5 Lessons from Jiu Jitsu that Beautifully Map onto Life

You can’t protect everything perfectly all the time – even if you curl up into a tight ball, a skilled opponent will find ways through your defences. Similarly, the things we value in life – our job, self image, health, relationships, so on are vulnerable, especially if we intend to keep moving and exploring.

The possibility of finding yourself in a tricky situation is only scary if you lack belief in your ability to defend and escape. And there is no better way to learn than to be willing to end up in bad positions. And if we are unsuccessful in getting out, there is always another roll, another project, another opportunity. Failure in one instance does not mean failure over all unless we stop turning up and trying.

The more you relax, the more clearly you will be able to spot opportunities in the midst of danger. Being relaxed but fast and attentive is where we are at our most effective.

Perhaps to relax, you have to trust life, as you would trust a training partner. Some people view life like an attacker on the street – cruel and without our best intentions at heart. I can’t say which is the right view but I like viewing life as something largely helpful to us. Like a training partner in Jiu Jitsu, the challenges it throws at us are intended to make us more skilled.

Whether a Jiu Jitsu roll or any other challenge, situations can be viewed in a neutral manner when we recognize that they do not exist only for us. A balance has to be struck between achieving our desires and sharing time, resources and opportunities with others. Me not getting a job is perhaps someone else landing their perfect role. Me unsuccessfully defending a submission is my training partner successfully practicing their technique.

5 ways to have high energy

Energy has many definitions in the English Dictionary. On the most basic level, energy is a scientific measure of ‘power derived from the utilization of physical or chemical resources, especially to provide light and heat or to work machines.(Oxford Dictionary)’’. The focus of this article is not the above definition.

The focus of this article is the first definition of energy in the Oxford Dictionary which says that energy is ‘’the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.’’

When we talk about maintaining high energy and we aren’t talking about the energy derived from food, it can easily sound like pseudo-science. To be entirely clear, I am not talking about some magic way of sustaining energy without food but instead I am arguing that we often have more than enough physical energy to do everything we want to and instead what holds us back is a lack of mental strength and vitality.

Therefore, for the purpose of this article, we’ll define being ‘high energy’ as having the mental strength and vitality to do all the things you want or need to do during your day enthusiastically. Of course, in turn, I think it’s pretty clear that having this sort of high mental energy leads us to finding physical energy reserves we didn’t know we had! It is no secret in exercise or in life that our minds sometimes give up long before our bodies do. We do far less than we are capable off, not because our bodies are weak but because we give up or hold ourselves back mentally.

Now that the definition is all cleared up, without further ado, here is my list of 5 compounding ways in which we can have an abundance of energy!

1. Don’t judge or criticise yourself or your life. Appreciation and curiosity can be more positive and pleasant drivers of action than dissatisfaction. I think a part of us believes that if we accept everything in our life, we will become stuck and passive. But, in truth, acceptance of our current circumstances is a solid grounded base to take action from. Being grateful for the things we have can allow us to spot opportunities and take action calmly and confidently rather than in a rushed, panicked manner.  

‘’Accept—then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.’’  – Eckhart Tolle

2. Focus on the thing that is right under your nose rather than a million things in the near or distant future.

‘’The idea is, you know, you live from moment to moment…this moment decides the next step. You shouldn’t be five steps ahead, only the very next one. And if you can keep to that, you’re always alright. You see, but people are thinking too far ahead…you know what I mean? Think only what’s right there. Do only what’s right under your nose to do. You know? It’s such a simple thing and people can’t do it, you know.” – Henry Miller

3. Have silence in your life. Our eyes, ears and brains need a break from constant stimulus in order to function properly.

4. Find those few things that you seem to have energy for no matter what and continue to make time for them. For me, no matter how tired I think I am, when I walk onto the mats at my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy, it’s rare that I’m not suddenly filled with an abundance of energy. Reading a book that restores my perspective and reminds of what’s important have a similar effect. A current favourite that I’ve been reading again and again is The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer – Chapters 15 and 17 in particular.

5. Conversely, recognise what activities make you feel more low in energy, even if they are commonly thought to be relaxing. E.g. if I spend a few hours watching television, I usually end up feeling more lethargic than relaxed at the end of it.

