Self Realization and Fulfillment

I have found in my life that many times I have changed paths of attaining happiness. Some paths were spiritual, Some were physical, and some were mental. The problem I had in my youth was the fact that I listened to the people that had different views of what was important to them. This however was not what was important to me. The “Question” then becomes what is important to you? Well…. I thought, when I was younger, that career was important, but that can be confusing when you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. (not sure I’m there yet) I spent my youth going from One job to another, and college was a waste of time for the most part. Colleges need to streamline their curriculum to only include the courses you need to get your degree and quit adding bullshit courses that have nothing to do with your area of learning. Its just a waste of time and money.

As I got older money , I was told was the most important thing, and the ability to acquire money was the path to happiness. In my search for the almighty dollar I meet a lot of like minded people and came to the realization that I wasn’t happy and I was constantly stressed and the people I met weren’t happy either. As I got older most of these people are now trading in their wealth to try to regain their health and happiness. Seems a little backward to me, trading your youth and health for money that you will then use to pay to try to heal all the medical problems you got from the stress and long hours you had to give to attain your money. Does anyone else see the problem with this, or is it just me? On a side note I always found this study interesting. This is a chart of diminishing return for money spent vs. happiness

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As I got older and got married, started a family, I realized I was spending less and less time with my family and more and more time at work. This was not the family model I wanted for myself or them. Growing up in a family were my father worked a lot and was gone for days at a time I remembered what that was like. I would have gladly given up all the nice things we had for a better relationship with my father. With both parents working it becomes even harder for a child to have a healthy relationship as they grow when all they see growing up is two parents chasing their careers and fighting over money when they were home at the same time. I didn’t want that as my son got older than four so my wife and I talked about it and came to the conclusion that we would choose happiness over wealth.

Now that being said I am not suggesting anyone live in poverty, no what I’m suggesting is scale back your life style, cut out the extras that don’t mean anything to you. Spend more time with the ones you love and build strong positive relationships with the ones you love. By doing this we discovered that we could cut back our hours at work by almost half. This is huge! My wife was able to cut back to only 20 hrs a week from forty plus and I could cut back to forty five hours a week from my usual seventy two hrs a week. We still had more than enough money to pay the bills and money for retirement and vacations. Our marriage was stronger and we had more time to spend with our son.

Now I want to touch on the spiritual side of my journey. I was raised an Irish Catholic and consider myself recovering Catholic now. I realized at a very young age that there might be more than one answer when it came to spiritual happiness. So I embarked on a journey of self discovery of spiritual realization. And yes I dabbled in mind altering psychedelics in the seventies. I lived in the Haight- Ashbury district in San Francisco for a while I dabbled in other religions and beliefs, and ended my journey realizing that everything I needed was within me. I settled on Buddhism as a belief system because through the years I saw that life gives you back what you put into it. I wanted to have a happy, positive existence so I figured I had to put happy, positive thoughts and actions into my life. Buddhism seems to be the closest thing to this belief system. So when someone asks I simply say Buddhist and wait for the look of disbelief on their face. I’m not going to get all warm and fuzzy here I just wanted to explain my position.

My physical journey began when I started buying slip on shoes so I didn’t have to bend over to tie my shoes. Some times something so small can be the trigger you need to make a life changing decision. I made the decision to try to reverse the damage I had done trying to attain some imaginary dollar amount before it became a medical issue. I embarked upon a journey of physical health through proper diet and exercise. I also found a sort of spiritual peace through this fitness program centered around Martial Arts.

Now, lets pull all this together into something that makes sense. Three things had to happen for this to work.

  1. Focus on whats really important to you. Family, relationships, etc.
  2. find a spiritual belief system that works for you.
  3. Make a commitment to take care of yourself through a proper diet and exercise.

