So I met a ninja today…

When I think ninjutsu, I think hardcore training with medium contact, focus on pressure points and lessons in stealth. I met someone who had achieved their first dan over two years and was an assistant instructor in his dojo. We started chatting and he taught me various ways to throw shurikens and knives, how to trip or throw someone, different kinds of chokeholds, various pressure points and one very cool double-handed technique for shattering a person’s collarbones. When he agreed to spar with me it turns out his technique is a little sloppy and his speed is lacking, though he has strength about him. While he’s trained to become the assistant instructor, his qi, his power level, is still surprisingly low. I see now why he said he’s a weapon’s man- he uses instruments as the extensions of his body and needs nothing else to defend himself. Not at this basic level, anyway. So while he taught me some cool stuff, it was a little disappointing when he didn’t instantly part my head from my shoulders.

That said, the kid was 15 so in hindsight, I really should have cut him some slack…


Holidays always seem to be that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of struggles. You’re really busy and stressed with work, or study, or some variety of commitments. For months on end you wish you could have a break from it, a time where you don’t have to spend all your free hours reading or filling or whatever it is you do when you’re busy. When you reach the gold you go for a swim in it, relish it, sleep all day, play video games, see friends. But for me, the vacuum left in time and space can be agonising. Having only a few things planned in a full 15 hour day. It can be torment having that much free time.

And yet, during semester I make all these plans, all these things I want to do. But when I get there, the emptiness of my schedule can be crushing rather than uplifting. It’s something I’m struggling with, especially when I think of times to come, weeks of empty schedules.

Jack, my counsellor, suggested I turn my attention to the present rather than the daunting future. To forget what I’ll do and to look at what I’m doing. It’s a trying thing for me to stop planning, but you know? It’s kind of working.

Today’s been a nice day indoors, doing all the things I’ve been wanting to or meaning to for ages. I’m going to Wii Fit (properly), help Mum with the cleaning, go driving later, watch the finale of Avatar… But can I keep it up? Ironically enough, I’ll find out in time.

Bethfish being all busy with work (five days a week, roughly 9am-5pm), I’m pretty much open if anyone wants to do anything. Let me know and I’d be delighted to see you. Catcha later everyone.

Motivational Troubles

So I overreacted a little about my driving test. After some reflection, I realise I just wasn’t used to being criticised for my driving. With a pinch of humbleness and a fresh start, I’m hoping to learn from it and to pass my test in time. If not, it’s no huge problem for me, but it would be nice to pass as soon as possible.
In other news…

In the field of management science, a notable figure is Frederick Herzberg. An

apocryphal story is told about Herzberg. It is said that a large catering firm in

the U.S.A. had ‘motivational trouble’ in its kitchens. People washing up worked

slowly, frequently quit the job, and generally looked fed up. A bright young

management expert suggested it was because workers hadn’t ‘got’ any

motivation. ‘Let’s send for Frederick Herzberg and he’ll tell us how to put some

motivation into the work force’, he said. Frederick Herzberg was duly contacted,

and a consultancy fee of 2,000 dollars was agreed. When Herzberg arrived the

young management expert explained, ‘We even tried everything. We even tried

enriching their jobs by letting them wash cutlery on Mondays and Tuesdays,

and crockery on Wednesdays and Thursday, but they’ve still got no motivation.

How can we motivate them to do this job?’ After studying the scene for a few

moments, Herzberg is reputed to have said something like ‘you can’t. The job’s

lousy. I’m impressed you get them to do it at all. Can I have my 2,000 dollars

now please?’ The message is clear. You don’t put motivation into people: they

either find it themselves, or they don’t.

John Davies



I had no idea driving sucked so much.

I just had my first lesson with an instructor to prepare me for my test next Saturday (10am). I thought I was more or less ready, but this guy opened my eyes to a world of miniscule mistakes which just plain suck. They add up to a very definite punch in the face. So while I enjoy cruising around at 100, I’m finally starting to see that yes, you do have to freak. You do have to panic and drive 5-10km below the limit just so you don’t scare anyone including yourself for the world of dangers out there trying to get you to make a mistake.

So, for my reference, and to vent a little, here’s a list of things I need to work on.

  1. Use 4th gear to drive at 60.
  2. Use 2nd gear at all turns and roundabouts.
  3. You have 2-3 houses to pull over.
  4. Don’t indicate when you’ve pulled over.
  5. Take roundabouts at 20km/h.
  6. LOOK to see if there’s a car coming on your right. Douche!
  7. If there’s something obstructing your view, wait for it to move or take it slowly enough to avoid a car should they come.
  8. To reverse park, go two bays ahead, line the middle of the car up with the bay, lock the steering until you’re parallel, straighten the wheels, then reverse in.
  9. Drive SLOWER, especially in car parks.
  10. Use first gear if you have to drive slowly. It’s not just for starting.
  11. They’re anal about how close to the white line you stop.
  12. Look everywhere before you pull out of a bay.
  13. Engage the clutch 10 metres before you take a turn.
  14. Check the mirrors every single time you even think of slowing down.
  15. Indicate 30 metres beforehand, and slowtheheckdown no matter how pissed off the car behind you feels.
  16. When correcting parking, pull straight out.
  17. Indicate when you’re reverse parking.
  18. They’re not going to test you on parallel parking.
  19. Don’t leave your left foot on the clutch unless you’re changing gears.
  20. Don’t accellerate at roundabouts unless there’s no chance there’s a car on the right.
  21. They’re testing you on whether you’re a safe driver. Everything else is secondary to that.

