As many of you have heard, either directly or indirectly, I’ve had a “rough” year. Lots of stuff’s gone on in my personal life that needed to be addressed and that was the primary reason I stopped teaching last spring. I’ve gained a few perspectives that I think would be worth sharing, especially on Valentine’s Day.
The modern Valentine’s Day is focused on how much we love another person. This is not a day when we focus on love of all humanity or every living thing. It’s certainly not about loving yourself. I’m not going to critique the day itself (I did that last year…), but I want to shift the focus to the concept of self-love and its relevance to Kendo and life in general.
My feeling is that on the whole, there is a lack of self-love in our society. I say this because although a person may conform to societal expectations of “normal”, there are observable behaviours that suggest they don’t love themselves. This is just my perspective, but here’s what I see that lends credibility to my belief.
If you were in the position of being responsible for the health and well being of a baby, you would probably do your best to take care of that child’s physical and emotional needs. You would nurture it as it grew, would allow it to grow, explore and learn. When it makes mistakes, you would do your best to protect that child from excess harm. You would correct the child if it started straying toward non-beneficial choices and do your best to guide that child in a way that it would grow up to be the best it can be. In short, you would raise and guide that child with love and compassion.
Consider yourself as that child. Do you treat yourself the same way you would treat that external child? Would you allow that child to think itself less intelligent, less attractive, less worthy than it is? Would you allow that child to smoke, take drugs, drink to excess or eat foods you know would harm its health in the long run? Would you suggest it sit on the couch to eat junk food and watch television or spend countless hours on Facebook or playing video games instead of doing something more healthy, productive or beneficial? Would you tell that child to look upon you as an ideal human being?
I know nobody is perfect, but I believe we have the potential to be better than we are. I also believe that potential will never be realized without a strong foundation and I believe that foundation to be be strongest when there is a true love of one’s self. My realization last year was that I didn’t have that foundation. The choices I made throughout my life were based on shoring up the structure of who I thought I should be with external supports but they didn’t address the main deficit of not knowing who I really was or wanted to be. It wasn’t until I uncovered that sense of wonder and joy and love for my own self that I was able to make positive changes in my life. It wasn’t a painless process, but the outcome has been worth it. I am rebuilding my life, redefining my relationship with myself and others and while I face the same challenges as before, they are easier to deal with knowing that I have that inner strength that was previously lacking.
The core purpose of Kendo is to improve your self. This is not Kendo’s “job”. It is not the role of the sensei to make his/her students better people. As a sensei, I have a responsibility to provide the best Kendo training I can to my students and to offer guidance as necessary but I am not responsible for students accepting those lessons. It is the student’s choice on how they implement the lessons offered. It is your responsibility to improve your self.
I was fortunate to have explored my past experiences with people who helped me examine each formative one and who helped me understand them so I could let go of the limitations I’d created for myself. Through that process I was able to shed the layers of misperceptions I’d held about myself and see myself for the wonderful person I am. For the first time, I felt love for myself. Moving forward, I know I still make choices that limit me, but I am much more aware of them and am mindful of how I am treating my self and whether those choices are helping or harming me. The past is the past, mistakes will be made, but I don’t fear them any longer. How I choose to act right now makes the positive differences that will move me forward.
Education has been a constant in my adult life. I have been fortunate to have learned much about myself in the process. I hope that by sharing part of my journey and my experiences you will see it possible to make positive change, whatever your circumstance. Discovering your own self love can transform your perspectives and drastically improve how you approach life. That’s why I hope to see more love in the dojo. Self-love, that is.
Cultivating a sense of self-love will create a deeper level of self-worth and self-respect. This in turn will foster a stronger sense of discipline and desire to improve one’s Kendo and life. That’s what Kendo’s all about.
Happy Valentine’s Day!