You will find if you can pull these things together you will have a life filled with love and possibility. You will also have time to pursue your passions what ever they may be. You stress levels will go way down, you wont try to control every aspect of your life and the lives of the people around you. Also you will have time to give to others that need your help because for what ever reason their life is out of balance. There is no greater joy in life than being of service to others. So live your life with purpose and joy and it will positively affect everyone around you.

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Under Dogs

I know that there is a lot of news out there about Police brutality, Shootings, and Police being killed in the line of duty.Or we are hearing about a group of solders that were pinned down in a fire fight that caused several casualties. and these are tragic cases.There are however a few of these cases that never make the news. These involve the rarely recognized for the jobs they do, and are often killed in the line of duty without any appreciation for the life they gave. Yet they are out there doing the job, no questions asked. They are the unsung heroes of the police force and the military. They serve and protect those around them with heart and courage.

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Since they started keeping track of K-9 deaths 2,425 Dogs have died in the line of duty, Last year in 2015- 169 police dogs were killed in the line of duty. Dogs have been a part of the military in the United States since before there was a United States. There are records of dogs being used in the French and Indian  wars prior to the Revolutionary War. The history of battle dogs go back to the mid Seventh Century B.C. That’s 2700 years ago. now that is a pretty extensive battle record. I see a lot of monuments to fallen solders but very few to their four legged counter parts. These animals are so versatile, They cover everything from guard duty to mine and booby trap detection. The Police K-9 units do drug enforcement to felony apprehension. And they do it un- armed I have nothing but respect for these animals and their handlers.

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These amazing animals are often euthanized at the end of their tour or when they are deemed too old for the job. Did you know that because of this horrible practice being brought to light, you can now adopt these dogs. I know these animals would make a great addition to the family and a hell of a watch dog for your home. So instead of buying a gun, why not adopt a dog that has saved countless lives and deserves a cushy retirement.

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K-9 Pledge

I Promise to be worth every cent of the $10,000 it took you to train me.

I promise to track down criminals that threaten and harm our community.

I promise to stand by you against the violence that penetrates our community.

I promise to sniff out the drugs being advertised to our children.

I promise to stay resolved and focused upon the the success of our mission.

No matter what happens I will stand by your side…

Your loyal companion to the end.

I will never leave your side… I will never surrender… I will never quit.

they have my undying thanks and gratitude!

The Army’s Zaniest Hero

I met Ed about Twenty years ago while running a bar in St Augustine, Florida. St Augustine has the distinction of being the oldest city in the U.S. and has a cast of characters that occupy this small southern town that looks like the casting call for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Even Ken Kesey on a full blown acid trip couldn’t have imagined some of these characters. That being said, Ed isn’t one of those. Ed can only be described as a quiet older man that has a grandfatherly quality to him. He is quiet , as I said and would go out of his way to help a perfect stranger. One day Ed asked me if I could help him clean out his garage. I readily agreed knowing that Ed had a heart condition and it was the middle of summer in Florida. For those who are not familiar with the weather in Florida in the summer, Imagine Hell and add humidity so thick, you feel like your standing in a steam bath. I knew Ed well enough to know that if Ed didn’t get help he would do it on his own and I didn’t want to see anything bad happen, so I made time and told him I would be there on Saturday morning.

I arrived on Saturday as promised feeling a little hung over from the night before, but I knew I would sweat that out in about fifteen minutes in the heat and humidity. Even at 9 a.m. the temperature was climbing past 90’F. and that garage had to be 100. Before I started sweating through my cloths I set to moving boxes out of the garage so Ed could go through them and decide what to throw away. I looked over from my work to see Ed staring at a couple of old boxes kinda poking through them with an odd look on his face. I asked “Hey what’s up Ed?” he just looks at me and kinda half smiles, and says” Just some stuff from when I was in the Army.” I asked him if he wanted to save it?” Ed just shrugs and “I don’t think so, my kids don’t care” He looked kinda sad but My interest was peaked so I asked about his service. Ed laughed and says “Which time?” I knew immediately there was a story and I needed a break. We decided to grab a couple of boxes, Crack some beers and Ed began his story.

