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.

”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!

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!