“Paradoxically, in many respects the need for “Shugyo” is even greater in an affluent society…. the trouble with the country is that a man can live his entire life without knowing whether or not he is a coward… a society of complacency and “ennui”, which was a result of a life of shallow distractions and luxuries. In affluent society, it necessary to purposely seek out the challenge which were once part of daily life.. This drive to test the limits of ones own potential is universal” – Dr. Alan Hasegawa
Couches are built for comfort. Plush cusions wrapped in soft cloth, we sink slightly as our bodies find comfort. The remote nestled in our hand, thumb pressing the soft rubber buttons. We scroll through Netflix to find our show and make our decision. The heat kicks on, keeping the home a comfy 68 degrees, and the walls insulate us from the elements. With a touch of a button we can find a pizza place that delivers and within a short walk to the fridge a cold drink to wash it down. Yep, the modern man can get used to this, and so we have.
In our society we work so hard to be comfortable. Years are spent in a educational establishment to in hopes find our “dream” job. However, once achieved we become comfortable, learning begins to take a back seat only to appear once in awhile for an in service training day. Often we find there are no more “challenges”, we have the life we are comfortable living and there in lies the issue.
What you have in between your ears is a 2 million year old brain. Its programmed to keep you alive. It is always searching, analyzing, and evaluating your current environment. This programming kept us safe from predators and other humans hell bent on extinguishing our life. It continually looks for dangers (anxiety) and for what is wrong (depression). Its the brain that got us here. In comfort the brain begins to wonder. What you need is a primal reset.
Shugyo is a samurai term, which means the act of training vigoursly. Shugyo is to take the body to its limits, to see what your made of. A physical challenge to break the mold and enter a new phase of growth. How many of us don’t know our current limits? We find comfort in our lifestyle. Challenging that scares most off; However, our minds and bodies seek that challenge. To know what we are truly capable of.
At one point every society had a right of passage, a challenge to test the spirit of every person; now, these are all but gone. Many feel weak because they have not tested their true strength, they have not pushed themselves to see what they are made of. To know your own limits is crucial and it develops modesty.
It is no wonder we see so many people training for a marathon, obstacle race, martial arts, competitive fights, or other physical challenge. It’s deeply rooted in our minds to seek these challenges. Many will say “how can you run 26.2 miles?”. They don’t understand the need for such a physical challenge. People find that if they can commit to a physical obstacle and push their bodies, they will also find themselves able to push their minds past the expected. It is no wonder those who take on a physical challange regularly are able to cope with daily stress better. Those who routinely find new challenges are less likely to doubt their strengths.
I would never suggest we perform shugyo weekly or even monthly. We can’t wear our bodies down to the nub. I also would never suggest we push our bodies till they break. However, a difficult challange accepted, trained for and executed is something we should do throughout our lives. A test to begin a new chapter, to see what we have in the tank.
Realize our modern society has only existed for a blink of an eye when compared to the millions of years it took us to evolve. We have molded our environment to be safer, more comfortable; however, our minds still hold all of the mechanisms that allowed us to survive and now those properties are looking for their outlet. So, find your own shugyo. A new challenge to break the mold of comfort and complaceny. Whether it’s a race, a martial art, or any other grueling challenge. Find out what your made of. Get off that couch.