I’ll tell you another reason we have the Gratitude calligraphy in front of the dojo: Gratitude is not a mushy, sentimental feeling. It is a hard practice. It’s up there as a reminder to appreciate having a good place to train, and to appreciate each other.
It’s easy to focus on what’s lacking. Faults of the space, limitations of the schedule, shortcomings of people, unknown but imagined something else out there that might be better, or more, or different. Those are obstacles to training, as they are to friendship, family, dojo life and achievement. They are countered by gratitude.
Are we thankful for everything? Do we ignore flaws? Do stop seeking and questioning and testing? No.
Are we thankful for pain, injury, irritating people, the limits of our bodies, our minds, our schedules, our lifetimes? Not in some tolerant, make-believe way. Not by doing sigh kata. The relevant guidance is this:
In the hands of a master nothing is wasted.
In the woodworker’s shop next to our old dojo wood scraps get saved and even the saw dust has its uses. Indigenous people who hunted to live found a use for everything: meat, sinews, bones, hides, organs. Nothing was wasted. What they had was hard to get. They were grateful when they got it.
Our time and training are just as valuable. Just as urgent. Just as hard to get. Every class, every technique, everyone we train with, counts. If we appreciate what we have we can make the most of it. When obstacles arise, we can use them.
We may be free to waste time, and even to kill time. But for a master there are no extra moments.
Most of us cannot use everything skillfully. But to have this as an ideal, to use it in training, like having an ideal posture to strive for in kata, takes us further than we could go without it.
The language of scorn, irony, and mockery is common currency. A mindset of appreciation and respect is not. To value what we have, to take care of it, to appreciate the people we share it with, is worth cultivating.
We cultivate power in training. We learn that enduring power depends on right and justice. Otherwise the expression of power will be nasty, brutish and short.
We did not invent our bodies, our minds, the language we use, the buildings we live in, the food we eat, or the kata we use to train. It is useful to notice that. Lots of what we have came to us through the efforts of people we will never know. What will we do with what we have? In what condition will we pass it on?
That is why “Gratitude” is up there in the front window of the dojo.
Post and photo © 2019 Jeffrey Brooks and Mountain Karate Dojo, L.L.C.
Calligraphy by Chie Nakata, given to us by her and her husband Jeremy Blaustein.