6. Above all, take everything lightly. Our personal set of problems aren’t really as serious and life-changing as our minds make them out to be. Taking things lightly means we are less likely to freeze from fear and be unable to take action.

”Instead of calling it work, realise its play.”

My cousin and I work in office blocks across town from each other. Funnily, our houses are located in such a way and our timing is such that every single morning, without exception, our paths cross on our drives to work. And we always manage to roll our windows down and have a quick chat before the business of the day ensues. My office is by all descriptions modest and my work is nothing to brag about either. Regardless, I love my work day. Its an interesting place with interesting things. I even enjoy experiencing the traffic jams on the way to work, the unsettling phone calls with clients and all the other downs that come with the ups.


This is not a description of an actual day at the office for me but a game my cousin and I used to play as kids. We very creatively called it ‘Office Office.’ I don’t know where child me got an image of office work from because neither of my parents worked in an office growing up, probably from television or books! Either way, it was this interesting and slightly odd thing that adults did that was fun to imitate! It was fun to pretend that we had important places to rush off to in the morning, phone calls to answers, letters to write and that we had use for adult things like staplers and hole punches.

Sometimes in the real world, when the stars align, I get transported back to the games room of my childhood home where my fake office was located and become a 5-year-old again.

In that mode, I really enjoy my work and appreciate and investigate all the interesting information and tools -digital and physical – that I have access to.  I enjoy interacting with all sorts of people and my commute to work and lunch time walks become wonderful and amusing experiences.

During COVID-19-free times, Central London, where my actual office is, is a great place for a lunchtime walk. The footpaths look like they really should have two lanes – one for the super-slow picture-taking tourists and another for the super-busy speed-walking office workers! You can’t blame the tourists for being so irritatingly slow when there are a million things to look at – the old buildings, the new buildings, the red buses, the telephone boxes, the sometimes large and sometime tiny groups of protestors outside important buildings and everything else! The tourists with their poses in front of the red telephone boxes make me laugh! Sometimes I make myself laugh when I catch myself huffing and puffing to my next meeting with an important look on my face or engaging in corporate speak that doesn’t fully make sense.

With the central London lunch time visualisation over, I really want to make two points with this article.

Firstly, that we should all seek out work that brings out the child in us! This can be both through emphasising certain parts of our current job or through seeking to find a new line of work! For me, for example, reading non-fiction, writing, planning projects, and finding solutions to interesting or technical problems is where I lose all track of time!

Secondly, that whether we enjoy our job in its entirety or not, people and things are inherently interesting. How could they not be? If we are consistently bored during a day, we should ask ourselves if we are prejudging things or failing to pay close attention.

This idea of child-like enjoyment and simplicity extends to almost everything else in our world. Another example, besides work, that comes to mind is social media. For a while, I really suffered my use of social media – it became something serious and how I presented my life to my small number of followers became important to me! More recently, I’ve started looking at it as an opportunity to play around. E.g. Instagram is this little world of blank squares that I can fill with whatever images, words, and videos I like for others to see! That’s quite something!

It seems to me that somewhere along the way we got sold on the idea that beyond a certain age, we must look at things seriously. That if we are to be serious and competent adults, we can no longer look at things with child-like fascination!  

My hope for myself and for you, person reading this, is that while we strive to get to the places that promise us more fulfilment, we find child-like joy in the ordinary everyday things and events and that we refuse to look at this colourful beautiful intricate world like its anything less than marvellous!!

Note: The heading is by Alan Watts! If you’ve known me long enough, you are probably tired of me quoting him or are soon to be but what can I do, the man was full of brilliant wisdom!

Some of the Best No Bullshit Advice I’ve Ever Received

My favourite kind of advice are ones without qualifiers – strong statements that aren’t diluted by ifs and buts.

Funnily the advice I write about or give out is usually on the softer side. I guess it is my way of avoiding criticism because the harsher the advice, the easier it is to turn our nose up and find flaws in it.

Breaking that trend, here are 4 pieces of advice that would make it onto my personal one-page guide to living a good life.

