Monday, August 31 – The Way of the Samurai (To Fully Live You Must Not Fear Death)
By Jorah Kai CHONGQING, CHINA
Day 225. It’s ironic that this year as most of the world feels isolated in lockdown, I feel closer to you than I have in years since I arrive don my mountain hovel. While at times I am tempted to emerge, here I must remain, but I give you a message. It is one that has served me well, but do with it, what you can, what you will. Know that I send it with love in my heart.
As we say goodbye to summer, many parents, students, and teachers are excited to return to school. Some, still, are nervous, anxious, and afraid. I’ve read estate lawyers have had a busy summer planning the wills of many teachers who are afraid they may not survive the year should a COVID outbreak come to their school, yet for one reason or another they are preparing to return anyway.
Today on Earth we have 25.6 million documented COVID cases and 854,685 deaths, although many experts suggest both numbers could more accurately be 10X that many. We may never know, and we are bracing for complications in mixing COVID with influenza, and the possibility of a bad season for both. Winter is coming.
One of the best things you can do to stay healthy is to improve your terrain with sleep, rest, rejuvenation, low stress and anxiety, healthy food, veggies, lots of natural vitamins, protein, not too much junk food, physical exercise, and fitness, lower your body fat to as healthy a level as you can manage: remember obesity is a commodity for COVID (and 42% of America is obese, compared with 6% of China). Take vitamins to supplement yourself, especially if you are deficient in some areas, a multivitamin can help. Take a vitamin D supplement daily. It’s perfectly safe and might save your life, as studies have shown more serious COVID-19 cases are often in those who are vitamin D deficient; so why not. Some experts claim selenium, quercetin, and zinc will boost your natural immune system and make you less susceptible to a bad case of COVID if you get it also. I try to follow this advice so I can feel prepared that I am doing everything I can and rest peacefully.
Limit your exposure. Wear masks inside questionable areas, keep the window open or run a HEPA air purifier, limit your contacts and visits to essential activities, conduct remote meetings, and work as much as you can. Don’t touch stuff, don’t touch your face, wash your hands often, don’t shake hands. Bow, bump elbows or feet, just stop touching hands. Carry hand sanitizer on you, and wash well for 20 seconds with soap and water when you come back inside and before you eat or touch your face. Studies are showing masks aren’t needed as much outdoors as the sun, and fresh air will diffuse particles quickly, unless you’re in crowded areas/lines/etc., but indoors you must be hyper-vigilant, this is where the super spreader events are happening. Beware indoor areas with crowds of people, poor ventilation and loud voices, singing, or talking. These are superspreader vectors. That means concerts, churches, and schools. Avoid them. Prepare now, because winter is coming.
World-record sprinter and eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt has tested positive for the coronavirus and is self-isolating at his home in Jamaica after celebrating his 34th birthday with a mask-free party last week. I know there’s a joke in there somewhere— the world’s fastest man couldn’t escape COVID when he partied irresponsibly. We wish him a good recovery.
Communities can take action! Wastewater monitoring is one of a handful of approaches around the world being developed to pinpoint emerging coronavirus hotspots. Sewage can identify COVID-19 outbreaks 7-10 days before contagious spread and symptoms can occur, giving scientists a good idea of where to impose lockdowns and closures or do contact training and testing.
What can teachers, managers, and bosses do?
What can you do?
Xiaolin has told me we have a vaccine in China now, broadly available, for 300 RMB ($60 CDN, or about $50 USD). I will try to follow this story and see where it goes….it is certainly news to me. For most people around the world, the vaccine and the end of the pandemic is not yet upon us, in fact, experts predict a second wave this fall and winter to be 400% (or 4 times) as bad as the worst days of the Spring first wave. We must be prepared, in every way.
With so much uncertainty in the air, we can become crippled with fear, and we must instead focus on doing our best and being as healthy as possible. So today, I will walk you through my process of doing just that. Fear and anxiety come from fear: rejection, failure, loss, or sickness, and death. Yet, do you fear your own shadow? No, so you should not fear the prospect of death. Both are inevitable. The only question is how, and when.
“Those who cling to life die, and those who defy death live.” The Sengoku daimyô Uesugi Kenshin left these words for his retainers just before to his own death. The Hagakure offers a similar bit of wisdom. “A person who does not want to be struck by the enemy’s arrows will have no divine protection. For a man who does not wish to be hit by the arrows of a common soldier, but rather those of a warrior of fame, there will be the protection for which he asked.”
