Sunday, August 24, 2008

7 Breaths

In the Hagakure (The Book of the Samurai), there is a virtue that states:

“In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. Lord Takandobu said, “If discrimination is long, it will spoil.” Lord Naoshige said, “When matters are done leisurely, seven out of ten will turn out badly. A warrior is a person who does things quickly.

When your mind is going hither and thither, discrimination will never be brought to a conclusion. With an intense, fresh and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side.”

One might read this and believe it to be reckless or irresponsible and perhaps ruling out the importance of council and necessity of prayer. However, you must first understand the nature of the Hagakure and the Way of the Samurai. This virtue of “7 Breaths” implies much more than just making quick decisions. This is not a result of egotism or negligence. It is in fact quite the opposite.

The nature of the Samurai is to be in a state of constant awareness and connection to their master; in tune. Consequently, the Samurai, meaning “servant”, are able to serve and understand others in the way we were created to do. This is not only true of the Samurai, it is true of each for each of us.

So this is where I’m at. I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to live their life; just thinking out loud. Nothing I’m saying here is new or even profound. It’s just my thoughts and where I’m at. I’m just now understanding this stuff in my own life. If you want to really understand how this stuff works, read the books I’m always talking about. Those are the people that truly understand. Below is a list of the things that have brought me to the 7 Breaths theory. I am now in tune with:

God – In a way where I am in constant prayer. My life is a prayer at all times. I am in constant communication with God throughout my day, constantly receiving His divine council. I have real conversations with God, not just a one way relationship where I ask for help in a time of need. I in fact have a true “relationship” with God, just as we are called to do. God is not just a higher being up in the heavens. He is the center of my life. He is my center. My life, and consequently those around me have changed immensely due to this level of relationship, awareness, and understanding of God. I am completely centered around Christ and my relationship is no longer based on those desperate moments when I need His help. God is truly my friend, as He so desires to be. This has greatly affected my life and my ability to serve others and make quick and educated decisions, generally within the space of 7 Breaths.

People – In a way where I noticed the nuances about life in every circumstance, not just when I am deliberately paying attention or asked to do so. I notice when people change their hair, have a new shirt, or when something is out of the norm. I notice all the people around me when I walk into a restaurant or office. I notice babies, and any surrounding danger that might harm them. I notice an elderly person that might need assistance. I notice someone that is in pain and I engage them. I ask real questions. Being aware is only half of the process. Engaging with others is essential, and it takes time and commitment. When I leave a room, I can easily describe who was there, what they were wearing and what they may have been feeling. I remember the way they made me feel, and the way I likely made them feel. I am conscious of that. People notice that I care enough to be aware and in tune with them. My relationships have definitely strengthened.

Being constantly in tune with people, all people, allows me to begin to truly understand them. This allows me to be in true relationship with them, which allows me to be more connected and to understand. I cannot be truly connected to a thing until I understand it. I can not understand a thing until I take the time to truly listen. I must listen twice as much as we speak. The more I listen, the more I learn and the better I understand. The more I understand, the more I gain wisdom. The more wisdom I have, the better I am able to serve and understand others; the happier life becomes, for me, and for those that experience me. This has greatly affected my life and my ability to serve others and make quick and educated decisions, generally within the space of 7 Breaths.

My Surroundings – In a way where I notice each and every detail about where I am. I notice the table and chair arrangement. I notice the cup and saucer precariously placed on the edge of the table and I move it to a more appropriate position. I notice the exits in a room in which I am dining or sleeping. I am aware of the layout of a room when I enter it. And if i enter it at some other time, I notice the changes and I contemplate why they might have changed. I notice where people place their keys and other important items. I notice paintings on the wall, or a lack thereof. Noticing these nuances of life is what tells me something of the nature, character or concern of the people I am interacting with. My surroundings will tell me stories of those that dwell there. If I listen to my surroundings, I will learn more about its inhabitants. I will learn better how to dwell in that area. I will become a master of my surroundings.

