Here Be Monsters
What do we need to survive? Everybody kind of knows that; food, water, shelter, warmth, blah blah blah. But isn’t surviving kind of a low bar? A better question is what do we need to thrive? What’s required for a joyful human life well lived?
Freud suggested that humans need fulfilling personal relationships and a sense that their profession is important. That seems like a good place to start. We also seem to need some appreciation for beauty and a guess at our place in the universe. Music and fun sure seem pretty damn important. Hell, I’d add sex and inebriation as key ingredients. I’d also argue that recognition of our stories and some mechanism for forgiveness should be on the list. You probably have a few more and while all of these are well and good there might be a prerequisite to every damn one.
In order to thrive I think every human needs what I’ll call a unifying physical and spiritual practice. We need some mechanism that puts us back in our body, calms our emotional state, shuts up the crap in our heads and lets us listen to the universe in whatever way we imagine it. It can include elements of exercise, yoga, martial arts, dance, Tai Chi, meditation, sport or a creative art. Riding the old Harley even qualifies. In order to qualify a practice must meet the following requirements:
1- It must be varied. No practice is perfect. If you’re a biker you might want to include some stretching and maybe a workout. Meditation is great but it won’t put you back in your body. A good practice requires elements of concentration, a physical component and quiet moments. The idea is to reconnect with your body and the universe. No single practice, in my experience, will do all those things regardless of what they tell you. The more threads your practice contains the stronger it will be.
2- It must be regular and fun. Like every day. Not every piece, but it isn’t a practice if you do it once or twice a month. Repetition matters. And if it’s something you love your life will be easier and the practice more profound.
3- It must be yours. Yes, you might well need teachers or institutions to learn the skills of your practice but those things CANNOT BECOME YOUR PRACTICE. You’re a unique individual. You owe it to yourself to find a singular practice made up of many personal choices.
4- It must become your default. This is really important. Sometimes life gets pretty stressful or just downright crappy. You need a to be able to retreat to your practice when all else fails. It should provide comfort, a little peace of mind, or at least a new starting point.
The prime importance of a regular, personal practice with these qualities makes up the backbone of every one of my books and classes. Whether it’s weight training, Tai Chi or cane self defense it all comes back to creating a daily practice to help you thrive. And I don’t just preach it, I live it. Every day. It’s kept my demons at bay and given me more than I might have imagined. It’s one of the few ideas in which I have ABSOLUTE FAITH. So do it. Create your own. And if you need help grab a book or stop by for a free class. Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion my friends.