at, spitting on, and punching a group of people she strongly disagreed with.

They were not fighting back.

They had a plan to stand their ground for what they believed in, but obviously had decided ahead of time that returning violence was not the way.

I also saw this video and thought “yes, these guys are in control”.

So which is the best way to deal with people? Should we learn to return violence, or truly learn to fight so that we don’t have to?

Well, clearly there is not one single answer that applies to every situation. But I can offer a thought to keep in mind as we train our bodies and minds for situations that will come up?

Your object in a potential situation is to retain control. Control is not something purely physical. If you go physical and lose control mentally, you lose.

I watch both of those videos and think that the victim who threw the bully to the ground probably felt in control in that moment. But at some point, when the adrenaline high left, did he feel like he had lost control? Maybe.

The people in the video that got spit on and hit and did not fight back – did they ever slip into a feeling of losing control? Probably not.

So do I think that you should always stand there and take it? Nope. I do not believe that.

What I do think is that you should think ahead, and plan what you will say and do in potential situations. If you decide that you can deal with a confrontation by holding back, do that and feel good about it.

If you are faced with a battle of wills that has to be answered with a physical response, then you can take action and feel in control throughout.

If you decide that you should remain calm and not get physical, you will have a much easier time of it if you have practiced mindfulness and meditation.

I don’t know When you should and when you shouldn’t fight back. But I do know that if you stay in control, then you will usually make the right decision.

The road to massive change can begin with one keystone habit

There are people, not all, but some, that want to make massive changes in their life. Some don’t. Some want the world to just accept them as they are and maybe even give them a participation medal.

But some (like you and me), want to get better. We want to get much better. And it seems overwhelming. To tell you the truth, that’s one of the biggest reasons so many have opted to settle for themselves the way they are now.

Massive change is hard. It is. I know. I’ve tried.

And I’ve failed.

But that’s not the end for me. I’m going to keep trying. And keep on looking for ways to get better at getting better.

Here’s one of the ways I’ve discovered to succeed at making massive change.

Start with one keystone habit.

One thing that I can win at and get some momentum. One thing to build on and add to the progress of other changes.

I got a notification today that my computer’s Apple software had some updates available. So I said yeah, go ahead and update. There were two things, iTunes and iCloud that needed to update. I clicked update and off it went.

I went back to what I was doing on the computer. Then I noticed that there were three lines in the updates area. I looked closer and saw that the second and third items were iTunes and iCloud. The first was “files shared by these updates”.

So since both features needed some of the same things, the update script just went ahead and installed the common files first and then worked on the two updates with a foundation to start with. They both get to update faster than if they were worked on separately.

That’s the way we should update ourselves.

Update some common things first.

So what are some common things?

I don’t know. It’s different for different people.

But here are some examples that I’m going to try.

I want to learn to play the guitar and the piano. So learning to read music may be a good first step.

I want to increase my fitness and I want to read more. Easy. Listen to audio books while I run. But I’m not running now… OK. What about if I work on a habit of getting up 1/2 earlier every day. Boom. I use that time to run and listen to a book.

Getting up earlier is the habit that makes the fitness and the more books actually happen.

So it’s not the combining of habits (running and reading) that’s the big idea here. It’s the getting up early to get those two things done. That’s the common thing.

James Clear says:

“when you make a change to one behavior it will activate a chain reaction and cause a shift in related behaviors as well.”

So what do you do now? How do you start using this?

Here’s what I suggest. Make a list of the things you want to change. Just a big list to begin with.

Then start to group them together. Look for things that go together. Look for concepts that tie two or three together.

Then start to see core habits that each group shares. Little things that would make each thing in the habit group closer to getting done.

What one thing will be the start of many other things?

Do that thing.

One awesome phenomenon about habits or success or whatever is that it acts and grows exponentially. If you can just start… If you can start with something that starts a few things at the same time…

You’ll be amazed at how fast it builds.

And that feels good.

So get started. Make a list. Group some things together. Start some core habits.

And watch the massive change begin.

Most diets work – if you actually do it

I was eating something the other day and when I finished, I thought to myself “I don’t even remember taking that last bite.”

What a waste. I don’t remember what it was that I was eating at the time, but I remember that it was something that I really like.

And THAT is the problem. Today I’m going to talk about mindful eating.

Mindfulness is when you are consciously aware of the things you’re experiencing. Mindful eating is, obviously, when you are consciously aware of the things you’re eating.

I think most of us get in the habit of eating without paying attention to the taste, the texture, the temperature, the amount of the food we eat.

