Message from the President for 2021
Dear Students, dear Parents, dear Friends.
Here is my message for 2021 and a summary of the discussions we had during our last year’s Mondō.
There will be other similar moments in our lives. Difficulties of the three increasing levels, obstacles, challenges, and hardships are opportunities to train ourselves for all other difficulties that we will encounter on our path. There is no escape!
If we make a practice of accepting and managing Obstacles—small things that irritate us, small inconveniences such as “Bourgeois Suffering”—we prepare ourselves to manage the next level of difficulties, which is Challenges, namely issues that require more attention and time, such as working with our disturbing emotions, or learning/polishing another language, for example. That, in turn, prepares us to face, accept, and overcome Hardships: catastrophic situations such as disease, accidents, death, etc.
One may say: “But what happens when difficulties do not come in that order?”
The strategy here is to divide in order to conquer. Hardship can be divided into individual challenges; every challenge can be divided into individual obstacles.
Every day, we face several obstacles that are easily manageable, provided we catch ourselves before being caught—something is missing in the pantry, a family member leaves his dirty dishes in the sink, someone used up all the toilet paper and did not replace it, people do not respond to their e-mails, etc. There are many opportunities with which to train ourselves.
Once we have made a habit of managing obstacles, we are better prepared to manage challenges, by dividing them into individual obstacles, until we become comfortable with the process.
The same goes with hardship.
Just like training with weights, we start with light weights, and as our skill and strength increase, we keep adding more weight. Starting with heavy weight from the beginning is the recipe for failure, isn’t it?
To an untrained person, an obstacle may seem like hardship. Does it make sense?
That process helps us to better understand other people’s behaviors during this crisis, as we are aware that we may have done it in the past, and that we also have the potential to do so. Family members, friends, students may have disappeared, disconnected from the rest of us, stuck in their solitude, uncertain of their future. They may not respond to our attempts to connect with them, but by reaching out to them, deep in their hearts, they feel the connection, they may see some light at the end of the tunnel… It’s a reminder that it may have happened to us in the past, as a family member, a mentor, a teacher, a friend kept believing in us, while we were struggling with some personal difficulties.
Remember the old saying: “In time of Peace, prepare for War.” It means that it is when things go well that we have to train ourselves to be ready for whatever happens. Unfortunately, most of us tend to mindlessly use our free time—just like ostriches bury their heads into the ground—don't we?
There are moments when we feel overwhelmed. Everything is temporary. As parents and/or as teachers, do we want to train ourselves to better prepare our children and/or our students than we were prepared? How do we see the next generation?
Soon after I arrived in Japan, one of the teachers at the Yōseikan—who was a former high-ranking officer in the Imperial Army—invited me once to his Dōjō and gave me a piece of paper on which he had written: “In Budo, we train to never be taken by surprise!” It stayed with me, and I have been reflecting on those words. As an officer, he was responsible for the lives of many soldiers; he had to function in solution mode immediately, whatever happened, “ focus on what to do! No time for victimization!”
Train myself to never be taken by surprise eventually changed to Train myself to expect the unexpected!
Those sayings have helped me tremendously to continue on my path toward my vision. I have been sharing them with those who have ears to listen, eyes to observe and brains to think. This is guidance, not obligation. I take responsibility for what I say, students are responsible for their understanding.
I renew my vows to keep sowing seeds of motivation for the next generation to continue and develop the Yōseikan Path as received from my teachers. My gratitude goes to all of you, for your many years of trust and support, as well as those who, by leaving, have been reminding me of the deep value of this path, and, therefore, strengthening my determination.
May you all live in Safety, in Happiness, and enjoy Health and Harmony.