1. Michael Singer – Be Unconditionally Happy

From my observation, putting conditions on happiness does not work. If my way of living is, ‘I will be happy if’, it is easy to continually put off happiness until another condition is fulfilled. And given, happiness is the ultimate goal behind all other goals (health, fame, money, survival – you name it), it absolutely makes sense to me to cut the chase and go directly to being happy.

The following excerpt from Chapter 15 of Michael Singer’s book ‘Untethered Soul’ really resonated with me and is one I go back to time and time again.

You have to realize that you really only have one choice in this life, and it’s not about your career, whom you want to marry, or whether you want to seek God. People tend to burden themselves with so many choices. But, in the end, you can throw it all away and just make one basic, underlying decision: Do you want to be happy, or do you not want to be happy? It’s really that simple. Once you make that choice, your path through life becomes totally clear.

Most people don’t dare give themselves that choice because they think it’s not under their control. Someone might say, “Well, of course I want to be happy, but my wife left me.” In other words, they want to be happy, but not if their wife leaves them. But that wasn’t the question. The question was, very simply, “Do you want to be happy or not?” If you keep it that simple, you will see that it really is under your control. It’s just that you have a deep-seated set of preferences that gets in the way.

Let’s say you’ve been lost and without food for days, and you finally find your way to a house. You can hardly make it to the doorstep, but you manage to pull yourself up and knock on the door. Somebody opens the door, looks at you and says, “Oh my God! You poor thing! Do you want something to eat? What would you like?” Now the truth is, you really don’t care what they give you. You don’t even want to think about it. You just utter the word “food.” And because you really mean it when you say you need food, it no longer has anything to do with your mental preferences. The same goes for the question about happiness. The question is simply “Do you want to be happy?” If the answer is really yes, then say it without qualifying it. After all, what the question really means is “Do you want to be happy from this point forward for the rest of your life, regardless of what happens?”

 Now, if you say yes, it might happen that your wife leaves you, or your husband dies, or the stock market crashes, or your car breaks down on an open highway at night. Those things might happen between now and the end of your life. But if you want to walk the highest spiritual path, then when you answer yes to that simple question, you must really mean it. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It’s not a question of whether your happiness is under your control. Of course it’s under your control. It’s just that you don’t really mean it when you say you’re willing to stay happy. You want to qualify it. You want to say that as long as this doesn’t happen, or as long as that does happen, then you’re willing to be happy. That’s why it seems like it is out of your control. Any condition you create will limit your happiness. You simply aren’t going to be able to control things and keep them the way you want them.

2. David Goggins – Apply the 40% rule

David Goggins, if you don’t know him, is a retired navy seal and ultra marathon runner, proclaimed by some as the toughest man alive! He’s done some crazy shit like once holding the world record for most pull-ups in 24 hours with over 4000 pull-ups and completing a 100 mile race with stress fractures and all the small bones in his feet broken!

David Goggin’s whole philosophy is that most of us are capable of far more than we realise and the reason why we can’t access our full capabilities is mental weakness. The truth in this isn’t difficult to realise when I observe myself and people around me – we complain about the stupidest things and give up at the first signs of things getting difficult. But when we push ourselves or someone else pushes us, it’s easy to realise that what we had perceived as the limit of our ability is really just the edge of our comfort zone.

He believes that by testing limits during exercise, we prepare ourselves for unexpected challenges and difficulty in every other aspect of life.

The following excerpt from his’ book ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ illustrates the 40% rule.

” The human body is like a stock car. We may look different on the outside, but under the hood we all have huge reservoirs of potential and a governor impeding us from reaching our maximum velocity.  In a car, the governor limits the flow of fuel and air so it doesn’t burn too hot, which places a ceiling on performance.  It’s a hardware issue; the governor can easily be removed, and if you disable yours, watch your car rocket beyond 130 mph.

It’s a subtler process in the human animal.

