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It's very interesting to receive an invite for a group called "A Warrior in the Garden", from a guy holding a lightsaber in his profile pic, while I'm in the middle of re-reading "Traitor", where Vergere persistently makes the analogy of Jacen Solo being a gardener.

Very synchronistic.

Temple of Agony

Broken limbs sings with wind, when night rules no color escapes.
Twisted Grays, Ended Smiles. From this pit agony screams to include
all it can shaken and still standing yelling at those not paying attention calling to darknesses
masquerading as light. Barking into shadows that whisper things reeking of blasphemy obscenity
and a few things even worse mentally vomiting
in my ears.
Blankness of soul surrounds like stifling fog
filling every crevice with dull nothing even night in her eternities
and hallow spaces has more to show than the blanknesses worship at her temple
sniff deep the scent of life give softly at the doorway to the inner sanctum she will bless
Then you’ll be allowed to see into nothings and find
glowing breathing life

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A little martial arts wisdom for everyday life.

There is a wonderful story in the Chinese martial arts about “The Peaceful Warrior”, in which a young apprentice, while training in the use of the Chinese sword, asked his teacher why, if he was striving to be inwardly calm and at peace, he needed to learn the ways of a warrior. “Would it not be more tranquil and serene to be a gardener and tend the plants?” he asked. “Tending the garden,” the master replied, “is a relaxing pastime, but it does not prepare one for the inevitable battles of life. It is easy to be calm in a serene setting. To be calm and serene when under attack is much more difficult; therefore, I tell you that it is far better to be a warrior tending his garden rather than a gardener at war.”

The point of the story, from a martial arts perspective, is that we do not always get to choose when we are confronted by violence. It sometimes chooses you; in which case, you need to be ready. You need to learn control - control over your emotions, your personality, your whole physical expression. Should you need to protect yourself, your wife or your family, it is better to have these skills than not. One of the greatest misconceptions about the martial arts is the presumed violent aspect of its teaching. A lot of people think it’s all about fighting and nothing else, but that is so far removed from the truth. Basically, the martial arts were invented by Shaolin Monks in 9th century China as a means of defending themselves against bandits. That is to say, these arts were born out of the monks’ necessity to find some way to defend their lives, forbidden as they were to carry swords. And because the martial arts hailed from a Buddhist and Taoist heritage, this naturally led to spiritual teachings and philosophies being integrated into the fighting skills.

So while developing warrior skills, they were also teaching other skills such as harmony, discipline, conduct, and the healthy well being of the mind, body and soul. Consider for example, the breathing exercise known as “ch’i”, which is so popular around the world today: the breathing training created for the martial arts played an important role in developing this wonderful form of exercise. And, again, because it came from a Taoist perspective, the fighting element of the martial arts was only to be used as the very last resort, after all other possibilities had been exhausted. So if it ever did come to that last resort, then having these warrior skills will allow you to be able to deal with the situation.

And this is what the warrior in the garden story is all about: it’s about having the knowledge, so that should a situation arise, you will have the training and skills necessary to handle it. And it doesn’t just concern fighting; it could be applied to work, school or a business, virtually anything in your life.

Below I’ve listed four warrior skills that can be applied to everyday life, in helping us cope with whatever situations we may find ourselves dealing with.

1) To be prepared to defend yourself in battle when called upon.
2) To be prepared and willing to seek out an alternative to fighting.
3) To be prepared to conduct yourself in a proper manner.
4) To be prepared to show compassion to your enemy.

Let us look at warrior skill number one. Being able to defend yourself in battle is not just about having your face pressed up against a wall in a seedy bar, with some thug coming at you with murder in their eyes, and you having the martial skills to take that person down. In days long gone, battles were fought upon the fields of combat; but today, the battlefield is in the boardroom, the school, the work place, the sporting field and the political arena. And we should be prepared and able to handle a crisis when it presents itself to us.