What annoys me is that he said this is the "right" way to drive. I don’t believe in right, Mister. Postmodernism says I’M right. But you know what annoys me even more? The fact that I’m so terrified of failing all of a sudden that I’ll listen to everything freaking thing he says because I’m willing to grovel to prove I deserve a licence.

I should also mention that my placement for next semester hinges on whether I get my licence in time. If I don’t have my license by July 27 then I can’t do my training at Parkerville. Even if I don’t get my licence in time, I just want it so I don’t have to see my instructor again and I don’t have to sit a test ever again. Bethwyn, I’m so sorry I didn’t understand how much pressure you were under. I’m sorry for being impatient and I’m sorry I wasn’t more supportive. Congratulations on passing your test- I’m starting to realise just how big an achievement that is.

I need to centre myself before I lose it.

Spoiler warning

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II just sucked. It was great for the first 30 hours or so, but those hours were wasted when the ending completely turned everything on its head and ruined the game. Save yourself the effort of playing it. It has taught me a lot about the Balance though.


I’m not sure why I’m writing this. I don’t want anyone in particular to read it, but I suppose I want to tell it to someone anyway. I’m having trouble studying. I keep procrastinating. I procrastinate before I start studying. I get distracted every few seconds while I am studying. So I stop studying by procrastinating. And it’s all very, very frustrating.

I want to go to work so I don’t have to study. I’m a fruitcake, with extra nut.

It’s driving me crazy. All this time (a whole week) supposed to be dedicated to study. And with all the time, surely a few hours here and there couldn’t be so hard? Well, I’ve been awake since 10 o clock with studying for an hour as my ONLY goal, and I’ve only gotten halfway there. What the hell is keeping me? Why am I taking so long?

I just want to stop thinking about needing to study.

On the bright side, should be over in a week and a half. In fact, here’s a list of things I’m looking forward to.

1. Finishing exams so I can spend time with all my friends and, hopefully, hours and hours of gaming.
2. Work. Why? Because it’s simple and rewarding when I’m allowed to go at my own pace (which I’m slowly trying to speed up).
3. Margaret River.
4. Japan. That’s a while away.
5. My driving test two weeks from now.
6. My license when I pass my driving test. (may need to bridge the gap between sitting test and passing somehow.)
7. Seeing Bethwyn some time. Any time, every time, all the time.
8. Playing Star Wars as soon as I finish this last topic.
EDIT: 9. Changing my work shifts so I’m free in the evening. Freed up to kick some ass, that is. (Hope to join Cobra, Aikido, Karate or Capoiera in the near future. Other arts to come.)

Love and Balance

“To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Sometimes we give up one kind of balance for another. Our work lives
take over our personal life, our new families take over our exercise
routines, and sometimes our love life can take over it all. Losing our
balance over love can be fun- actually that in love, out of control
craziness of deep connection can be like a drug, blurring our vision so
that the world has a rosy hue and commitments to any thing other than
our beloved are hard to keep.

Losing our balance when love disappoints us can be just as
confusing. Relationship endings rank as the number one stressor in life
for over 60% of a large national survey and for good reason. It isn’t
just a partnership that ends, for many people, basic identity and
beliefs about family and promises are also shattered. Losing love blurs
our vision of our selves and what the world can be. Keeping up with
other commitments during this painful life re-construction can make
love feel like a disease.

Sustaining a loving relationship requires remarkable balance.
Because no one is easy to love all the time, thriving relationships not
only demand healthy boundaries which respect each partners individual
needs but also the ability to hold what is loveable alongside what is
most difficult about the person. Striking this realistic balance in
love is daily work and can swing between that rosy in love feeling and
darkness descending.

The pendulum swing in relationships can be clocked sometimes in
brief moments. Developing the skill to step back and watch your own
feelings change is a useful tool to finding balance. On a good day, the
witnessing can create enough space to not react immediately and often
within hours you are closer to the center again, holding the loveable
and difficult side by side.

Wendy Strgar.

Purity of mind and spirit

Last Sunday Bethwyn and I went for a full day meditation retreat. On the list of activities were sitting meditation, walking meditation, working with mindfulness, guidance… It sounded pretty good, fairly okay for beginners, so we rocked on up! The retreat leader started off with a quick ‘guidance talk’, essentially sharing the wisdom of the Buddha, before starting the walking meditation. We learned how to prostrate ourselves before the Buddha, three times for the past, present and future, palms up to receive the serenity and wisdom of one whom had been Enlightened. We then began walking around the room in single file, chanting "Sze Jia Ru Lie" to the sound of a wooden instrument whose ritual history I imagine went back millenia. I was worried at first because I had no idea how the chant went, but after a few rounds it was pretty easy to pick up. There was something deeply spiritual about taking calm, even steps about the room while adding to a dozen other voices, entirely focused on achieving purity of mind and spirit. I was very touched.

