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Archive for the ‘Real World Spirituality’ Category

I guess it is time I write about Tiger Woods. I have waited since the scandal broke to see how things settled – not only with Tiger but also myself. Before I go any further I would like to say that I don’t know that Tiger had a bigger fan than I. I know he has a lot of fans but I have counted myself as one of his biggest admirers on and off the course – until now.

Don’t get me wrong – Tiger, I feel, is the greatest golfer in history and he plays the game with a fearless focus that translates sports. My son and I got to witness him first hand a few months ago here at the President’s Cup when it came to San Francisco. His charisma and talent were amazing. (I even wrote about that experience in a previous post if you want to check out the lessons we learned from this amazing experience)

Tiger’s image has been obviously carefully created to showcase him as the focused golfing warrior, consummate professional, philanthropist, and devoted family man. Currently Tiger is being skewered in the media as his approval rating has taken the fastest freefall in history. Tiger has not been available for comment as he has gone into seclusion to, I believe, gather his thoughts, regroup, and come back more positive than ever.

At this time it doesn’t look like a reconciliation with his wife is going to happen, and I for one, can’t blame her and I know that I would do the same in her shoes. What I want us to be mindful of are a few things.

1. EMPATHY – None of us have walked in Tiger’s shoes. Before we throw him completely to the wolves let us stop and understand that he has women and people throwing themselves at him all the time vying for his attention. I’m not condoning his choice of actions at all – I’m just saying before you harshly judge, back up and re-evaluate from a broader perspective.

2. CORPORATE SPONSORSHIPS – Many of Tiger’s corporate sponsors are leaving him. This too, I can understand as Tiger’s image was what they were buying and having a scandal such as this come out destroys the image. Do I feel sorry for Tiger for losing the tens of millions in endorsements? No… not at all as trust me, Tiger will NEVER hurt for money.

3. REPUTATION WITH FANS – This has yet to play out. I do not know how the masses will react to Tiger. I don’t know how golf will really react to Tiger as everyone in the golf world is trying to put a positive spin on it and saying golf won’t suffer and things will be just fine. I hope so although I am not sure golf’s image will escape unscathed.

4. TIGER, THE MAN – I am a fan of Tiger Woods, the golfer. I am fan of Tiger Woods, the philanthropist. I am a fan of Tiger Woods, the locker room humor, fun guy to hang out with, and spokesman for golf. I am just not a fan of Tiger Woods the Husband and Father. While some may argue that him being a father has nothing to do with this scandal, I politely disagree. His kids will know of his philandering ways. This will affect them in some ways. Will they turn out to be “goofy” kids and adults? I hope and pray not.

I work with some young adults who totally surprised me in their support of not Tiger Woods the golfer, but Tiger Woods the philanderer. These young men, although involved in a relationship with women, many of whom have kids by these women, feel Tiger should go out and get all the ladies he can.

This blew me away!

They even responded that it was in men’s nature to chase for sex.

I asked them, “Would you want your woman going out and having sex with a dozen guys?”

They looked at me, disgustedly and said, “Of course not.”

I then asked, “If some fine, young lady came up and propositioned you, even knowing you had a lady you lived with and young children, what would you do?”

The gentleman just smiled and said, “What the old-lady don’t know won’t hurt her.” He then laughed and gave his buddy a high-five.

I felt such sadness for this young man as he truly hasn’t figured out how to love someone. He truly hasn’t figured out how to love himself so how can he truly love his lady and his little baby? Not in the healthiest of ways anyway.

It is important that we honor the human being living his life as Tiger Woods. I, for one, believe he is not living his life to hurt a soul. I believe, like all of us, that he is in his mind, living the best life he can.

Has he made some painful decisions that will cost him money and loads of heartache? I believe so. Will he recover? I can only hope so.

I look forward to seeing what Tiger will say and do next and how he will conduct himself in the future. I also wonder what he will say to his kids, his best friends, his wife (or soon to be ex-wife) and Stevie Williams, his caddie?

