So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit.
You are in a coffee shop and by chance you strike up a conversation with a well dressed-man who appears to be in his forties. He is knowledgeable, articulate, and you are having a good conversation when a very powerful athletic man wearing an off the rack suit and dark shades comes in, looks around, and walks swiftly over.
“Senator, It’s the president.”
Suddenly you recognize him from the cover of the Wall Street Journal. You have been talking with one of the most famous men in the United States!
Are you chagrined? When he returns for his coffee, do you continue to speak as equals, or do you feel like a teenager in front of a rock star? How comfortable are you in your own skin?
Replay the above scenario with anyone you think highly of. The type of person whom you have imaginary conversations with, or one of the inspirations for your avatar. And the question remains, now that you know, “Who they are!”, are you diminished in anyway? Are you more impressed now that you know their social position and status? Have you suddenly become a, “Toilet twirler?”
The Ronin is always comfortable in his own skin. Imagine meeting a high status person from a culture where such status is determined by fingernail color and length. They are moving their fingers around trying to impress you, and you’re trying not to let them know you think they’re batshit crazy. Now reverse it, suppose a Fingernail person meets a very wealthy and famous Hollywood type. The Fingernail person would look at Mr. Hollywood’s fingernails and be completely unimpressed. Our Ronin would be unimpressed with status, because he has the value superpower of caring for what he is, and not what he has, or what others think. For you to be comfortable in your own skin means that you feel the same walking down a poor street dressed in rags, as you would walking down the red carpet to the blast of trumpets to receive a gold medal.
Another name for this is, the mind of the martial artist. But for me, this is the mind of the snow leopard. When the Griffith Park Zoo was under construction the snow leopard was in a temporary cage, and it was possible to get very close and look into his eyes. It has taken me years to fully grasp what I learned that day. When I say I am a martial artist it means I am working toward that snow leopard ideal. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you say, to the snow leopard. You may verbally abuse him and insult his parentage, it matters not at all. On the other hand, should you be in his cage, or in his territory, then it would all be a different matter. You see, the snow leopard is very comfortable in his skin.
,This is a much more complex topic than you might imagine. It involves the “identity” you were handed by “them,” and it involves the self-image you forge for yourself. It will involve your posture, your balance, and how you walk. We will have exercises for all of this. I think that everything I have said so far about being comfortable in your own skin, is so well expressed by this portion of the poem by Rudyard Kipling, called, “IF.”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run
I love those words.
And filling, “the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run,” is a fine start for our exercises.