Our governor is buried deep in our minds, intertwined with our very identity.  It knows what and who we love and hate; it’s read our whole life story and forms the way we see ourselves and how we’d like to be seen.  It’s the software that delivers personalized feedback—in the form of pain and exhaustion, but also fear and insecurity, and it uses all of that to encourage us to stop before we risk it all.  But, here’s the thing, it doesn’t have absolute control.  Unlike the governor in an engine, ours can’t stop us unless we buy into its bullsh*t and agree to quit.

Sadly, most of us give up when we’ve only given around 40 percent of our maximum effort.  Even when we feel like we’ve reached our absolute limit, we still have 60 percent more to give!  That’s the governor in action!  Once you know that to be true, it’s simply a matter of stretching your pain tolerance, letting go of your identity and all your self-limiting stories, so you can get to 60 percent, then 80 percent and beyond without giving up.  I call this The 40 Percent Rule, and the reason it’s so powerful is that if you follow it, you will unlock your mind to new levels of performance and excellence in sports and in life, and your rewards will run far deeper than mere material success.

The 40 Percent Rule can be applied to everything we do.  Because in life almost nothing will turn out exactly as we hope.  There are always challenges, and whether we are at work or school, or feeling tested within our most intimate or important relationships, we will all be tempted to walk away from commitments, give up on our goals and dreams, and sell our own happiness short at some point.  Because we will feel empty, like we have no more to give, when we haven’t tapped even half of the treasure buried deep in our minds, hearts, and souls.

I know how it feels to be approaching an energetic dead end.  I’ve been there too many times to count.  I understand the temptation to sell short, but I also know that impulse is driven by your mind’s desire for comfort, and it’s not telling you the truth.  It’s your identity trying to find sanctuary, not helping you grow.  It’s looking for status quo, not reaching for greatness or seeking wholeness.  But the software update that you need to shut your governor down is no supersonic download.  It takes twenty years to gain twenty years of experience, and the only way to move beyond your 40 percent is to callous your mind, day after day.  Which means you’ll have to chase pain like it’s your damn job! ”

3. Eckhart Tolle – Focus on the one thing you can do now, rather than the hundred things you may have to do later

Eckhart Tolle doesn’t need much of an introduction! His book ‘The Power of Now’ has been read and loved by millions. There are some parts of this book that could have been better written and can border on sounding like pseudo science but the overall message I believe is invaluable if followed. I also love his book ‘Stillness Speaks’.

This quote from ‘The Power of Now” has a special place in my brain from where I dig it out every time I find myself needlessly focusing on problems.

Narrow your life down to this moment. Your life situation may be full of problems—most life situations are—but find out if you have any problem at this moment. Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do you have a problem now? When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation.

A few paras later Tolle says ” If you found yourself in paradise, it wouldn’t be long before your mind would say ”yes, but…” Ultimately this is not about solving your problems. Its about realizing that there are no problems – only situations to be dealt with now or to be left alone and accepted as part of the ‘isness’ of the present moment until they change or can be dealt with. ”

Again this is really easy to verify from first-hand experience. For example, a few weeks back, I found myself incessantly worrying about an important work meeting over the weekend, even though I did not plan on doing anything about it till Monday. The whole thing was even more silly because my work is filled with meetings or tasks that can be anxiety inducing if I let them be. The only reasonable thing, which I eventually did, was to forget about the whole thing until the time came to take action and prepare for it.

4. Mooji – Be a witness to life unfolding by itself

Mooji’s philosophy is centred around experiencing life as a witness to it rather than through the screen of personal concerns.

I’ve always found it rather strange and contrary to logic how I can be fixated on the minute issues in my life, even with the knowledge that there are 7 billion other people in the world. So I have deeply enjoyed coming across thinkers such as Mooji who call us out on our bullshit.

Having said that, Mooji’s approach to writing is an emotional and unscientific one. For a more scientific argument on recognizing yourself to be a witness to life, rather than a separate control centre, I would highly recommend reading ‘Free Will’ by Sam Harris who is a writer and neuroscientist! I’ve included an excerpt from both of them for balance.

Excerpt from ‘White Fire’ by Mooji

Don’t be a storehouse of memories.
Leave past, future and even present thoughts behind.
Be a witness to life unfolding by itself.
Be free of all attachments, fears and concerns
by keeping your mind inside your own heart.
Rest in being.
Like this, your life is always fresh and imbued
with pure joy and timeless presence.
Be happy, wise and free.