 

Early in 1941 I wanted to join the marines and fight the Japanese so I went down to enlist, I was only 17. They turned me down and told me to come back in a year. I could’t wait so I went to the Army recruiter and lied about my age.( He used his dead brothers birth certificate.) They signed me up and off to boot camp I went. The first time I saw action was at Guadalcanal. We came in after the Marines landed for support. I was miles from the fighting and I wanted to go to the front. So I removed the Dog Tags and uniform from a dead Marine and hopped on the next supply truck going to the front. It was pretty chaotic but at least I got to see some action. Got in a little trouble and they sent me back to my unit when they found out who I really was. I stopped him there and said in disbelief “You were at Guadalcanal?” “Sure”says Ed “And a lot of other places”. Ed reaches into the box and pulls out a native mask and says I got this at Tinian, And this came from Palaus, and this came from the battle of Luzon, and these masks came from Okinawa. I sat there in shock because all the boxes around us were filled with little mementos of Eds service, and he was going to throw them away. I couldn’t let that happen so I asked him if I could have some. Ed new I was a military history nut and especially the Pacific Theater and he could see me drooling over the stories attached to each item. Then it hit me. Of all the people Ed could have asked to help him, He picked me the history nut. I got played , but I didn’t care. I started to ask about each item and Ed would go into detail about where it came from which battle he was in and what happened during the battle.

The reason there were so many boxes was Ed didn’t just fight in WWII he also fought in Korea, and Vietnam. and when he finally retired he went back to Vietnam for a certain government agency that shall remain nameless. As Ed put it “We weren’t flying milk into Laos”. After we had spent a considerable time with Ed talking and me listening Ed hands me an old copy of Yank magazine and said that everything in the story was true.

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You see the article was about Ed, The Army’s Zaniest Hero. What a story you can read excerpts of the article in the News article Turning the Rules Upside Down” in the St Augustine Record http://staugustine.com/stories/042307/news_4550948.shtml#.Vpht7n0rLnA I added a link, Its worth the read. I treasure my gifts from Ed and yes my house looks like a War Museum, but I don’t care. I know the stories behind each and every one. Just a side note. Ed raced motorcycles, Started the Army parachute team, and was the welterweight champion second division 1948. Ed also has 8 purple hearts silver stars, Bronze stars and Presidential Citations. Just an amazing guy with an amazing life. I miss you Ed, Cheers!

They Called Him Troll

This is a true story of an incident that occurred a few years ago, but was unforgettable. I used to be part owner of a bar in North Florida, I don’t want to use any names because the bar is still there but I am not, and I don’t want any phone calls from anyone involved. So… There was a patron of the bar by the name of Troll. No, that was not his real name but that was the name he went by and everyone in town new him as Troll. In fact I don’t think anyone in town would no him by his real name. Troll received this nick-name in Viet Nam when he became the shortest airborne ranger in U.S. history. You see Troll was only slightly over five feet tall. He went through Ranger training then was told he was too short to graduate. To solve this dilemma Troll threatened to bring legal action against the government so they graduated him and sent him to Viet Nam for his trouble. The C.O. in Nam took one look at Troll and made him a tunnel rat. His buddies in Nam gave him the nickname and it stuck.

For those of you who don’t know the country of Viet Nam had an extensive tunnel system built by the people of Viet Nam and used by the Viet Cong to store weapons and personnel and to move across country with out detection. Tunnel rats were U.S. solders that were sent into these tunnels armed with a 45 pistol and a flash-light. This is one of the most dangerous jobs in the war and very few of these brave men survived. Well, Troll was a survivor and probably suffered from P.T.S.D. and a definitely had an ongoing battle with malaria and alcoholism.

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Troll being all of these things was also one of the smartest people I have ever known. He had more degrees than a thermometer and used to correct history books for publishing companies. Everyday like clockwork when I opened the bar Troll would be there  looking a bit like Albert Einstein, long white,gray hair standing straight up in the air, big bushy white mustache resting on his lip like a dead Caterpillar, waiting to have his morning beer and read his news paper before the regulars started showing up.

