Essays From The Master

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When the heart grows wings of fire: The discipline of gratitude

Life goes on whether any individual is a part of it or not, whether any individual is aware of its self or not life goes on, even if only as a memory or an echo. Given the nature of life to be alive and for that life to be self aware is a gift that is constant no matter how one feels or if others have more to be alive and aware is a good one can look to. If one is alive and aware of that good then one is able to be aware of what sustains that life and what builds it and thus honoring them by being grateful for that life and its source. These four virtues of being alive go to the value of life as a treasure to be cultivated and preserved promoting knowledge and strength as the means to define what embodies the value of life. In the life of the martial artist this understanding of life as a treasure is summed up in the teaching of the sword that kills is the same sword that preserves life. It is said that the sword reflects the spirit of the one that uses it making it the key to either heaven or hell, if one is aware of life and is grateful for it then the acts of that life will reflect its own paradise. Given this wisdom of life it is possible to find the Fudoshin or immovable heart which is a prism for truth because one has a foundation in life and the gratitude for that life. If one has life and the gratitude for it one has enough to endure troubles that will arise and use them as chances to grow and become stronger.

If one has gratitude as outlined above it is possible to find the good in the things that force one to grow in order to preserve the value of life and the growth of other individual lives. To honor the growth of the lives of others is to negate being jealous of others and is a wound to greed, these are masks used by the ego when it is threatened. Such a spirit or heart that is grateful for life is said to grow wings of fire and thus one is lifted up i.e. past the understanding of life that demands that one seek approval focusing rather on the virtues of life. Such a heart is ruthless to anything that disturbs the harmony of life which again evokes its role in the life of the martial artist. The idea of sustaining the harmony of life points to a warrior acting in a way that does not act to the conflict, but rather one acts to restore or to prevent the disruption of life and its virtues. Finding the treasure that life is in the midst of what tests life allows one to endure and to prevail over the things that test life. This is not peace which is a myth or contentment that leads to stagnation rather it is a willingness to find, draw on and if need be create joy in the moment if not for one life for another life which adds to the life that aided the other life that aided it. Finding joy and harnessing life through it is a discipline because the ego prefers to blame others and compares what it has to what others have. A heart that harnesses life through the finding of joy is not moved by threats or flattery easily because these belong to the ego.

Being disciplined toward gratitude puts the things that resist life and its joys in context, making trials into the wet stones upon which the blade of the spirit is sharpened. The discipline of gratitude is the healing answer to the martial form of the accepting spirit in Komuso Nin Do’s Way of the Black Wind. This form of gratitude is not a debt but rather it is the clear recognition of the value of what one is being gracious about, it is in fact a release from having debts for what one is blessed with by being alive. By being alive and aware of being alive one has a sense of the value one has and what one brings to the web of life showing a gift one can give or withhold as one wills to do. The heart is also the spirit and the center just as the wings of fire embody the drive to thrive and grow, to make one’s self and thus one’s world better. One can have the gratitude that is debt or that which is freedom, that one can choose is a deep truth. Here is not peace but serenity grounded in reality.

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