Excerpt from ‘Free Will’ by Sam Harris

Take a moment to think about the context in which your next decision will occur: You did not pick your parents or the time and place of your birth. You didn’t choose your gender or most of your life experiences. You had no control whatsoever over your genome or the development of your brain. And now your brain is making choices on the basis of preferences and beliefs that have been hammered into it over a lifetime – by your genes, your physical development since the moment you were conceived, and the interactions you have had with other people, events, and ideas. Where is the freedom in this? Yes, you are free to do what you want even now. But where did your desires come from?

Finding the idea in me!

I have known for a while that ultimately I would love to have my own business. (Why that is so is for another time!)

I won’t say that I have not made any progress towards this goal because without the benefit of hindsight, I don’t know how everything in my life will connect together. But what I can say is that I haven’t backed up my desire with the rationale consistent steps that I would have advised someone else to take. That changes now!

My starting point

The ‘bad‘: I don’t have a concrete idea yet and I don’t have substantial practical knowledge across the key aspects of starting or running a business!

The good: I like learning things (like jiu jitsu!) and creating things (like this blog!) and when I really enjoying something, I can get lost in it. I love reading and the process of gaining knowledge is enjoyable to me rather than a hassle. Lastly, from my studies and career, I have a bunch of other useful skills, experience and a confidence in my ability to figure things out.

My initial plan:

Note: I’m a complete newbie so these are just some initial thoughts to get my brain juices flowing!

1. Finding my idea

Taking the advice of Alex Pellew and Martin Amor from The Idea in You, I commit to experimenting – trying and creating new things everyday – until my idea appears.

I also commit to paying more attention to the world around me. I have started an already growing list of problems I spot and solutions I can think of aka baby business ideas!

2. Gaining Knowledge

It is a no brainer why business knowledge would be important once you have an idea to work on. But even before that, I think we are more likely to see opportunities around us if we know what is possible and how. I sometimes dismiss ideas in my head just because I have no clue how I would ever transform them into reality.

For a split second this morning, I considered a business related masters degree. Then it occurred to me that I don’t need a piece of paper saying I’m qualified. I need the knowledge and confidence that I would obtain from the process of doing the degree.

So instead I have started looking for reading lists for books and other materials used in MBA degrees. I am looking forward to delving into these but first, heeding my own advice, I will reread books that are already in my collection because I know for a fact I have not fully acted upon them, starting The Idea in You. Look out for book summaries to follow over the coming weeks!

Bonus: Lastly, I will begin the process of letting go of the untrue thoughts that owning a business is something that comes naturally to others and not to me.

Final words

It is scary saying what I want out loud but even more so, it is exciting to be raw and honest and share the very beginning of what may be a long and challenging journey.

Perhaps one day someone reading these blog articles will find them useful. But at the outset, the process of writing helps me organise my thoughts and serves as a compass to my ship. For when I have a million thoughts and feelings running around inside, I enjoy coming back here and reading the few that I felt were worth sharing.

Simple Ideas with Profound Impact Part 1

1.

Death has made you a great promise in which you can find deep peace. The promise is that all things are temporal; they are all just passing through time and space.

The Untethered Soul, Michael A. Singer

2.

Simply live in the now and there will be no problem. When you are hungry, eat, when you are tired, sleep when you walk,walk, when you sit, sit.

Essential Lectures, Alan Watts

3.

Be careful when building your home out of opinions. Some are very old and haven’t been looked at in a long time, if ever. And others are borrowed from those whose houses have crumbled.

Sistercody@sistercody on instagram

Seeing things through: Step 1: Taking Inventory

We are naturally drawn to shiny new things that offer new solutions to our problems. Reminding me of fast fashion, fast self-help involves not utilising everything that you already have and getting distracted by everything that is advertised around you. This is a real problem because results, by definition, require us to stick with things and follow through to completion.

To begin building a habit of following through, we can start by taking inventory

1. What information do you have that you aren’t utilising?

This could be good advice that you read or received but never took any actions off the back of. It could be the habits you know are great for you but don’t implement.