There are at least two things wrong with this.

First, we don’t get to enjoy our favorite foods. How often do you finish eating or drinking something you love and then realize that it’s gone and you don’t remember it? Tragic.

Secondly, we eat foods and amounts that are not good for us.

So like I stated in the title of this post, I really believe that many of the “diets” out there will actually work, if we really do it.

One of the most important things that most diets do for us is make us aware of what we eat, when we eat, and how much we eat.

For example, most diets don’t allow for eating a bunch of sugary, processed junk food. So any diet you’re on will cause you to eat a lot less junk food.

Being on a diet that allows for some and restricts some types and amounts of food will make you healthier. Mindful eating is actually one of the keys to any diet.

So I guess if you just focused on mindful eating, you’d probably get much better results than any other diet that you didn’t really stick to.

So here’s my action item for you.

If you’re looking at trying some kind of diet, to lose weight or just feel healthier, do these two things.

  1. Think about and/or do some research and come up with a list of good foods and a list of bad foods.
  2. Pay attention to what, when, and how much you eat with eating better in mind.

Try this and tweak it according to your results.

I think you’ll find that mindful eating will take you a long way toward your weight loss goals.

The higher law of balance

So, the other day I was watching a video of a martial arts master. He was a Shoalin monk doing kung fu. It was beautiful and powerful.

But I noticed something that I thought was off.

Some of his stances had him on only one foot.

I’ve been teaching for over twenty years that to have a solid stance, both feet need to be on the ground.

I thought either Shaolin monks are doing it wrong…

Or my understanding is incomplete.

Let’s look at this a bit more.

Why would they stand on one foot if that will not secure them to the ground as well as two feet?

Maybe they don’t want to be secured to the ground. Maybe their balance is self contained. Maybe their stance is not relative to the ground, but relative simply to themself.

Bruce Lee talks about becoming like water. Water doesn’t rely on the bank of the river or the bottom of a cup for it’s power. It has it’s power independent of what is near it.

So we should also be independent of our surroundings.

Think about this. Imagine a kung fu master on one foot getting hit (or think of a movie you’ve seen where this happens). Quite probably, he doesn’t fall down. He’ll just move back or to the side and take a different stance, his body being dynamic and fluid. Balanced.

This takes a lot of practice and true mastery of your body. Most of us don’t have this kind of control independent of our surroundings. We need both feet on the ground. But the higher way is to have balance independent of things outside of you.

In our classes, we do cartwheels as part of our warm ups. I get asked regularly why we practice cartwheels to learn martial arts. My answer is that we are learning control of our bodies, which is essential to learning martial arts.

So the next time you practice your stance, focus on true balance. Be fluid, dynamic, and independent of your surroundings.

This is a higher way.


Meditation and the Myth of the Empty Mind

Meditation and the empty mindWhen people talk about meditation, I often hear some talk about emptying your mind. They say that the goal of meditation is to clear your mind of everything and allow your mind to be empty.

I see it a bit differently than that.

Now, just to let you know, for a few years, I tried the whole empty your mind thing. I never quite got it. There was always something there. No matter how hard I tried, I was always thinking of something.

And there are many experts in the area of meditation that say you just keep trying and perhaps over a lifetime, you can achieve the empty mind.

Well, I’ve thought long and hard about it and settled on some ideas that help me more than the empty mind concept.

There may be some that reach it or at least a lot of people who want to continue to strive for it. I just haven’t found success with it. I get more frustrated than focused.

Here’s what I do find helpful. Using meditation to drill in my focus on one thing.

At the beginning of a martial arts class, I sit with my eyes closed and breath. I pick one thing that I want to be laser focused on and try to shut everything else out.

That is something I can do with much success.

In fact, a lot of the people I’ve come across that teach the idea of an empty mind being the goal usually tell you to start by focusing on one thing. They suggest picturing a candle in your mind and focusing on the fluttering flame. Or focusing on your breath, in and out, lungs filling and emptying.

The difference here that I see between the empty mind goal and the way I go about it is that instead of picking something random like a candle as my object for the inevitable thing I focus on, I pick one thing that I actually want to focus on and try to laser in on that for the goal of heightened clarity on that thing.

Who knows, maybe some day I’ll reach the empty mind after a lifetime of meditation.

In the meantime, I’m going to use all that practice focusing to good use on something specific.

– Crowe SeonSaengNim



When your day just plain stinks, find the meaning

I work for the government. On some days, my day – my job – my environment just stinks. This week has been like that.

