Saturday, January 3, 2009

Please...Don't Feed The Bears!

Two years ago at the North Central Instructor's Black Belt Federation's seminar in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, one of the Pshi Kai Do Black Belts approached me and thanked me for teaching him on how 'not to feed the bears' a few years prior. This seasoned Black Belt had just had, I believe, his right ring finger amputated at the first knuckle the day prior to the seminar. He had badly injured it weeks earlier on-the-job and rehabilitation did not help it, so he decided to have this portion of his finger amputated.

Holding his bandaged hand in the air, he informed me that during the evening his pain medication had worn off and his pain was beginning to escalate. He then remembered "Please, Don't Feed the Bears!"....applied the principles and fell asleep. No further pain medication was needed that evening. He was so elated with this, he couldn't wait to tell me.

So, what is 'Please Don't Feed the Bears?'

It is very simple actually. Pain, whether it be physical, mental or emotional has the same nature as a Grizzly Bear. No matter if your back aches, you're depressed and anxious worrying about the future you can deal with all three in the same manner.

When faced with a Grizzly Bear there are two things you are typically told not to do. One is to fight. The other is to run. Both of these reactions entices the bear to attack and eat you... and the bear gets fat! Both of these reactions are natural for us but they will actually make matters worse for will increase your pain and suffering.

Take insomnia for an example. Did you ever notice that the harder you try to go to sleep the more awake you get? I see similar examples on daily basis with my clients. They are trying to fight or run from their problems...but are only making matters worse. Carl Jung, a famous psychoanlayst and student of Freud, is quoted as saying, "What the mind focuses on, expands."

Shinzen Young, another Buddhist practitioner and pain management specialist, has a formula he uses to illustrate the Grizzly Bear principle. It is P x R = S. P stands for pain. R is resistance. S is suffering. If you use the normal pain scale of 0-10 with 10 being the most pain and plug in some numbers, watch what happens.

If P is 5 and R is 5, you have 5x5= 25. Your S, or suffering, is off the scale. With moderate pain and moderate resistance you have extreme suffering. If you 'play dead' to the 'bears' and do not resist and make your R = 0 you have the formula of 5x0=0. You can have pain, but no suffering! The bears do not get fed!

There is an old Zen saying that goes like this. "Pain is inevitable, but Suffering is optional." This mathematical formula proves it...and so was the Pshi Kai Do expert able to put it into action. He is a true warrior.

So, how do we 'play dead'?

Well, maybe I will leave that for the next post. I will just let you know, it involves Karate's 'Kara' (emptiness), Zen meditative and Karmic clearing practices and Taoist principles of managing the mind...some you are already familiar with, others a tad bit esoteric you will probably think I have gone a bit too far out on the edge. Hey, that's what several concussions will do for you...everything has its benefits you know!

Till next time...Be Well.

Shinzen Sensei

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