Business is a perfect example to illustrate warrior skill number one. There’s no doubting the fact that there are more losers than winners in the world of business. But there are no victims in business, just uneducated people - meaning that you should have the knowledge pertaining to the business you intend to pursue before setting out. And then, of course, be willing to continuously learn and acquire new skills along the way, so that when you are called upon to fight you are prepared for the battle.

Let’s move along now to warrior skill number two. Being prepared to seek out an alternative to fighting is a very important point. No true warrior or soldier wants to fight; it’s preferable to end any conflict peacefully. The Taoist general, Sun Tzu, in his great work “The Art of War” says – “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” And this is so true, not just in physical battle, but in whatever conflict we may find ourselves in. Now, whether that conflict be in the work place, the school yard, or at home, we should always strive to find a more peaceful and civilised resolution. It’s like the story of the four blind men who go to the zoo to find out what an elephant looks like. The first man touches the trunk and thinks, “It is more like a snake.” The second blind man touches the side and concludes, “It is more like a wall.” The third man then touches the elephant’s leg and thinks, “It is more like a column.” And finally the fourth blind man touches the tail and proclaims, “It is more like a broom.” The four blind men then proceed to argue and fight over whose opinion is the correct one, but, of course, they are all wrong because they do not have the whole picture, only a small part of it.

The above analogy is a good example of the conflicts that rage across our world today. There is always more than one side to every argument and we should really strive to listen to both sides before jumping in. In many instances the reason we argue in the first place is that there is something within us that causes us to lash out; and if that is the case, then we should seek out the deep cause inside of us and become intimate with it. Whether its jealousy, prejudice, anger, fear, if we can learn what it is that causes us to fight, then we can begin to deal with it and look for a peaceful alternative. Even in an argument we can disagree with one another without being crazy, rude, crude or crooked. We may not agree with our enemy’s point of view but we should be willing to listen to their concerns or grievances, and perhaps through negotiation come to a mutual agreement that is beneficial to all parties. But if we don’t try to look for the silver lining, for the alternative, if we just lock horns and are not willing to concede any ground, then we’re destined to be in constant turmoil with whomever or whatever we’re fighting against. And this is true in everything - work, play, family and relationships. We need our minds to be open to other possibilities and not closed shut. For if we dismiss everything out of hand, whether it comes from our worst enemy or not, then how are we, as human and spiritual beings, ever going to evolve and grow.

Remember that every war ends at the peace table; furthermore peace is not contained in documents but rather in the hearts of people. And if all else should fail, before you take up arms try smiling, for a simple smile is the magical language of diplomacy that even a baby understands.

Warrior skill number three, being prepared to conduct yourself in a proper manner, is perhaps the most important skill of all. Because the way we conduct ourselves affects everything around us. If we always conduct ourselves in an aggressive and confrontational manner then that is what we will get back. Similarly, if we behave in a more polite and happier manner, then that in turn is what we will get back. Now, of course, it’s extremely hard to remain happy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; stuff happens in life that does alter our mood and emotions. But what we need to do is to not let the negativity overwhelm and blot out the positive nature of ourselves.

Sporting stars are a good example of how to conduct oneself in a fitting manner. There are some sports people for instance, who have reached the pinnacle of their sport and are the best at what they do. But, unfortunately, many of them - not all - really do buy into ‘their story’ or PR, and come to believe that they are better than everybody else and begin acting accordingly. Now, there’s no doubt that in sport you do need a certain arrogance or cockiness about you, if for no other reason than to put your opponent off their game. But sporting stars have a higher following and profile than any other celebrity in the world and can have literally millions of fans that look up to and worship them; and that’s a major responsibility. So there’s an obligation to conduct yourself in a proper, fitting and respectful manner, because you’re living the dream that other people may never achieve and would do anything to have. Due to the big money involved in professional sports and the win-at-all cost attitude of most sportsmen and sportswomen, there’s no doubt that we’ve lost the notion of true sportsmanship and even the ‘nobility’ that we so want to see on the sporting field. But if you don’t have an understanding of what character is, then the very concept of nobility is lost on you. And that’s what we see in the world of sports today: it’s filled with controversy stemming from racist remarks, drugs, or simply cheating.

