How many of us don’t do what we know to be right simply because we are afraid of failure?

As the Zen Teachings website has grown, and I’ve begun to have more and more contact with students who are not in the physical dojos, I’ve had some pretty common questions and comments.

  • “I love your content and the blogs.”
  • “I like listening to the talks! They’re really helpful.”
  • “I have always wanted to meditate.”
  • “Lessons in Mindfulness is incredible.”

Then, I will ask if they are regularly meditating and generally, the answer is generally, “no”. I probe a little deeper and try to get the reason. It seems that they understand that mediation would improve their lives. It seems that they like the “idea” of meditating. So, why don’t they?

The answers to those questions are very typically the same, too.

  • “I don’t know how.”
  • “My mind is too busy.”
  • “My life is too busy.”
  • “It’s not something I could really do.”
  • “I’ll just look/feel stupid.”

Fear Stops Us From Moving Forward

Fear of the unknown prevents us from moving forward with our lives. It can even prevent us from doing things we know would be good for us.

I know people who won’t work out because they think they’ll look dumb in the gym. The same could be said for people who are afraid to start a martial arts class, afraid to write that blog they’ve been talking about for years, afraid to leave a relationship that isn’t good for them, afraid to start that painting class… The list is endless.

Maybe fear has even kept you from telling that special person how much they mean to you.

“It’s never the things we do that we regret in our last moments, it’s the things we didn’t do.”

One of the greatest gifts Sifu ever gave to me was being unreasonably hard on me and pushing me outside my comfort zone. As kids, my brother Patrick and I were thrown into classes with adults who didn’t pull any punches, or kicks. As a 135 pound 15-year-old, a grown man in his late 20s to early 30s is quite intimidating. Sifu never “forced” me to do anything. I could always quit, after all. Quitting was always an option, and I did think about it.

Quitting is An Option You Will Regret

Anyone who tells you that “quitting isn’t an option” is lying to you. It is, in fact, the most readily available and easiest option in most circumstances. Even better if you can come up with a list of reasons not to even start something.

The hard truth behind quitting is that you will regret it. However, life is not easy. No one ever or should promise you that it will be. It is a continual path and not a destination. 

Choose Your Path: Growth or Stagnation

In these moments of adversity, when it is so much easier to stay on the couch than to get up and do something productive, you come to two basic choices: growth or stagnation.

I have always been able to tell a lot about a person’s character by the way they practice. It’s why I believe in competition- not for any temporary accolades or trophies, but for the ability to test yourself.

Three Steps in Growth

We can never guarantee victory, but you should guarantee your effort. Long after you step off the mats or out of the gym, where you’ve struggled through those last hard repetitions, your mindset at that moment, will and does affect the rest of your life.

These are the real treasures of practice and hard training. You will begin to realize that if you could get through THAT, you can easily handle THIS.

And so, the same can be said of your mental practice. Sifu frequently talks about destiny vs. free will. The fact is we all have a destiny. That is: “You will make it”. The “free will” that we also have determines how long it will take you.

  1. Do the work.
  2. Persevere.
  3. Develop yourself.

You will invariably find that you are stronger and tougher than you give yourself credit for. And, through this, you will become the kind of person that you aspire to be. Your growth in life is entirely up to you.

True Meditation. Don’t be Monkey-Minded.

One last point: it will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Lately, I’ve had more exposure to some pretty popular “meditation” teachers. I truly believe in my heart that they are well-intentioned. However, in my opinion, they are completely misguided.

I actually listened to a man discuss “monkey-mind” and how our inability to control our thoughts is a result of our bodies. He then went on to discuss how in his meditations, he sits comfortably, “as if I’m watching TV”. He thinks about whatever pops into his mind and if he has an itch, he scratches it.

To me, this sounds like simply sitting in a room with the TV off. I support relaxation and “meditative” things in general, but let’s not confuse it with actual meditation.

“You MUST discipline your mind in order to take control of your life. A general rule of thumb that has held true when it comes to anything of value is that: If there’s a ‘shortcut’ or some way to make it easier, then it probably isn’t as beneficial.” – Rudy Makupson

I can see the appeal. We can all just sit in a room, think about whatever we like, let our bodies dictate our actions and then we can claim we are meditating! Don’t cheat yourself and shortchange the process.

You must do the work. Do not be afraid. Do not look for an easy way out. Welcome the uncomfortable, for that is where growth is.

Becoming the best version of yourself is perhaps the most important thing you can ever do. It seems obvious that something so important requires diligent effort and is not a passive activity.In all things, be brave! Especially on your path to self-discovery.

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