We were (or at least I was) thrown far into the deep end when the leader began a sitting meditation. He talked us through it, how meditation is not the emptying of the mind, to exist without thinking. Rather, as I understand it, it is to have thoughts but to let them go without putting any focus or attention on them. The example he gave us was you’re standing in a mall with people walking all around you but you pay no heed to them. If you see someone you recognise or that interests you and you start talking to them, you have gripped a thought and must let it go. The woman next to me asked how long we would meditate for. Sixteen minutes, I heard. It was a little more than I normally attempted, but it seemed reasonable. So I closed my eyes and waited. I waited and waited and waited, thinking, trying not to think, not thinking, thinking again, over and over and over until surely it must have been time. I opened my eyes and checked the clock- it had been fifteen minutes. So I kept waiting and waiting and waiting until half an hour passed. Then forty minutes. Then fifty. Then fifty five. Then sixty. And for the love of God why wasn’t he stopped yet? I looked around, trying not to make any movement or sound to disrupt the absolute stillness in the room, envious at the monks and even Bethwyn as they breathed deeply and evenly, apparently undisturbed. Why couldn’t I do that?

So I more or less failed the first sitting meditation. There were times when I emptied myself, but never completely, and with increasing distractions towards the end of the "sixty" minutes.

We took a short break and came back for prostration meditation. The idea is simple- stand with your eyes closed, palms together in prayer, and achieve stillness of mind. Whenever you latch on to a thought or are distracted, you prostrate- that is, bow down- before Buddha by placing your forehead on the cushion in front of you. The aim is to lengthen the period of time between each prostration- to reset the clock each time and try for a new record. Ancient Buddhist monks practiced it so often the stone floor on which they stood had worn down to show their footprints. I found prostration meditation much easier than sitting meditation as I became much more aware of how often I was distracted. It’s my favourite form of meditation so far.

We ate lunch in meditative silence, and I was surprised to note Ajahm Brahm was right. I shouldn’t have been surprised, the man is wiser than anyone I’ve ever met, but the food tasted magnificent. Everything seemed so much richer, full of flavour and colour, amazing textures, glorious warmth and fullness. It was a wholly satisfying meal when I could devote so much more of my energy to appreciating it. I thanked God (or the life stream, or whoever the universe sent to provide such a gratifying meal) before and afterwards.

Cleaning with mindfulness was interesting. There was a list of chores on the wall with names written next to certain areas. At first I thought they were just getting us to do their dirty work, but in hindsight I realise there is something deeply rewarding about doing good, hard work. The aim is not to do it quickly, or even well, but to do it mindfully. To devote yourself to it and its accomplishment. I found it hard to empty my mind of distractions as I sang Cindarella song in my head while I mopped the floors, but I believe with practice I’ll get better at it. I’ve certainly started enjoying working at Coles a lot more. The simplicity of opening boxes and filling shelves is somehow very gratifying.

Thereafter, we practiced walking meditation, prostration meditation, sitting meditation and guidance once again. The sitting meditation was conducted twice more, bringing the total time to three hours. The second and third times I did much better than the first, no longer wrestling with my thoughts but letting them go. I went for half an hour without feeling a need to open my eyes, entering a sort of dreamless sleep where time passed with unbelievable quickness. At times I repeated mantras through my head- "Sze Jia Ru Lie" (if that is a chant), "Om Namah Shivaya", "Hamsa", or simply "In, out", "Inhale, exhale". I’m still not quite there yet, and probably a step or two behind Bethwyn, but with practice I hope to still my mind for longer. Before Sunday I couldn’t meditate for more than ten minutes. After Sunday, well, it’s much easier.

Guidance at the end was also interesting. We talked awhile about the teachings of the Buddha. Interestingly, knowledge adds to intelligence- the more you learn, the more you add on. But in each of us, wisdom already exists- our potential to be like Buddha, which we may or may not realise or accept. But to reach wisdom, we must peel away our thoughts, distractions, attachments to this world. To be still, not empty. To be pure of mind and spirit.
He also said that truth is fundamentally the same, but it is polluted by our opinions of it. It’s kind of the anti-post-modernist take on reality. Rather than having different realities for everyone, there is one true reality which very very few of us can really perceive.
Another teaching that interested me is that truth can come to you while you are in meditation. Answers present themselves without your seeking them. I found this of note because while I was meditating, a truth came to me (or so I like to believe). I realised that in everybody there is this great stillness, this wisdom, this purity, this divinity. This Buddha-like state which is our soul in its purest form. And everybody, even the mass-murderers, even the guy who kicks his cat, is fundamentally good. I may be naive, or I may have learned a secret of the universe, but I believe this truth with all my heart.

So that was my weekend! While I love Christianity and all that the church is and teaches, Buddhism connects with me in deeper ways of living. While I cannot deny the existence of a God- He (or It) has lain His (or It’s) cloak upon my shoulders, the Buddhist way of life is so pure and spiritual. It is very appealing.

I wonder what my parents would say.