September 17, 2015

Going for a Black Belt in Life

My cousin had been going through a really rough time for the past couple of years. She had a really demanding job and the love of her life was very sick, in and out of the hospital. Emotionally drained, she realized she needed to take better care of herself, but wasn't sure where to start.

She read an article about the martial arts that, as she put it, "essentially reframed discipline as doing what you need to in order to protect what is most valuable to you". She thought about the things we do every day toward that goal, and decided why not work on earning belts for these life skills. Set a simple goal and achieve it. Then, when you've mastered it (whenever that is), you add another skill or set of skills to master.

For her, what she eventually decided she needed to master was "creative compassion and joyful justice." She decided to do at least 7 kind and compassionate things for herself each day to earn her yellow belt. The examples she gave were "eat healthy food and drink lots of water and tea, walk, spend some time in stillness, spend some time knitting, and spend some time with my sweetie."
And when she realized that she was doing these things without having to think about them or plan them, she awarded herself her yellow belt.

I thought this was a great idea, and thought about how I could apply it in my own life.
Where I often have trouble is watching out for my health. I don't get enough sleep, I eat unhealthy food, I forget to take medicine or vitamins, and spend too much time sitting. So I'm working on my yellow belt in health. I have a set of modest health-related goals I need to achieve each day, and once I've made them a natural part of my daily routine, I can start thinking about the next life skill I want to master.

In the martial arts, a black belt is never the end. Even black belts keep achieving new levels; there's always more to learn. So as my life and circumstances change, I can keep working on the things I need to learn to have a happy and fulfilling life.

If this idea appeals to you, think about what simple thing you'd like to make an everyday habit. What do you want to get your yellow belt in, and what do you need to do to achieve it?

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