Would I like to play golf with Tiger? Absolutely.

Would I like to take lessons in being a husband and a father? No.

I would ask that all of us who are hurt and angered by Tiger’s infidelity that suspend the crucifixion of Tiger indefinitely.

I would also ask that those who condone Tiger’s actions that you rethink what truly having a loving relationship is all about because if you agree with what Tiger did, you don’t have a clue about what real love is.

Tiger, I’m up for a round of golf, and an ear to listen to and someone to help you re-connect with the best part of yourself.

Will he call? I doubt it, but it doesn’t stop me from being a fan of the man in so many ways.

Just not all ways.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and always wishing you the best!

Ray

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Tonight my wife and I went to see an interesting movie: Precious.

It was the amazing story of a 16 year old overweight young black girl named Clarisse Precious Jones. Precious lived a painful life where manipulation, incest, and physical violence was common. Her life was a struggle as she was born and grew up in Harlem. I found myself sitting in the theatre with my wife and the 3 other souls who watched the film in silence. While watching the film many things came through my mind.

First and foremost was the indomitable spirit that this young woman had. She was called the vilest names and being overweight and not physically pretty, she took a beating inside and out. I say inside and out because it seemed that no one ever had anything nice to say to her and she was abused by the thugs in the neighborhood as well as the constant abuse at home. Precious was beaten and raped by her father since she was a small child and grew up with nothing but negativity surrounding her.

She bore two children through her father; one being a down-syndrome child and the other showing no signs of a birth defect. While her father was a nasty sort her mother was not only physically abusive but she treated Precious with vile and contempt. She stood by and watched as her husband took Precious sexually from the time she was a small child. In fact, she hated Precious because she felt that Precious was taking her man away from her!

While the film was disturbing on many levels, the beauty found itself out through two characters. One was the woman, Precious herself. Despite the negativity that surrounded her always, she always had some sense of herself that kept her alive. While she wasn’t always positive and she had a mouth that a sailor would envy (lots of swearing!), her desire to live a good life sustained her. She would go to a fantasy world when she was experiencing being molested by her father or abused by another.

The second person who made a huge difference in her life was her ABE teacher (Adult Basic Ed) who found the purity within Precious and nurtured it. Precious had an aptitude for math but could not read at all. This lady encouraged her and as sometimes happens, the spark from another was a catalyst towards improvement and the road to a better life.

Just when Precious seemed to be getting her life in order by leaving her mother and going to a halfway house, her mother came to visit and told her that Precious’s father had died from AIDS. Shaken, Precious went to the doctor and found out she was HIV positive. Still she did not give up.

What I took away from this film was first and foremost the blessings I have in my own life and that the problems I feel are important pale in comparison to what some individual’s are experiencing in their lives. The second thing that stuck with me was the amazing value that a simple act of kindness can do. All of us long to be loved and appreciated for who we are not what we look like. Everyone deserves to be told that they’re smart and beautiful and that they can accomplish anything if they set their mind to it. Sadly, this isn’t the case for a lot of people in the world as they deal with violence, mental and emotional abuse and have little positive reinforcement in their life.

You just never know who or what someone is experiencing in their lives and so I found myself motivated to treat each person as someone who longs to be acknowledged, honored, and loved. We’ve become a society that tends to restrain ourselves emotionally and we censor our thoughts as we don’t want to risk being hurt by exposing our “softer” side.

I challenge you and me for that matter to look for the “Precious” people in the world and if you can’t tell if they are someone like the young lady in the film, pretend anyway and give them as much encouragement and heartfelt love and compassion as possible. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain and you just never know who you might affect. The one positive act or word from you can be enough to alter the course of someone’s life. Don’t miss the chance to deliver it.