It was a beautiful sunny day outside and the bar was quiet except for the news channel playing on one of the T.V.s Troll was reading his news paper and working through his second beer when in walks this Japanese couple, obviously lost, and looking for directions. The couple stood by the front door letting their eyes adjust to the inside light and said a few things in Japanese to each other when the wife stepped forward and bows. In broken English with a seriously cute accent quietly asks,”excuse prease, where is winery?” Before I could give her directions Troll says with out even looking up from his paper ” You found Pearl Harbor easy enough you think you could find the fucking winery”. With out even blinking the couple bowed and began backing towards the door. I ran around the corner of the bar walked the couple outside and pointed them in the right direction trying to explain that Troll was crazy and please don’t take it personally. I felt like I was in the middle of an international incident and tried to defuse the situation but the couple wouldn’t even look me in the eye having lost face in such an embarrassing way. I walked back into the bar shaking my head and there sits Troll still reading his paper with an empty beer mug on the bar waiting for a refill.

Now I should have been mad about what just happened, Hell I should have kicked Troll out, but I thought about it and I just started to laugh at this point Troll looks up at me with this “Cat that ate the Canary” look on his face and says “How about that beer maestro” that just made me laugh harder. Later as our friendship grew I found out that Troll had been married and had a Wife and son who were Vietnamese. He had converted to Buddhism but unfortunately lost family at the hands of the Viet Cong during the war. I realized then that there was never a reason for Troll to say what he did other than He thought it was funny. It was just his sense of humor, his sick, dark, twisted sense of humor. There was always such an amazing group of characters at the bar but Troll was by far one that will always stand out in my memory.

 

 

“The Devil Is In The Details”

Some of you have read this blog before and know that I am a student of Uechi Ryu a Okinawan style of martial arts that is based on southern style Chinese boxing. As I go into my 52 years of age I am hoping to accomplish one of my lifetime goals, a black belt in martial arts. I am testing in May and I have all my requirements learned, now I’m fine tuning the small stuff. “The Devil is in the Details” one of the hardest things is the position of the body as you move through a set of attacks known as Kata. In the style we only have eight Kata, some styles have as many as fifty, so we really put a lot of time perfecting each Kata. Even the most basic Kata known as Sanchin is never perfected in ones lifetime.

That being said, learning this style can be a very humbling experience. But I am going to talk about transition in movement, and body position, not about my many failures in martial arts. Transition and body position is everything. The position of everything and every muscle from head to toe. (literally) I like to compare it to ballet, When a great ballet dancer moves through the performance the will seamlessly move from one position to the next making it appear effortless and stop and hold poses during the performance.

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A martial artist will do the same thing focusing on foot position, hand position, center balance, head and neck position and even facial expression. You have to be very aware of every muscle of your body and how it moves, sets, and flexes. You don’t just throw a punch, every aspect of the movement from the chamber of the strike and core position to the extension of the strike and the finishing position of the body. as with anything in life over extension will leave you exposed and under extension will leave you short of your goal. Sounds like Sun-tzu in The Art of War but it is true in everything in life. Where I struggle is not anticipating the next move. Like a chess player I have to be patient between moves and not rush to begin the next move. You don’t want your attacker to know what your next move will be.

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The other thing that I struggle with is shoulder and core position specifically my hips. Most people don’t realize or even care that all the power in a punch or kick doesn’t come from the limb involved but from the hips. That’s right the power of the punch comes from the hip and one of the hardest things to learn is whats called the hip twitch. By twitching your hip forward and back during the punch or kick can double the power transfer from your core to your hand or foot. Think of a Bull Whip and try to reproduce that quick whip-like motion. You will notice when your hip moves your arms will automatically move with with the hips.