But there can be nobility in sports. Consider, for example, the John Landy/Ron Clarke incident at the 1956 National Championships. During the race, Ron Clarke tripped and fell, and John Landy - one of the best milers in the world at that time - had to jump over Clarke; but in the process, he clipped Clarke’s arm with his spikes, lacerating it. So what did John Landy do? Instead of continuing, he stopped and went back to see if Ron Clarke was all right. After spending a couple of minutes with him, Landy took off, powered past the field and went on to win the race. Now the thing about this magnificent act of sportsmanship is the fact that John Landy didn’t have to stop – he chose to. For him it was the right thing to do, the noble thing to do. Now you can perhaps try and argue that John Landy didn’t have the deep-set passion of really wanting to win, or it was simply ego and that’s why he stopped. But the two things I would point out are: firstly, he did go on to win the race, proving just how good a champion he was; and, secondly, that a conciliatory approach can be an even bigger sign of strength than winning. Greatness doesn’t lie in being the strongest. Greatness can be found in goodness, humility, and character.

So, even if you have achieved phenomenal success, or when you do reach the top, we should always remember that this is no excuse for us to treat other people badly, simply because we think we’re better or more superior to them. We don’t need to slit someone’s throat to get ahead in business. We don’t need to stab someone in the back to get the better deal. And we definitely don’t need to sacrifice friendships for personal gain. In whatever we do, having success through hard work will always taste better than reaching our goals through devious acts or by stepping on those weaker than ourselves. And as simplistic as it always sounds, we just need to treat people the way we want to be treated. Remember, we may not always be responsible for many of the things that happen to us, but we are responsible for the way we react when they do happen. Reputation is precious but character is priceless; so we need to take care of our character, and our reputation will take care of itself.
Finally we come to warrior skill number four. Being prepared to show compassion to your enemy follows on and, in many ways, is an extension of warrior skill number three.

In martial arts, when you have beaten your opponent there should be no time for gloating. In fact, the opposite should be the case: you bow, show respect for your defeated foe and honour them. And this should also be true in how we treat and interact with other people. When we’re cruel or mean to someone it affects many others, not just the person on whom we may be venting our spleen. For example, take any boss at work. In most instances a boss or supervisor, as the case may be, is generally disliked by the employees for a variety of reasons and vice a versa. So let’s say that this boss is in a bad mood from the start of the working day until knocking-off time, basically because they don’t receive a kind word. And because they have been in this foul mood for the whole day, they will then go home after work and treat their partner or children the exact same way. Now the partner and the children will be in a bad mood, and they will then pass it on to whomever they come into contact with, and so on and so forth. And so the cycle of negativity continues.

It’s like the effect you get when you throw a pebble into the water and see the ripples spread outwards, growing ever bigger until they become a tidal wave; and it all began with one single pebble. However, no individual raindrop ever considered itself being responsible for the flood. But what if you were to go up to your boss at work, even though you don’t get along, and simply tell them that they’re doing a good job - nothing more and nothing less? What then would the reaction from the boss be? Chances are that he or she would feel good inside, all stemming from such a little thing as a simple compliment. So at the end of the day, because they feel good, instead of going home all disgruntled and treating their loved ones accordingly, they will instead be nicer and kinder to their family; and these feelings, in turn, will be reciprocated and passed on to other people. And so the cycle of negativity will end.

As Morihei Ueshiba, founder of aikido, once wrote, “True victory is not defeating an enemy. True victory gives love and changes the enemy’s heart.” We always tend to jump to conclusions and judge people even before we know them. But how can you ever really make a judgement on someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. In conclusion, I would just like to add that these skills can stand you in good stead as you travel through life; because it’s far better to be a warrior in the garden than a gardener in war.
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