With love and blessings to you always,

Ray

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Late every night, just as I crawl in bed something as regular as clockwork happens in our house. I hear the softest of footsteps and the strange noise of a subtle engine. It settles into a low rumble and then there is a pause when the engine stops. A moment later a leap and something lands on my bed and the engine starts up again. I slowly turn to see a white and orange beast staring at me from 6 inches away. I slowly and carefully raise my hand to calm the beast down. I slide my hand behind its narrow neck and slowly add pressure until the noise intensifies.

The roaring gets louder until an explosive “meow” bursts forth from jaws of this crazy beast.

I pull Annie, our psychotic calico cat, towards me and give her the 2 minutes of stroking she comes for every night before she settles down to sleep as close to my head as possible. No one except our family has seen Annie even though she’s 6 years old as she lives under our bed terrified to come out except when all is quiet and I’ve gotten into bed. During the day Annie hides and pukes and goes to the bathroom under the bed as she’s such a nervous wreck. We keep a portable rug shampooer by the bed as my wife and this tool have become the best of friends. I say my wife as she was always the one who wanted pets and although I love our pets, we made a deal that if we had them she’d clean up after them. Annie makes her work.

Smokey is our James Dean cat – cool. Smokey walks around like she owns the place. She will come up to you and stare at you until you pet her. She’ll take a few strokes then walk away. Just like our first cat, Peepers, Smokey will come and lay at my feet while I play the guitar. I don’t know why because sometimes what comes out of the guitar is not music but she likes it nevertheless.

My wife’s pride and joy is Biscuit – our 8 pounds of joy in the form of a silky terrier. Biscuit thinks he’s a big dog until a big dog stands over him threatening to eat him in one bite.

I share with you this you because our pets are a part of our family and something we’ve had and will continue to have for the rest of our life. It is healthy to have pets. It is healthy to play with pets. It is healthy to love pets.

When I am in a down space, I close my eyes and imagine that I was wrestling with the mighty Biscuit. He thinks he can take me on but I pull him this way, push him that way, and still he comes at me teeth bared. He’ll clamp on but won’t bite hard enough to hurt. He just wants to show me he can land a blow and grab on.

Our love and commitment of pets started with Peepers – a cat who was born outside of our condo along with 3 of his brothers and sisters in the dead of winter. My wife let them in and I said, “No, no, no!” That is until this little kitten walked over and put his paws up on my leg. My heart instantly melted and I said, “No, no, no… this one, yes.”

We had Peepers for 7 years. The last 18 months he came down with a kidney infection and my wife and I had to give him a daily IV and drain a bunch of fluid into him as his kidney’s were shutting down. For an hour after the IV he walked around looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame with this big old mound on his back.

I think Peeper got tired of the shots one day and as he grew weaker and weaker it became harder for us to watch him deteriorate. I truly believe he saved us from the pain of his demise by running away. He had always been an outdoor cat although he spent much of his time in with us. I can remember playing hide and seek with him in our small condo – The actual game where one of us would hide while the other had to come and find us. I remember his Peeper dance where his legs would go stiff and rock back and forth and then he would just somehow elevate. It use to scare the crap out of my wife.

I share this story with you because all of us need love and companionship. All of us need something to care about and honor in our lives. Pets provide an opportunity to practice our humanity and to give love to another living thing that doesn’t work, doesn’t go to school, and doesn’t pay taxes.

It’s a 2 way street in that pets need us and we need them. You’re mistaken if you think you would not benefit by having a loving pet in your life.

It’s Christmas – and Santa would love to give you this amazing gift of love.

I hope this finds you well this holiday season and full of the joy of love, appreciation, and the miracle that is your life.

Blessings to you all!

Ray

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My son, Wes, turned 16 years old a couple of days ago and as my wife and I watched him interact with a few of his friends for his birthday this past weekend, I couldn’t help but be blown away at how fast he has grown and how quickly the time has past. At almost 6 foot 3 inches, he is now an inch taller than I am and a few pounds heavier.

