Kendo’s Healing Message for December

It has long been Kendo’s mantra that challenges in life exist to be met, to cause us to find previously unknown resources within ourselves, and emerge from meeting our challenges stronger and wiser. But – aren’t our current challenges mounting-up a bit too much?

We approach the end of another year with the possibility of a re-imposition of social restrictions, worries about infection from new variants, increasing delays in getting healthcare, concerns about the economy, concerns about the climate, and more, and all this is on top of the difficulties in life that are personal to us. It would be entirely natural to feel thoroughly oppressed and attempt to appease our worry with various forms of bingeing.

Bingeing can give some short-term comfort, but it isn’t a real answer to any real-life problem, and this is because it’s an inappropriate response. When we feel stressed our conscious minds do what they are meant to do – try their hardest to problem-solve – but stress is an emotional state which can’t be addressed by the mind; it’s impossible to think away a feeling.

A further complication is that once the bingeing had started and you begin to get that uncomfortable awareness that you’re not feeling significantly better, the mind urges us towards yet more bingeing. When that doesn’t work, even more anxiety can creep in.

A most unfortunate side-effect of the failure of bingeing is that we can start to feel like failures ourselves – you’ve treated yourself to some self-indulgence (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), but you don’t feel any better. There is a solution, but it can be obscured by escalating bingeing.

Kendo has always asked visitors to the Nagasaki Retreat to suspend disbelief when they arrive, and instead trust in the mindful and meditative Zen processes he guides his guests through. Achieving a suspension of disbelief is important because it stops the mind nagging at us for reasons and answers, and with that metaphorical door opened, it’s much easier to contemplate Zen.

Kendo has also said that while meditation is simple, it isn’t necessarily easy – it takes practice to calm the ‘monkey mind’ and let all our concerns fall away for a time, and then emerge with a new perspective on everything in and around our lives.

So, just as we know that a little physical exercise is good for our physiques, a little mental exercise can work wonders with dealing with all our stresses. The mental exercise Kendo advocates is accepting that the mind is brilliant at certain things, but it’s out of its depth when it comes to our emotions. Rather than bingeing, we need to be ready to switch off our minds and find the peace of Zen, let all our concerns fall away, and let our intuitive selves speak to us and guide us. Just being aware that offering a little resistance to the temptation of bingeing can be powerfully healing.

So, during the festive season, Kendo says, by all means binge! But do it as a reward for being your best self, and not as an attempt to escape from stress. For that, suspend your disbelief, quieten the nagging mind, and find the peace of Zen. With practice, this simple approach will enable you to flow with any number and variety of challenges, and still be your best self, to the benefit of your family, your community, and ultimately the whole world.

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