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The patience required to achieve these methods is beyond the average person, which is why so many people quit. I think it takes a certain type of crazy to want to dedicate ones self to the advance of martial arts. This may be why there are so few Americans that teach traditional martial arts. Most people ,unfortunately, give up learning and try to create or change the style and create their own style. The proliferation of the Mac Dojo here in the United States is saddening to any true martial artist. I can’t imagine anything worse than spending years and thousands of dollars on some made up martial art that has no place to go and no real use in a fight. But enough of that, the subject at hand is the details and the importance of these details in the application of the moves.

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Is your core centered, are you balanced what is your hip and shoulder position, are your feet in proper position to move in the direction you need without compromising balance. these are my Great White Whale. But, I know, With hard work and determination I can get this down in about Five or Six years.

 

 

Arthritis Homeopathic Treatment

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Several years ago I noticed that my hands were sore and stiff in the morning. I thought maybe I had just over stressed them while at work. Being a chef I use my hands constantly and constantly moving them between hot and cold my hands are often numb from working with refrigerated food items all day. The problem was the feeling in my hands began to spread to my elbows and shoulders, and my feet were becoming affected, as well as my lower back and hips. The question became what the hell is going on with my body and what can I do to stop it?  It was quite disconcerting to realize that my body was attacking itself from the inside.

So first I wanted to know what was going on. Not being familiar with arthritis I had some research to do so I turned to the usual source for…

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Upper Back and Neck Pain

In previous posts I wrote about lower back pain but many of us suffer from back and neck pain. Most people feel the pain during movement of their neck and shoulders. These pains can be stress related, Sleep related, work related, exercise related. but the cure is the same, and if you don’t treat it as soon as possible it can lead to disc damage, nerve damage etc.I suffered from neck and shoulder pain when I was younger working as a pastry chef. I would stand twelve hours a day six days a week looking down at my work table. This caused the disk to shift in my neck and pinch the nerve causing pain that began in my neck and radiated down to my shoulders. I went to my Physical therapist, “Mom” and she gave me a booklet. This booklet gave a few exercises that increase mobility and help put the disk back into the proper position. I don’t suffer from this problem anymore and haven’t for years but I am very conscious of my neck and any possible injuries. I have noticed lately that my neck makes an audible clicking and grinding noise when I rotate and  turn my head so into the internet I go looking for answers, and this is what I found.

The real reason for this was fighting, I was having difficulty in my training keeping my chin tucked in, I noticed that I had some minor posture issues also and when I began to do exercises to correct the problem I felt and heard the popping and cracking in my neck. It sounded like breakfast cereal had taken up residence in my neck (Snap, Crackle and Pop). This was a serious concern because the last thing you want during a match is to have your chin sticking out. So Possible causes

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Proper posture in the neck is a big reason most people have neck and upper back pain. Working on my feet and having  my head in a downward position for 10 to 12 hours a day, I have done some serious damage to my posture but it is correctable.

Cervical Osteoarthritis, although this often goes un-diagnosed, it is common to have a stiff neck and pain occasionally and most people just think they slept wrong, or they strained there neck (Somehow). fortunately this condition is not degenerative and neck exercises can help with this condition.

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I do these exercises as part of my martial arts warm ups and it does help with my flexibility and seems to ease the pressure in the back of my neck. but I still have the popping and grinding when I roll my neck. So on with the search for answers. Next up is probably one of my favorite subjects, Diet. A diet high in omega 3 fatty acids and high in antioxidants,fiber,  Calcium and Vitamin D can aid in the building and maintaining good skeletal health. This is also the diet for high blood pressure, Diabetes, weight loss, In other words,and I know this is getting old, A proper diet is the biggest and best thing you can do for over all health.

Water is another key ingredient. Drinking plenty of fluids aids in keeping your fluid filled inter skeletal structures healthy and flexible.

There are other things that can lead to skeletal degeneration. The big two are alcohol and tobacco products. The alcohol depletes the  calcium and magnesium, and tobacco products is damaging to your bones.