I thought it wonderful that he had a birthday party in which he invited 4 or 5 of his good friends and they spent the next several hours playing the interactive music game ROCK BAND as well as a few other video games.

At a time when a lot of 16-year-olds are looking to experience their first sexual encounter or get high, both my son and my 14-year-old daughter still enjoy playing on the computer and interacting with friends over good food and their shared interests. For this, I am truly grateful. However, a thought is never far from my consciousness and I’m sure is a common thought for almost all parents.

Where did the time go?

I know that phrase is such a cliché but I am still amazed at how fast life moves by – especially as we move on in our own lives. My wife and I have always been aware that our time with the kids is limited and that we need to grab each moment we can as they will grow up so fast. You know what though? I miss pushing my kids around in the shopping cart. I miss them riding their electronic little train which we all affectionately called “Choo” until they fell asleep. I miss picking up my kids and carrying them to bed. I miss the daily episodes of Thomas the Train, Barney, and the countless videos we got that taught them to count, read, and sing.

In some ways 16 years is not a long time. In other ways it feels like an eternity. I still sit by the side of their bed at night although they don’t often ask for me to do so and hold them tight when they need me to.

We have pictures along the wall of the stairs and I often stop and catch myself staring into their beautiful faces that show them growing through the various ages. At times, my eyes will grow fuzzy as the tears come as I remember how incredibly beautiful and innocent they were… and the joy and gratitude I feel come at me through the images on the wall.

I am not one to pine away my sorrows on what was or what might have been. In fact, I consider myself to be one of the eternal optimists and feel that all relationships, whether they are kids, parents, family members, friends, or colleagues are there for us to learn from and cherish. For the vast majority of my life I have done just that.

As my kids make their way through high school, I am mindful to touch them everyday – grab a shoulder, rub their back for a moment, or just give them a good old-fashioned hug. I know I am only a temporary guardian for them until they decide to leave the nest and venture out into the world. When that time comes I know I will look back on the life I spent with them to that point and be honored to have witnessed two beautiful children who’ve made their way into adulthood.

They have not become obsessed with the other sex yet and, I for one am completely okay with that and hope it continues for as long as it can! I know they will eventually begin dating and developing relationships with the opposite sex and when it comes, I will be as supportive as I can and trust in their judgment.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took the kids down to Disneyland and spent a couple of days at the park. Although it was a wonderful time – Disneyland always is – I found it different as the kids had been there 5 or 6 times in their lives and they are getting to the age where it doesn’t hold the magic it once had. Maybe when they bring their children and witness the looks on their faces, the magic will return.

I remember when my daughter was 4 or 5 and the price at Disneyland jumped drastically right about that age. My daughter Meg was born several months early and so she was very small for her age. We knew we could get her in at the younger age price and save ourselves a bunch of money. What we didn’t count on was our little angel piping up and yelling at us when we answered the question asked by the entrance person about how old she was. I believe the price increase was at 5 years of age and when we said she was 4, she started screaming, “No Daddy, I’m 5! I’m 5 Daddy! Ugh…
Kids… lol. Fortunately, Meg was so small that the person at the gate just thought she was a precocious little one and let us in at the greatly discounted price. We laughed about that for the next few minutes and whenever this story comes up it brings a chuckle and the warm memory comes back and floods my mind and heart.

I work with what is considered “at-risk” young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 and I know that a lot of them have not made it to Disneyland for whatever reasons. Some of them have been in trouble with the law, gotten involved with gangs or drugs, and have generally struggled in life. I admire these young men and women as they are striving to improve their life and make the best of their own personal situations.

It just reminds me that all of us don’t have the greatest of upbringings and didn’t necessarily have an easy life. It also reminds me that what are important are the thoughts, words, and actions that I can choose right now.

Right now I choose to finish this article and go in and sit on my daughter’s bed as it is a holiday and I’m letting her sleep in. I won’t wake her, no. Instead, I think I’ll just sit on her bed and notice how beautiful she is and how fortunate I am to have both her and her brother in my life.