2. What projects have you started and not completed?

This could include projects, big and small, that you are behind schedule on or have completed forgotten.

3. What are some products that you’ve bought but haven’t used as you intended?

This could include objects, services or memberships. Do you already have what you need to achieve your desired results? Are there free materials available to you that you could use? These are questions to come back to every time you want to buy something.

It has never been easier for us to buy something new with a click. What differentiates someone and produces results is their ability to consistently utilise what is available to them. Results aside, this is also great for your bank balance and the earth.

Metta Meditation: Wishing happiness upon yourself and others

” May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease! ‘

Metta Meditation is the practice of cultivating good will towards all beings – wishing them happiness and freedom from suffering. This can include our family and friends, ourselves and even complete strangers. It is a way of looking beyond surface level negative emotions that we may experience in our relationships with others e.g. jealousy and comparison and realising that at a deeper level, we wish others to be truly happy; that their happiness in reality gives us as much joy as our own. We realise that wishing anything but happiness on someone is usually a symptom of having perpetually misdirected our attention towards our own mind-made problems and stories.

” For the mind must be interested or absorbed in something, just as a mirror must always be reflecting something. When it is not trying to be interested in itself—as if a mirror would reflect itself—it must be interested, or absorbed, in other people and things. There is no problem of how to love. We love. We are love, and the only problem is the direction of love, whether it is to go straight out like sunlight, or to try to turn back on itself like a “candle under a bushel.” Released from the circle of attempted self-love, the mind of man draws the whole universe into its own unity as a single dewdrop seems to contain the entire sky. This, rather than any mere emotion, is the power and principle of free action and creative morality.” – Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity

In a way then, all meditation is metta meditation because it enables us to quieten down our thoughts, concern about ourselves and the stories we tell ourselves and appreciate the world as it. It blurs the conceptual lines of separation between ourselves and the world, leading to not only a feeling goodwill for others but a deep sense of well-being and being at home in our surroundings.

From TRANSCEND by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D

If you are practicing metta meditation or meditation for the first time and plan to use books, articles or videos as guides, I would urge you to put time in to research and find aids that feel right to you. If something feels off, insincere or pretentious to you, try to find something that doesn’t, instead of being put off from practicing meditation entirely!

Living life in One Piece

It is a uniquely human quality to modify ourselves according to our environment and one that is exceptionally useful. However, it feels to me that in some ways, we have split ourselves into different characters to the detriment of our own quality of life.

The average person today is one person at work and quite another when their work day ends. If we enjoy our work, we are enthusiastic and hardworking but if we don’t, we are bored shadows of our normal selves at work, reserving our enthusiasm and hard work for elsewhere. We are one person with colleagues and a completely different one with friends and family. We are full of love for our friends and family, yet have awkwardly formal relationships with colleagues who become means to achieving objectives in our eyes, rather than living breathing people. Work and play are one example; we expertly play roles in many other scenarios in life

But what if it isn’t possible to compromise on ourselves in one part of our lives without compromising on ourselves entirely? What if being truthful, being hardworking, being kind are not switches we can flip but things we either are or are not?

I believe each moment is a matter of practice and whatever we practice doing in one part of our lives inadvertently seeps into the rest.

Hello World!

Hi. I am Eela and I am very excited to be writing my first blogpost!

I can’t say it’s my first EVER blogpost. I’ve had short lived experiments with my fair share of blogs throughout my life but getting a domain and all, this is serious business ? and I am super excited!

So what am I going to be writing about and why?

I am a learner of many things. I am in LOVE with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and I have been obssessed with philosophy and spirituality for years! Before we master anything, we go through eureka moments, daily battles, little joys and victories. And I believe there may be inherent value in capturing all of that and sharing our unique journey and experience with the world!

People aren’t neat! At least I am not. So this probably, at least to start off with, won’t be a neat one-topic website!

You can expect a bit of everything – from posts about my interests to books I am reading to random recommendations! I used to write stories when I was younger so who knows, those might make a come back! At least I hope so!

I will be posting at least every month so visit back in mid-July for my first post!

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