“In fighting and in everyday life, you should be determined though calm. The Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.” – Miyamoto Musashi. Miyamoto Musashi—Japan’s Sword Saint, was the greatest swordsman ever to live. He supposedly never lost a fight. On the battlefield, he was surrounded by death, either the deaths of his enemies or his own Samurai’s deaths fighting beside him. Then he was also enveloped by the din of death: the shrieks of pain and anguish of a slow death of those that died on the battlefield hours, days, or weeks after their life-threatening injuries. Away from the battlefield, he was also surrounded by death. Famine, starvation, failed crops of the Japanese farmers; the rest of the population that did not wield weapons in battle. Then there was the thought that win or lose, and if he did not live up to the expectations of a samurai in combat, he would then take his own life. The alternative? One of his own soldiers takes his life for him.
Death for him was a way of life, a common and daily reality. He lived on its edges and faced it constantly.
Adopting the belief that for them, they were already dead was a common way to not be consumed by the fear of death, a way to stay sharp and focused at the moment. This was a zen approach.
They were Samurai. At the forefront of their mind was their own death. Preferably a death in combat, but they knew they would die.
For the Samurai to learn
There’s only one thing,
One last thing –
To face death unflinchingly.
For the Samurai warrior, it was crucial to remember their own mortality (practice death each day, memento mori). Being a samurai meant living each day as if you are dead already. If you implemented this, we could change our lives for the better, reach our goals faster. If you are dead already, the worst thing that could happen to you has already happened, there is nothing holding you back, and there is no fear.
Go and do what you should be doing. A lot of the time, people are so afraid, wasting so much time in fear, doubts, insecurities, postponing dreams for a better time, what will they think or say… we try to figure it out, so we don’t fall on our face. We cannot figure it all out. In reality, life is quite complex, full of details, with untold millions of unknown variables. We will never have it all figured out. The key is to go and do it, see what happens, adapt, adjust accordingly.
Your doubts and fears are only holding you back. Just do it.
Life is quite short; even with youth, health, and exercise, there are no guarantees in this unpredictable world. Tomorrow you could be hit by a car on the way to work, or your plane might crash on the next vacation. Nothing is for certain; tomorrow is not a given. We cannot waste our precious time.
To keep postponing your dreams is a profound lack of self-respect. You were born on this earth to experience, to express yourself, and to find fulfillment. As long as you are not achieving this, you are not respecting your potential, your true self.
Being a fearless samurai … involves meditation, being focussed and mindful, being present, manifesting your goals, visualizing your dreams. For the Samurai, the tea ceremony was a meditation, an opportunity to be fully immersed in the experience of drinking tea. Be here now – anything, any time, can be a meditation if you are present. This can give you insights about your life, reality itself, the intertwined life and death, and why there is nothing to fear. You will die, this is a given, the only thing left to decide is how you will die, and I choose to die well, by living well every day.
For today’s Meditation practice, our intention is to help the mind find peace and balance to help us cope with the uncertainty of the world at this time. Find a comfortable position, close your eyes, and put both your hands upon your heart.
Take a deep breath in, and listen to the sound of your heart.
With each beat, it can remind you of this beautiful energy that is within you. With each beat, may it take you deeper within, to the internal experience of your divine being.
Take a deep breath in with your nose and a long, slow exhalation through your mouth or nose. It is grounding you, allowing you to find yourself. Put your hands in your lap, your palms up, index fingers and thumbs touching, and focus upon your third eye, observe any patterns, colors, or shapes you may notice, no judgment, just observe.
Breath in deeply, breathe out slowly, letting the tension go. Allow your eyes to feel heavy, unclenching your jaw. Relax your face. Move this down to your shoulders and arms, your hips, and your legs. Just let it go.
Stay present, notice the movement of your breath as you breath in and out.
Begin to notice any sensations in your body, the coolness of the air into your nostrils, the warmth of the air leaving your nostrils as you breathe out.
Do you notice any tingling sensations in your fingers and toes? Be the watcher inside yourself, finding peace, enjoying this simple moment of silence and disconnection. You deserve it.
This is a time where it’s normal for our minds to cling to a specific thought, a daydream, or perhaps even fear of the future. Your mind can go in many directions, and that’s ok. Remember to use your breath whenever you feel yourself drifting away, use your breath to come back to this moment, right here, right now. Take a deep breath in and a long, soft breath out.
Breath in. Exhale out.
At this moment, it’s ok to realize you may feel uncertain and stress in your life, but remember it’s simply a reaction to the circumstances around you, creating a future that may not happen. We cannot control the future, but we can choose to breathe in and let the negative energy go, release it into the ground, into the earth. Choose to find peace, enjoying the simplicity of this moment, being here with yourself, giving yourself permission to breathe, to be, to let go.