God created us to be in tune with nature and with things we have created in nature around us. The more I listen, the more in sync my life becomes. The more in sync my life becomes, the better I am able to understand how the world works, and how it doesn’t. This has greatly affected my life and my ability to serve others and make quick and educated decisions, generally within the space of 7 Breaths.

The World – In a way that I am constantly educating myself on world issues and on how to be a better person. I take the time to educate myself about the things I care about. I take the time to educate myself on the things that my loved ones care about. This is very important and greatly enhances and strengthen my relationships. I take time to study people, places and things that I encounter daily, or wish to. Then when I am asked a question, or faced with a decision, I can answer from an educated standpoint. If I say I care about something, I am prepared to back it up with facts and well thought-out philosophies. Anything less than this is foolish. One should only speak with authority on issues one is educated in. If I am not educated on many issues, I will fail to have the right to speak with authority on many issues, or to understand the way the world around us operates.

I constantly strive to make myself a better person, never being content with my current level of knowledge. I set goals for myself and map out a plan to achieve them. I am able to engage in serious in depth conversations about politics, social affairs, faith and personal interests. I am educated not just on my home country or immediate surroundings, but on the world as a whole. I have a world view, not a myopic one. I study different races, religions and social economics. I embrace equality in all circumstances on all levels. I am constantly listening to the world around me and educating myself in an effort to be a better human being. I aspire to exemplify the philosophy of “ubuntu” and understand the importance of interconnectedness. This has greatly affected my life and my ability to serve others and make quick and educated decisions, generally within the space of 7 Breaths.

Myself – In a way where I know my optimal physical, mental and spiritual self and how to maintain it. I know the precise amount of sleep in order to operate optimally. I know how much physical activity my body can endure for what amount of time. I am constantly learning more about my body, and listening to its needs. I am not abusing my body in any way, with substances, or even over exertion. I take care of my body as if it were a gift from God, which it is. I use my body as a vessel to carry out my purpose in life.

I view my mind, body and soul as one connected being, constantly striving to keep it healthy and at optimal condition. i work out and keep physically fit so I may be able to handle the physical challenges of every day life, which differs for everyone. I constantly feed my mind with positive material that helps me grow into a better human being. I surround myself with others that challenge me and hold me accountable. I take the time and effort to foster and nurture my relationship with God, knowing that if my spirit is weak, my faith is weak. And if my faith is weak, I have nothing. Everything starts to crumble from there. I am in tune with my body and I understand how to take care of it and use it for its purpose. I am disciplined. I am driven. I am a machine.

I practice “life balance”. I know I have to take time to rest, and to reflect, and to learn. I do not get caught up in “everyday life” because I look at the world from a world view, not just a minute to minute circumstance. I am not controlled by my circumstances. I am in control. I see problems in life as an “opportunity for a solution” not a stumbling block. I seize each moment as if it were my last, and I am at peace with God, myself, and those around me. This has greatly affected my life and my ability to serve others and make quick and educated decisions, generally within the space of 7 Breaths.

My mind, body and soul are all equally a part of who I am. Each has to be taken care of. Each has to be studied so that I might know how to best take care of them. If I am doing all of this, and if I am in tune with God, people, my surroundings, myself and the ways of the world, there is little that can hold me back from being the person God created me to be. And we were ALL created for greatness. When I am in tune, I have the ability to serve more effectively. I have the ability and drive to be passionate, as well as compassionate. I am prepared. I am aware. And ultimately, when I need to make a decision, of any kind, I am better equipped to do so, within a space of 7 breaths. This, I believe, is how I was designed to truly live. And this is the philosophy of “7 Breaths”.

1 comment:

James said...

Bro, I love this. I've thought often of this philosophy since our conversations in Nashville. Thank you for sharing it with such enthusiasm and conviction.

This is one of the things that has challenged me lately to live with greater intentionality, to live more moments intentionally, to live all moments intentionally.

Thanks for the challenge.

Can't wait to see you in Rwanda. Will you be there the weekend of Sept 13?