I want to enjoy THIS moment and the fact that she is now 14 and her brother a new 16 and despite whatever little problems we have with them being TEENAGERS, that I am blessed and honored to have them in my life and I will do what I can to help them prepare for a life that is sure to be filled with the riches that hopefully await.

Although I am not anxious to have them grow up, I know I will relish the time when they marry and have kids of their own and discover the miracle of parenting. I’ll laugh and cry maybe at the same time as I know parenting can bring the deepest pain and the most profound joy.

It’s time for me to experience some joy with them…

As always, I hope life is unfolding for you as you have hoped and dreamed. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help!

Blessings to you and yours!

Ray

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One week ago my son and ventured into San Francisco on the final day of the President’s Cup to see the best golfer’s in the world, and specifically, Tiger Woods.

I am a huge golf fan and have followed Tiger Woods from his early days. In fact, I actually remember Tiger’s appearance on the Mike Douglas show when he was 2 years old. He was on with Bob Hope and they had Tiger hitting balls into a net and it shocked the audience how this toddler could get up and hit the ball. He didn’t have much muscle obviously but the ball nevertheless shot off the face of his club and straight into the net. Upon seeing this, Bob Hope had to make a joke of it and said something like he wouldn’t want to have to play Tiger for money but would be able to overpower him when he had to pay off the bet.

The day was very cold in San Francisco and for some reason, I left my sweater in the taxi and so I had to make due with only a couple of shirts. The cold was there in the wind and the overcast skies but the golf, the gallery, and my son made it a memorable day.

The tickets were not cheap as I paid $75 a piece for my son and I to go plus we bought these little ear radios for another $20 although it allowed us to hear what was happening all over the course. It kept us updated on the matches and that was great because Sunday was all singles matches and so people were spread out over six or seven holes.

We got there and quickly went to the driving range where they had stands set up. It was so packed that you couldn’t find a seat and they had marshals standing at the entrance to the stands and when somebody got up, you went right to their seat. We were waiting for Tiger to show up and when he did, the crowd in the stands went wild. We got a seat in the front row right behind Tiger. It was amazing to watch him hit balls… All the golfers in fact, but Tiger was something special. When he finished I felt bad because half of the entire stands got up and left with him!

Wow!

We stood along with thousands of others on the first fairway as we wanted to see Tiger tee off. He smoked his drive down the first fairway but it hooked into the trees. He eventually lost the hole and was quickly one down in the match. It’s about all he lost that day as he went on to drub Y.E. Yang, 6 and 5 I believe. Y.E. played with Tiger in the final round of the PGA championship, the last major or the year and he is also the only one Tiger has given up the lead in a major going into the final round so I knew that no matter what Tiger said, he wanted to spank Yang.

He did.

We got close to Tiger on the 7th hole as went around to the other side of the green and as they were lining up their putts, the volunteers began making a walkway through the crowd to allow the players to walk off the green and to the next tee box after they finished the hole. They used ropes and the divided us right where my son and I were and created a pathway of about 12 feet wide the players would walk through. The crowd shoved against the ropes as they wanted to get close to Tiger. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, when the players finished the hole, they walked toward us and walked straight down the middle between the ropes, not near the ropes where they could be grabbed. I could have ALMOST reached out and touched Tiger but they gave him just enough room so that he was safe IF he stayed down the middle of the path they created.

I say safe as when he walked through the crowd people reached out and tried to touch him. It was like some rock concert!

Tiger went on to clinch the cup for the U.S. with an improbable birdie on the 11th or 12th hole.

I know this is a long lead-in to the point I want to make so you’ll have to forgive me.