Breathe in, exhale out. Visualize a radiant light around you, any color that comes to you. See, this light of love enters your body with each breath. Welcome it into your crown and into every fiber of your body. Let this energy heal you in all the ways you need it, grounding you, stronger, loved, healthy. A darker, murky color leaves your body.
Inhale a beautiful, radiant light.
Exhale a dark, murky color out of your body.
Create an intention to let go of anything that no longer serves you, exhale them from your body, mind, and inner being.
Inhale radiant light, exhale all the weight off your shoulders.
Be here, and now.
Notice whatever it is you notice. Your body may begin to relax more and more as you go deeper and deeper into yourself.
Your body will find it’s the best way to let go, naturally, to heal itself; your unconscious mind is an expert in healing you, just flow with the experience.
Change is a natural aspect of life, like a tree that lets go of its leaves, the seasons changing, the sea changes from liquid to air. Become aware of your breathing, breathing in life energy through the soles of your feet up through your body and out the top of your head.
There is an old story about a buddha statue; perhaps your arms and feet will get heavy as you experience this story, experience a pleasant, deepening sense of comfort as you relax.
In the 1950s, a monastery was to be relocated to make room for a highway. The monks arranged a crane to come and move the giant clay buddha to its new location, but when the crane started to lift the statue, it was much heavier than expected and began to crack. The monks set it back down and decided to return tomorrow with more powerful machines.
To add insult to injury, the rain came in, so the monks covered the statue with tarps. In the dark of night, the head monk took his flashlight to make sure it was still covered. Through the cracks in the clay, he saw a glimmer, a reflection underneath the shroud of clay.
He began to carefully remove the clay with a chisel, and when it was all removed, he was in the presence of a Buddha made of solid gold.
As we relax, you are already chiseling away the clay of your worries, stresses, and anxiety in your subconscious mind.
Imagine yourself walking on a warm beach, either one you imagine or one you know. Imagine walking so close to the sea that some of the waves touch your feet. Do you notice the sound of the waves, the sight of the sea, the sky, the feel of the sand under your toes, the warmth of the sun, the fresh and clean sea air, or a combination?
Suddenly you realize there is a thick rope tied around your waist, and at the end of the rope is a big iron anchor weighing you down, holding you back. The rope is gnawing into your skin with each step. In front of you, something glimmers, catching your attention. You walk towards it, dragging that heaviness with you.
When you approach it, you realize that it is a blade. It looks and feels like it is from ancient times. You notice your name on the handle of that blade. While a part of you is curious, your higher self knows this blade is here for a reason. Life has given you an opportunity, a chance, a choice to deliberately cut the rope and let it all go.
Cut the rope now and let go fo all your worries and unwanted feelings you’ve been dragging with you.
Maybe you feel a sense of relief, freedom, lightness, or something else. You are working through this in your own way.
Imagine the waves crashing into the anchor as it rusts to pieces right before your very eyes.
The anchor disappears with each new wave, the rope dissolves. Imagine the sun surrounding you with radiant light energy, shining down, enveloping you, with peaceful silence and quietness, permeating every cell in your body.
Notice how you feel right now; don’t let your mind win. Your ego might get in your way, making you doubt yourself, but don’t give it power. Notice it, be aware of it, and confirm to yourself that you are in control of your peace, health, and well being.
Breathe in, exhale.
As you go deeper, repeat this powerful mantra any time your mind and ego get in your way.
As I surrender to the uncertainty, I am in control, I am safe, and I am guided.
As I surrender to the uncertainty, I am in control, I am safe, and I am guided.
I am in control, I am safe, and I am guided.
I am in control, I am safe, and I am guided.
Stay in this moment of stillness and peace. Repeat this as many times as you need.
It’s time to release your mantra.
Feel the energy within your body, tingling, and sensations. Connect to your breath.
Send our gratitude for all that we have right now. For your body, health, strength, the opportunity to able to reconnect with yourself. Take. Deep breath in and let it go AS we move forward with our day, remember that no matter what emotions are triggered by external circumstances, you are in control of how you react to them. Do not let yourself be consumed by any fears of negativity. Let yourself always come back to the idea that you can choose to find joy and happiness no matter what life throws at you.
Finding joy in the simplicity of life, and being grateful for all you have right now, in this moment, always coming back to the idea that you are in control of your state of mind, that you are safe, and that you are guided by whatever energy or force leads you on this path in life.
May you be healthy, may you find peace within, and may you be guided by love.
Thank you for sharing this moment with me, I send you my love and good energy,
Be strong, be healthy, be powerful. Namaste.
Until next time.
Kai shares his diaries with iChongqing from his forthcoming second book of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic called “The Lighthouse” (Summer). You can see his work and more at www.theinvisiblewar.co
For any inquiries, please email email@example.com