I am just frustrated with how things work (or don’t work). I am feeling very unmotivated. I can’t see how the things I’m doing really matter.

It just stinks. Well, that’s how I was feeling today.

Do you ever have days like that? With your job? Your kids? Your spouse? Your business?

We all do.

So how do we get past that? How do we get back to where we can move forward. How do we get past just wanting to quit?

Find meaning.

Find something that you can move toward. The whole thing is still going to stink. Today, it just stinks. Tomorrow you may get past that. But today, it just stinks. But not all of it.

Find one thing about it that you can see as a meaning.

Find one thing that you can focus on to actually get excited about. Not the whole thing, just one thing.

The whole thing doesn’t have to mean something to you. The whole thing stinks right now, remember?

But if you can (and you can) find one small thing that is still meaningful.

In my job as a SQL programmer, I still love the actual code writing. So today (and many days) I just forgot about all the things that stink about my work environment and just focused on the code. I ended up having a great day at work. The coding means something to me. It means learning, improving, working through logic obstacles, and producing something useful.

So as you get in a funk with something in your life, change your focus. Stop thinking about the parts that stink, which may be most of it in that moment.

Focus on the little part that has meaning to you.

The touch that recalibrates

I noticed something strange the other day when I got off the train one morning on my way to work. There was a guy in front of me that got off the train and just before it pulled away, he reached out and touched it.

“Hmmm”, I thought. I’m not the only one that does that.

Quite often, when I get off the train, I walk alongside it and put my hand or finger on it. It’s always been a thing I do.

I do it with other things too, not just the train. As I move about, I regularly run my hand along stationary objects around me.

As I’ve tried to figure out why, I’ve developed a theory.

I think it’s a way to calibrate myself in my environment.

As any martial artist knows, awareness is key. Knowing where you are and where the things (and people) around you are is essential to awareness.

When I reach out to touch the things around me, I’m updating my data about where everything is.

It’s like when a dog tilts his head back and forth when he hears something he doesn’t quite understand. He’s gathering more information, from different angles and perspectives to calibrate himself.

I also do things like stick my foot out behind me to locate a pole I’m standing in front of, orĀ  back up until my backpack touches the wall I know is behind me.

All these things are a way for me to figure out where I am and where the things around me are.

So the next time you see someone touching things around them, or notice yourself doing it, think about it. Is it an awareness thing?

I think it just may be.

First I’m gonna, then I’m gonna

Think through every move.

As you practice and plan for any potential conflicts, one of the most important things you can do it break it down into steps.

If you’ve ever seen the movie The Last Samurai, you’ll remember a couple scenes where Tom Cruise goes over the upcoming battle in his head, move by move. Once the actual fight happens, he knows exactly what to do because he already went through each step and each next move.

We can (and should) do the same thing. Rather than just thinking of winning, we should think of exactly how.

By saying to ourselves “first I’m gonna, then I’m gonna” we can make a plan that actually is a plan.

As we see the details in our head, we can figure out ahead of time if one move will lead to the next, or if it will not be effective.

SometimesĀ  we don’t know how well something will work till we try it. And we don’t want to find out that something doesn’t work in the middle of a fight. We really want to limit ourselves to actions that have the highest chance of working.

So as you practice in the Do Jang, or just imagine scenarios in your head, make sure you list the steps. First I’ll do this, then I’ll do this. He’ll probably do this, which will set me up to do this.

Remember, the best plans are actually planned.

What goes down must come up

I went for a quick run at work today. I locked my computer and set out for just like five minutes of exercise. Just around my building.

Well, as I got going, I felt really good and decided to go around the building next door too. I was going downhill and it seemed so effortless, I thought I would get in even more than I planned.

Then the ground leveled out and it was harder. Eventually, to get back to my building, I had to go uphill.

Then it hit me. What goes down must come up. The uphill half, which was the second half was harder in a couple respects.

  1. It was harder because I wasn’t expecting it.
  2. It was much harder in comparison to the ease of going downhill.
  3. It was harder because it was at the end, after I’d already expended a bunch of energy to get that far.

There are two things I thought of that I need to do to not feel that bad again.

First, I can rearrange my workout to put the hard stuff before the easy stuff. That sounds good.

But what sounds even better is to rearrange my thinking to plan for and expect it to get harder.

When we wear ourselves down and then do hard stuff, we get stronger. And I’m not training to get softer.

So along with working my body, I need to remember to work my mind. Because strength and endurance are not just for the body. It’s also – maybe even more so – for the mind.