My point is Tiger is the best in the world at what he does and he communicates to the media in a way that reflects an aspect of what he wants them to see. What I mean is he gives, for the most part, a very compassionate, intelligent, and planned message of how he wants to be seen. I don’t mean this in any way negative as I believe that Tiger, down deep, is just like you and me. He is down-to-earth, caring, compassionate, and wants to do his part to help make the world a better place. His foundation is a testament to that fact.

Tiger, away from the camera, so I am told and in my heart I truly believe, is an altogether different person.

The Tiger away from the camera is one of the guys. He’s funny, competitive, likes to tell jokes (not always the cleanest… lol) and in most ways exactly like the rest of us. What is the amazing part is that people put him on a different shelf. They elevate him to a status level that goes beyond normal. Tiger, its been said is the most recognizable athlete in the world and may be the most recognizable person on the planet.

Does this make him better?

No, but it does make him unique.

What can we learn from Tiger?

What I have learned from Tiger is something I believe everyone should be aware of.

Tiger makes a conscious decision about what he says and how it may reflect on him, his image, and his goals. He goes into meetings, interviews, and presentations with an idea of what he wants to convey and how he wants the message conveyed. I believe he makes a conscious decision of not only what he wants to say but how he wants to say it.

This is an incredible tool for the rest of us.

If before we go into a meeting, or even before we go into a social function we ask ourselves “how do I want to be perceived in this meeting?” it will give us direction about not only what we might say, but the intent, and emotional direction in which we may choose to speak from.

This is BIG!

By being aware of what we want to accomplish and how we want to do it, we are less likely to react to someone’s words, taunts, put-downs, or insults. It allows us to gain a greater measure of control of who we are and what comes out of our mouth. This in turn will allow us to be seen more clearly as the way in which we truly want to be seen.

I loved watching the President’s Cup and I would love to play golf with Tiger Woods one day. Not to play with him in a state of awe although his golfing skills far outstrip my own, no. I want to play with him as one of the guys – someone I can play a round with and play around with. I want to laugh with him and at him, tease him, honor him, and enjoy his company. I would hope he would do the same to me. Because although Tiger has achieved his own level of rock star fame, I know deep down he is just one of the guys who enjoy having a good time. He’s just got an exceptional skill in whacking a little white ball around.

He’s not unlike you and I as we have our own set of unique skills. Just because we aren’t perceived by the masses and treated as rock stars doesn’t mean we don’t have great value in the world.

Think about it and know it to be true.

If you see Tiger, tell him I’ll be waiting on the first tee trying to get him into a bet for lunch that he can’t win but I know we’d have fun anyway. We’d have fun because down deep, I know is one of the guys – Just like me and you.

As always, I am open to your thoughts and feelings.

Blessings to you and yours.

Ray

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I cannot tell you how many times during a typical week that I see people who complain about living a routine, boring life. They tell me that they get up, go to work, come home, watch TV and go to bed. They get up the next morning and do it all over again. I can understand the fact that a lot of us get into a career with a fixed job that doesn’t allow for much creativity. Even still, one can choose to push oneself within the career field, or, in your off time embark on something that does challenge you.

I laughed as one of my martial arts students recently told me that they have so much time on their hands that they truly didn’t know what else to do. This person spends two hours in the gym in the morning and then comes back for another hour or so at night. While this has some positive characteristics, I have shared with him the idea of finding something to PUSH himself in that would help him grow and discover more of who he is as a person.

How many of us truly look deep within ourselves and reflect on what areas of our life we might want to either improve upon or simply explore? In building a platform with my media consultant, she recently asked me to consider researching an organization that many of your may be familiar with: Toastmasters. I have heard of Toastmasters for years but have never engaged them personally. I have done trainings and given talks to thousands of people and I rationalized in my mind that I was already competent at speaking. The truth was something different.

The truth was I was afraid.

