★ Our Comfort Zone

Me (Airborne) + Dad

It has been three days since I last checked Facebook. I haven’t had coffee or beer or meat in three days and my level of boredom from the lack of television and other stimulants grows at an even greater pace than my appetite. It’s also the 11th day that my neighbors smoke marijuana from dawn to dusk and this seems to be what pushes me over the edge. People who meet me in public would say my lack of winter clothing despite a high of 4 degrees is disturbing or that forgoing a morning coffee and 5 O’clock beer is idiocy but I see things differently. I see giving things up as normal because I was raised with no comfort zone. If you’ve never felt comfortable sitting still, constant motion is your only reality.

I was lucky to have a family in motion. I have no childhood home or family car or single brand of toothbrush. Each year, I was given a new style of clothing, a new martial art to try and a new diet. From K-12, I participated in 8 different schools and was never around long enough to make friends. The life that most people would call Hell enabled a freedom that so few of us experience. Each year, I could reinvent myself and it was so freeing. At 9, I had a ponytail down my back and wore surfer shirts but, at age 11, that ponytail was a buzz cut died bleach blond and I sported a Yin & Yang studded earring in my left ear and played Pokemon constantly. Despite all of my phases and grades that fluctuated like the stock market, the constant in my life was Budo or “way of Bu” and the teachings my dad gave to me which enforced this lifestyle. The way of a warrior is to always understand both war and death are inevitable so a man must spend his time preparing to fight just as often as he writes poetry and spends time with his family. To know you are always about to die will lead you to train in a way that enables the protection of your family and to value each moment as if it truly was your last. My days aren’t spent on calligraphy and Kenjutsu (sword fighting) or the art of tea (Chanoyu) but the goal of Budo is that our interests evolve to the era we are in and not the era of 800 years ago. To be in your comfort zone is dangerous and that is why I train constantly my mind, body and soul.

Misogi on New Years Day

For practitioners of Budo, appearing normal to society is against the way we are taught. If it has been 60 days since you’ve sat naked under a waterfall or 2 weeks since you’ve narrowly dodged live swords and knives or 24 hours since you stretched, you are not a student of Budo. The reason for my Father’s happiness is that he spends every moment of his time practicing Budo. He says I have to train twice as hard because the time I spend on a computer or at a desk are countering the Budo training I perform outside of work. He teaches martial arts and fitness and trains himself while working. He has perfect posture and steps at all times and operates on very little sleep because his resting period is meditation until the wee hours of the morning. It will be many years before I am close to his level of consciousness but he is never in his comfort zone and that makes both of us outsiders in a big way.

The talent I possess in the field of technology and my drive to accomplish things that I know are impossible has lead me to a job that is secure and fun. Despite my 9-5 being perfect, I don’t see my job as an enabler to my training or as something I would kill myself over. The value of a paycheck is food, fun and experiences but, if I truly followed Budo, those would come naturally so why do I work? If I didn’t love my job, I wouldn’t. I’ve left well paying jobs before without another job lined up. Work should make you fulfilled and should never interfere with your life. This goes for me, the practitioner of Budo and for my neighbors who really love the euphoric feeling a green plant gives them. We are all on our own path. If you would like to be chemically stimulated and taken to another place in your mind, find a job that allows you to do that all of the time. After a number of years on this Earth, you will die and be reborn with the chance to get a little closer to your destiny. Some of us are young and others are old. I am a very young spirit but, my destiny was to have great teachers who accelerated this lifetime beyond a lackluster set of years. Everyone is provided with the time, lessons and opportunities to accelerate the growth of our spirits. The funny thing about growth is that your spirit has to be in a certain place to realize the teachers and experiences that surround you. Most of us miss those teachers or choose to squander them. We weren’t ready yet. It’s okay, we’ll get another chance.

My family is mostly overweight, mostly uneducated and mostly shut-in to a life without exploration of their mind or this universe. I was a scared child who hated bikes, toys, playing outside and climbing out of pickup trucks. I didn’t care for tuna or chicken and preferred fatty foods. I’d rather organize my toys and make my bed than actually use the toys given to me and I had a deep love for self-expression via lame poetry but I’d just stare out the window for hours waiting for something to happen. My father who is unlike the rest of my family quit his day job to teach me and force me out of this shell that my spirit was condemned to for life. I’m still lazy and have sworn to spend my life fighting the desire to sit on a couch and stare out of a window.

Me Firewalking

For the first 21 years of my life, the training given to me by my Father to ignore the comfort zone and to break my own set boundaries was squandered. If he were just a family friend or Sensei of a random martial arts shop, I would still be living in Florida, writing bad poetry and afraid of my own shadow. It took leaving Dad for San Francisco and the 2 years of overconsumption and laziness that made me realize the teacher who was in my life. I began applying his teachings and everything in my life has been perfect since then. I no longer live out of the comfort zone because it’s being forced. Now, I sit naked in my frozen river because I realize that being cold is the closest I get to birth or my child-like mind or, as the Christians call, “godliness”.

The closest connection to my child-mind comes when I release myself from the desires of sex, food, warmth and air. Slowing down my breathing patterns is not easy but the euphoria I get surpasses the feeling of marijuana. This goes for any of my crazy random tasks that enter my soul that I take action on. Dad and I spoke about this a few weeks ago. A lot of people call us crazy but, we have lived our entire lives free of anti-depressants and debt. We have no worries or cares and I’ve never had a prescription in my name or a steady doctor. We’ve never had a health scare or credit card problems. We never had any huge issues in our lives that weren’t easily overcome by patience and meditation.

In 2010, I was depressed. Part of my time in San Francisco where I went out on my own abandoning Budo is what caused this. Budo is not a religion. It’s only a way of living and I turned my back on the lessons and decided to drink every night, eat unhealthy foods and work 20 hour days. It was a terrible time and many friends recommended I visit a counselor or take anti-depressants. I didn’t do that. Nature and our souls are one and there is always this act of seeking balance that occurs in everything. The emotions within me were a result of being out of balance and a drug was not a solution to that. I’m not anti-drugs but, each time I try an alternative, it works. Instead of medicating myself, I moved away from the city, cut back on work hours and projects and spent hours reading, meditating and studying. I discovered the art of cooking and tea-making and only indulged on quality foods and exercise. When the time came to move to New Hampshire, I was at an all time happiness in my life.

The hour I just spent in 5 degree weather in my boxers sitting and meditating sounds crazy but it’s the way I’ve found balance. You call it crazy but I call it avoiding the comfort zone. There’s happiness outside of your comfort zone. You don’t have to believe me but I implore you to give it a try.

Additional Reading:

This is a video of an Aikido practitioner following the Budo way. This should help illustrate the results of this sort of training:

…this is a video of my father with my friend Matt.

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