Friday, September 29, 2006

Stoking the Furnace

During the Liang dynasty, Daruma Taishi sought to teach Chan Buddhism to the Shaolin monks in the Henan province of China. Owing to the sedentary nature of the scholastic life, the monks were unable to withstand the rigors of the ascetic practices which Taishi used to help focus the body, spirit, and mind along with his teaching. He overcame this by introducing exercises based on a system of fighting so that both body and spirit could be strengthened in tandem and a greater depth of religious understanding attained - for how could the mind, housed in a fragile body, otherwise be so controlled?

Or so the records on the history of karate would have us believe. There are some variations on the contributions of Taishi (also the Bodhidharma) to Shuri-ryu, recorded both by the Chinese and Japanese styles which have descended therefrom.

Regardless of the details I like this interpretation, as there is certainly truth to be had in it. Sleep has only been the first part in the equation of overcoming my long-present mental fog. As my rest has been improved and some other nervous (literally "of the nerves," not "anxious") agitation has been reigned in, my ability to focus has improved considerably, along with my exercise tolerance. When I perform that exercise, even in small portions, the benefit of the refined sleep is magnified.

I spent several years avoiding the triggers to my suffering, structuring my life as to be uncomplicated by it. In doing so I also robbed myself of the necessary stresses to maintain sufficient physical conditioning in a no-win situation: any attempt at vigor cost me dearly in the very near term (24-48 hours worth) as pain, extra fatigue, etc. Instead, I fell out of shape and had to live only with a reduced stamina.

Now I'm faced with my history of increasingly large pants and a daunting goal of working my way back up the chain to something I'm more comfortable with. Engaging metabolism while still retaining enough energy for the day (the intolerance is decreased, not removed) is a balance I'm still trying to find. I'm very grateful for the chance to try, though, and in keeping with my personal philosophies that means I must do, within reason, all I can to seize that opportunity.

Especially as I now have a child in school, and traces of every conceivable communicable disease will be wafting in the door behind her this winter, resulting in many a sleepless night for children and parents both.

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