I was afraid of getting up and making a fool of myself. I was afraid that I would be so out of my element that I would literally stink up the room. Not only stink up the room but demonstrate to the people in the meeting that I was an idiot. I could just hear them saying, “This guy has a Ph.D. and he talks like that?” All kinds of negative thoughts went through my head and it made it very easy to come up with an excuse as to why I shouldn’t push myself to confront my fears, explore more of my own life, pursue my own dreams by making myself better at something that I truly love to do: speak about what I’m passionate about.

Last week I researched a group, found a local one, emailed the gentlemen in charge of education and found out about the meeting. I made my first meeting this past Thursday and even though I couldn’t get there on time due to a physical therapy appointment, the gentleman, Clay Baskin, told me to come anyway. What I witnessed was something that surprised and inspired me. The people who came to this small meeting were passionate individuals looking to improve themselves, meet other good souls, and have a good time. It was a perfect description of personal growth.

I came away so impressed not only with the people in the meeting, but with Clay himself. I found him to be a passionate man with a strong desire to grow as a human and make the world a better place. Those two qualities alone put him very high on my list. I was so impressed with the man that I asked if he would be willing to mentor me as his platform skills were that impressive. Clay, the kind soul that he is, graciously accepted and I am now set to get to work on truly improving my ability to speak.

I encourage anyone and everyone to find something that they can engage in that will push them in a way that allows them to stretch their comfort zone. Maybe it’s something as simple as volunteering at a soup kitchen, coaching a team, taking a class you always wanted to take, confronting a fear like public speaking. I will tell you that if you ever wanted to be a more confident person and confront a huge fear that most people have in public speaking, head to a Toastmasters meeting as their curriculum and philosophy is nothing short of heaven sent.

Maybe you’ll get lucky like me and meet a wonderful soul like Clay whom you can hook up and mentor. What Clay doesn’t realize is this will be a two-way street. (He realizes this… hee) I will push my new friend to continue to grow as I want him to achieve his goals. He wants to get out and speak professionally and so I will do my best to push him to do so. I can’t believe he’s not out there now as his skills are truly awesome. This is where I will be a good coach and help him as much as I can discover what he thinks is lacking and help him overcome whatever that is so he can go out and bless the planet with his mind, heart, and wonderful words.

I have typically been speaking in an environment for at-risk adults. These are people that have had some challenges… Maybe they’ve had experience with drugs, dropped out of schools, or been involved in gang-related activities. My comfort zone, while maybe not many people’s comfort zone is with this amazing, wonderful, challenging population. I’m comfortable there. I need to learn to as comfortable speaking to other populations as I am with this one…

What do you need to push on to develop yourself to another level?

I hope you choose to engage many things that allow you to appreciate the incredible talent that you are. Don’t see yourself as limited…rather, see yourself as a perpetual student who is hungry to learn, grow, discover and evolve. That is what makes life rich. That is what makes life fun. That is what keeps us from living a stagnant life.

Engage something new and let me know how it went. As always, I would love to hear from you!

Blessings to all!

Ray

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Today I had a unique opportunity in that I got to sit down and have lunch with a unique old friend. He’s not really old in that he is a few years younger than I am but he played a unique role in my life at one time. As you have read possibly in previous posts, I have been a long-time martial arts practitioner and have gotten a chance to experience and practice a number of different martial arts styles.

Early in my training, I had the opportunity to be exposed to a number of styles in which the physical training was absolutely fantastic. The memories of these workouts easily come back to me from 30 or more years ago, they were that memorable. However, it wasn’t too many years into my training when I began to sense something lacking in my training. I was not too far into my teen years when I began to think that there was more to martial arts than punch, kick, sweep, grab, choke, etc… (You get the message…lol)

I began searching for different systems and styles and sometime in the early to mid 1980’s while I was working on my undergraduate degree, I wandered into a Taekwondo school and watched one of their workouts. For whatever reason and for the life of me, I can’t remember why, I decided to give this system a go.

