Friday, August 19, 2016

A Few Principles of Emotional Health and Wellness

All of us are a little bit crazy.  We grew up in an imperfect world, with imperfect parents, who hopefully did the best that they could. We have all experienced some form of trauma.

All emotions are good and necessary.  If we limit one emotion, then we limit our capacity for all emotion.

Emotional health is being able to experience our emotions freely and at times extremely; not limiting our ability to experience any of our emotions in their entirety, while also not getting stuck for too long in one extreme or another.  Emotional health is also the ability to keep our experiencing of extreme emotion from harming others.  Ultimately, the ability to fluidly experience the entire range of our emotions while not allowing them to consume us and our actions is a sign of emotional health.

When two people act out of their craziness together, that is when people get hurt.  If one person can stay calm, can keep their craziness out of the interaction, while the first person is acting out, there is a much better chance that no one will be hurt.

We can only go as deeply with someone as we have gone with ourselves.  Without doing work to shed light into our own deepest darkest places, we will run from and help others avoid their dark places.

Be a soft place to land. Allow yourself to land softly.

Lean into your discomfort.  Do the emotional labor.  Dance with fear, and pain, and anger, and hatred, and happiness, and sadness, and love.

In all relationships, whether through intensity and/or duration, we experience all aspects of each person in the relationship; there is no hiding.

Thought without emotion is endless possibilities with no ability to choose or decide.

We have all been traumatized in some way.  We have all developed coping strategies, mechanism, dynamics, and patterns.  If there are any behaviors that you hope to change you must ask yourself, what do I get out of this behavior?  How does this behavior, this belief, this strategy, serve me now?  Am I willing to change this behavior if it no longer is serving my current needs?  With what new behavior can I replace this old strategy?  What new plan can I develop, experiment with, and embrace to serve my current needs?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Self-Defense and Self-Preservation

Rene Nuñez - Front Kick - circa 1972

My papi used to tell me, "Pull your toes back.  Point your foot, now pull your toes back," while demonstrating how to make that happen.  I tried and I tried, I practiced and I practiced, and I can remember when I got it, when my body listened to my mind and I could pull my toes back while extending my foot.  The proper form of the foot during a front kick, putting the ball of the foot in front as the furthest point from the body.

On July 22nd I had the pleasure of assisting master Marcellus Walker in the facilitation of a self-defense workshop.  Marcellus is openly compassionate, notably calm, yet direct and unflinching in addressing the uncomfortable reality of self-defense.  I appreciate his openness to help others develop their martial arts abilities, to face the ugly reality of personal combat and physically defending oneself, while simultaneously emphasizing the beauty and creativity of the art.

The most important aspect of self-defense is psychological; the mental willpower to physically control a situation, and if need be inflict physical harm on another human, in order to preserve one's life.  As Marcellus puts it, "We have a right and responsibility to return home each day to the people who love us, who expect to see us and talk to us later that day."

One of the first steps in self-defense is the ki'hap (or kiai in Japanese pronunciation) - to yell with great energy or "ki".  The ki'hap has both mental and physical implications.  Physically the ki'hap is a forceful breath, invigorating the body and mind during a time of potential stress and rigidity.  Mentally the ki'hap can help the practitioner gather courage and express their intention to engage in a psychical confrontation, whether in practice, competition, or a real life self-defense situation.  Our voice is our first defense, our first expression of self-preservation.

My father was a practiced martial artist.  He studied Tang Soo Do earning a red belt, one below black, before, as he described it, he attempted a jumping side kick over a chair and blew out his knee on a botched landing.  My father also studied and practiced the art of self-preservation, the preservation of our cultural identity as Chicanos, as descendants of the first people in the Americas, as humans who have a right to determine our own identities.

Papi embodied self-preservation, and he wasn't quiet about it.  He modeled it day in and day out, in all aspects of his life.  He made the determination and preservation of our culture, language, identity, and right to quality education and free speech his life's work.

At the workshop, a little over a week ago, the connection of the physical and the psychological, the martial arts of self-defense and the mental willpower of self-preservation crystallized for me.  It is imperative that we empower the voices, the willpower, of communities whose identities are marginalized within the mainstream, that we empower their voices of self-determination and self-preservation.  It is the first step in each community's ability to control their own identity and cast off limitations and barriers.  Voicing our willpower to live, to define ourselves, is the first step in self-defense.