Michael Mackay, Midtown Karate Dojo
Much of our progress as martial artists depends on letting go of things we don't need. One of the first paradoxes we face on the deck is that the only way to *get more* of what we want is to *get rid* of what we already have. So we struggle daily to release tension to improve our speed, abandon ego so we can learn from others, relinquish fear so we can breathe.
But letting go of what we don't want is relatively easy. Far more trying is letting go of what we love - people, places, experiences that touch the core of our well-being, support our sense of purpose and joy in living, off-set what Nagamine Sensei describes as *the lack of commitment from the world around us.* Suddenly we find ourselves trapped between the inevitability of loss and our unwillingness to accept or endure such loss a child growing up, a parent dying, a friend moving away. Letting go of what we love most is our greatest and loneliest challenge. And one that will face us all.
Whether we respond by letting go peacefully, going down with the ship or letting ourselves to be ripped in two, the choice becomes easier if we open our eyes to the intangible qualities of what it is we're loosing - those aspects of the person or thing that cannot be touched, taken away or destroyed. The clearer we see the emotional core of our attachments, the easier it becomes to accept physical change, to release its hold on us and the sense of loss we experience when something or someone is *gone*. The converse is also true the more adept we are at letting go of material concerns, the clearer our vision of those spiritual gifts that endure and flourish under our care.
There is a story of an old man who lived on the island of Crete, cherished by family and friends for his kindness and deep love for his native country. When close to death the old man asked to be brought outside so he might see the steep mountains and rich soil of his homeland one last time. He reached down, picked up a handful of earth and died peacefully, holding the piece of land close to his heart.
When the old man arrived at heaven God met him in the visage of a wise, white-haired man. *Welcome,* God said, *You have led an exemplary life. Come in and enjoy the gifts of eternal happiness.* But as the old man approached God added, *You must leave the soil behind.* *I can't!* replied the old man, *It is more precious to me than life itself!* God sighed and went away for a millennium, then returned in the likeness of an old friend. They had a few glasses of wine, laughed about old times and finally God said, *My friend, are you ready now? Please, join us in the Kingdom of Heaven.* But again as the old man approached the gates he was told to leave the soil outside. Once again the old man refused. *I miss my homeland too dearly.* God knew the man was not ready and so left him for a while.
Eons passed. Finally God returned in the form of a favorite granddaughter. *Oh Granddaddy,* God said, *We've missed you so much. Won't you please come in?* The old man nodded but by now had become too frail to walk on his own. As he reached to the girl for support the soil from Crete slipped through his fingers like sand through an hourglass. Empty handed, the old man passed through the gates where the first sight to greet him was his beloved island.