The main instructor was a talented African-American martial artist who appeared to be very gifted – not only physically, but seemed to carry a lot of non-physical characteristics that I found intriguing. I joined up and immediately began coming to class on a daily basis. The main instructor was often not teaching class but had a stable of young, talented martial art instructors that were in training to become certified instructors. It was here that I met a young man named Brian Hamlet.

Brian or Mr. Hamlet as students were instructed to address him was a young man in his early 20’s but you could see that he truly loved teaching and loved the martial arts. I found him to be a kind, energetic, and talented instructor and I found myself spending more and more time attending his class. As the years went by I got rank with this organization and opened my own school. I kept touch with Mr. Hamlet for 4 or 5 years as we trained occasionally together and we both took Kobudo (traditional ancient weapons together).

I left the organization a few years later as I didn’t see eye-to-eye with the organizational philosophy and then struck out on my own and developed my own system.

Mr. Hamlet, while doing a google search found me and found this blog. We began emailing back and forth and finally got a chance to sit down and have lunch and a good visit. It was great fun and I enjoyed going back 20 years and catching up. In talking about the past, we reminisced about our ancient weapons training and some of the experiences we had with our instructor.

Brian continued to train with this instructor after he and I and one other soul were the only black belts in the original group to get our black belt in this ancient weapons system. I did not as with other systems, believe in a lot of the rigid protocol and the “correct answers” you were suppose to give, even if you didn’t believe the answer yourself. Brian continued to train with this instructor and helped him out in many ways for years in demonstrations and promotions until they had a parting of the ways when this instructor opened a martial arts school a stone’s throw away from Brian’s. In my opinion (and many others) this was a disrespectful thing to do as this put this man in direct competition with Brian.

I asked him about how this made him feel and what he did when he found out. He told me was surprised and hurt by the choice of this other instructor. I asked him if he said anything to the man. He reported that he did not. We went on to have a lengthy conversation about his reasons why he chose to keep this to himself and just sever the relationship on his part. It should also be noted that Brian was not the only one to disengage as this other instructor, once he told Brian he was opening a school nearby, never called Brian back.

In Brian’s mind, one does not question the junior/senior relationship. This is very common in martial arts and has long since been a way of training that has come down for thousands of years. The problem I have with this is that the current group of martial art instructors that I have met (and I have met a TON!) in my life don’t have a fraction of the wisdom and spiritual awareness of those Buddhist monks and Samurai of old. Talented physically but their physical skills and knowlege far outweighed their social, emotional, and spiritual skills.

So the question becomes “Are we are Brother’s Keeper?” And if so, are there limitations to who we would offer our honesty and authenticity to?

I can easily see how Brian’s role with this instructor translates into everyday life. So many times we are hurt by our “seniors” and we choose to not say anything. Personally, I feel that this does damage to oneself and the other person. Damage in that we do not “air” our feelings which then doesn’t allow the other person to respond and possibly reflect on their part in the conversation.

There are many layers here and nothing is cut and dried simple. However, I still remain convinced that we are indeed our brother’s keeper when we are in a position to offer feedback. I say feedback because our intervention may be nothing more than a question. In the question however, we may choose the words that cut right to the heart of the dilemma or conflict and in putting it in the form of a question we can minimize the authority, righteousness, ego, or any other form of “I know and you don’t” mentality.

In taking on the role of being my brother’s keeper, I try to be aware of situations in which I don’t offer my wisdom, but instead, I offer something to consider. As mentioned above, this is usually in the form of a question as I find that most people do better when you allow them to discover the depth and insight within the topic. In that way I am offering my compassion and help without coming across as a “know-it-all” or even a junior/senior type of relationship.

I look forward to my next encounter with Brian as it was fun to engage in what I call “verbal martial arts.” If done from the best of intentions whether you are a martial artist or not, there is a tremendous amount we can gain and give by coming from an open compassionate heart. Once again, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from a former instructor, and who knows, maybe planted a seed for him to consider.

As always, I’m grateful and open to your thoughts and suggestions.

Blessings,

Ray

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