A monk lives a life of single focus. The Buddha’s purpose in founding orders of monks and nuns was to provide an environment in which spiritual development and discover of “self” or “not-self” would be made easier by not being part of the outside world with all the distractions that entails.
The outside or lay community would provide the monks with their basic needs including food and clothing and any expenses that they might incur in their study which could last years if not an entire lifetime. In this way the disciplined, simplistic and orderly lifestyle was and still is conducive to meditation and finding inner peace on the way to kensho and satori and learning to enjoy the fact that all life is suffering. Isolating and targeting that goal (or “non-goal”) was therefore easier since all of their existence was centered on that idea.
This is the source of the old Zen phrase, “One Bowl, One Robe”, representing the only physical and non-spiritual needs of the full-time monk. I would expand that to include, “One Bowl, One Robe, One Bieru” in order to also take into account a little after-hours activity or some of that apres’ temple I’ve read so much about .
For those of us not into chanting about the glories of suffering and robe-wearing, having to make our own way in the world, make a living, and support the family gets in the way, intrudes as it were, on our having a long-term goal, a prime reason for not being able to train in martial arts like we might desire; thus the rationale behind the common saying, “Life gets in the way of what I really want to do”.
Compare that single focus in high school or university (that of education only and then whatever fun we want to find) to having a full time job and working towards career advancement, family, and then attempting to train consistently in martial arts. One reason for finding it difficult making it to the mat is a lack of the fiery energy you had in your youth where you felt you could literally do it all and still have enough fire left inside to go to the beach and drink that entire case of bieru’s by yourself, and then get up the next day and do it all over again. As we get older so many thing intrude on our consciousness and time that we wear ourselves out trying the make all the targets on our agendas and calendars thus leaving little of what is “us” for the mat. Then, a lack of energy caused by too many irons in the fire creates a lack of physical activity which in turn causes weight gain, a lack of “wind” and we tire easily, and a corresponding lack of energy.
Another issue is that of begin out of school, having a job and for quite possibly the first time in our lives, some money in our pocket. Thinking about that two week vacation to the California wine country or taking the kids to Disney suddenly looks so much more attractive than a week at a gasshuku working day and night while skinning your knees, sleeping dormitory style on a bad bed, getting cracking in the head, being choked out, and then going home exhausted.
The solution for all these “reasons” for not training is becoming more efficient in how we organize ourselves. When I first moved to Houston, I had a job where I had extensive travel and worked downtown. When I was in town I made as many classes as I could by packing a protein drink and an energy bar in my briefcase. I didn’t go home after work and before the dojo that night. I worked late to get ahead on assignments at the office and free up time, and then went straight to the dojo after consuming the snack at the office. I knew myself well enough to know with certainty that if I went home first, had a meal and then sat down for five minutes that I wouldn’t get back up and would miss keiko and then use the excuse of, "Well, I'll just go tomorrow night".
The other organizational strategy that I used was to write my training times in my calendar in red which told me to not violate those “business appointments” unless something more critical came up (such as a family emergency, illness, or some other issue). I ignored invitations to Happy Hour or dinner out because those social events are always best done on non-work nights anyway. I always wrote in important family times (birthdays, anniversaries, holiday events) and of course planned around job issues. With some consistent practice at this balancing act, it became easy after a while and stressing out over any one area gradually disappeared since I was meeting the needs of all three.
I was always reasonable in this and split time between work, dojo, and family but always made time for all three. Anyone who thinks that you have to become a monk and live a life of “One Bowl, One Robe, One Bieru” is wrong. You can live a life of “One Job, One Gi, One Martini” quite well and have time for family too. All it takes is a broader focus and some organizational skills.
See you on the mat.
L.F. Wilkinson Kancho