Saturday, September 28, 2013


We don't normally live in the present. We spend most of our time caught up in memories of the past or leaping ahead to the future full of worries and plans.

Many people (erroneously) believe that the present moment - the Now - is only the tiniest sliver separating the past from the future; that our Today, our Now, is a tiny hairline separating Yesterday from Tomorrow. (and by implication, that the past and future are near infinitely large whereas the now is minuscule to the point of non-existence.

This is an illusion.
The truth of the matter is that there is no future and there is no past, but only a eternally endless Now. This Perpetual Now is all that is real and all that exists. The past and the future don't really exist in any concrete way - they're abstracts. We are always chasing the future and remembering (or forgetting) the past.

Breathing is a present-time process. It only occurs in the here and now. The breath has none of that 'other-timeness' (past, future, yesterday, tomorrow). When we truly observe the breath, we are automatically placed in the present. we are pulled out of the kaleidoscope of mental images and into the naked experience of the here-and-now. Breathing is a living slice of reality.

So, is this Perpetual Now perceivable?  Is it infinitely huge in scale, or is it infinitely small and fleeting?

When you breath in and before you exhale, there is the briefest pause. When you exhale there is another brief pause before you inhale again. This means that there are two brief pauses - one at the end of inhaling, the other at the end of exhaling. These two pauses occur in such a brief moment you may not be aware of their existence. (Well, now you are. You're welcome!) But if you can be mindful; if you can notice them, you can also be mindful and notice this Perpetual Now.

But here's the kicker. You are to notice them and exist within them.
Not remember them
...nor anticipate them.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Spiritual Sojourn of the Lay-monks

There would seem to be some sort of mass exodus from religious institutions going on. 
The decline is most prevalent in Europe, less so in Canada, and only beginning in America. 
It seems to be a sort of scale with those who identify with non-religion running parallel.

Europe - Canada - America.
High   -   Medium  -   Low.

And when we consider the rate of decay within the United States of America the direction of this would seem obvious. Formal organized religion is dying.

In Europe its churches are becoming more akin to museums.
In America they're being abandoned.

Many tote this as the success and rise of atheism, agnosticism, and secular humanism.
It almost reminds me of the spiritual equivalent of an Urban Wasteland.

Some would celebrate this as the death of God and spirit and the advent of a new age of scientism. But I think the 'religion' of scientism is dying as well. 
With the decline of official organized religious institutions some might even believe we are seeing the death of religion and spirituality itself.

I'm not so sure though. 
The death of official organized religion as an institution has little or nothing to do with spirituality.

Maybe when organized religion finally gives up the ghost, our innate Spirituality can be free to blossom without the inhibitions of the disease of Religiosity

No, not "New Age" hocus-pocus. No more Plastic Shamans, exploiting us for our money, their ego and power. I think we may be seeing the death of the business of religion.

I believe there are many spiritual sojourners out there. Urban lay-monks that are only beginning to navigate this spiritual urban wasteland left behind by Organized Religion.

They are not leaders of potential new religions.
They're non-centralized. Free. Reflective. Compassionate.
Conditional Grace is no grace at all.
There is no price-tag attached.
There are no conditions to be met.
Come as your are or fuck off.

Maybe - just maybe - we should begin keeping an eye open for them.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Map of Humanity

From Lydia's blog, On The Other Hand, comes Suggestion Saturday: September 7, 2013, The World Religions Tree.
Although the more I thought about it, the more comfortable I am with naming it A Map of Humanity.

The above picture is a link. To appreciate The World Religions Tree fully it really needs to be explored in all its minute detail. I've never seen anything quite like it before. My daughter tells me it reminds her more of a brain than a tree.

Although I would have like to see the growth of Atheism and Scientism included, I suppose by strictest definitions they are not proper religions.

After spending the weekend exploring this wondrous map of human-kind's over 6,000 year spiritual and theological journey, you begin to ponder which 'direction' to look at it from. At least I do.

Although I am sure some will attempt to hold the fundamentalist's position, it seems barely worth addressing; that one, and only one of these near-countless fibers is the truth. When I look at this map of humanity, I can not seriously even consider this option. It becomes an unsustainable joke.

But should we focus on the tree's trunk? Do we find a purer form of understanding the divine or truth the simpler we go? Or do we discover an older, less refined, more primitive, folklore, superstition based belief more in magic than science? Travel far enough and at some point we will find ourselves among cavemen.

Or do we look in the opposite direction?
When we look at the tangled fibrous edge of our most modern and current times, what are we seeing? Are we seeing mankind's splintering and division of their ulterior agendas and personal and private goals? Have we become lost in the analysis of the details?
Or are we seeing our collective evolution of over six thousand years, thousands of cultures - many totally isolated from one another - and billions and billions of people? Are we seeing humanity's collective refined perception of the truth?

Like any true "-ology", it becomes based upon previous individuals' work and understanding. It is a progressive system of learning.

I think we stumble across a conundrum.
I believe the answer is right before our eyes, yet hidden in plain sight.

Firstly we need to acknowledge that there is corruption and that there are individuals that are only out for their own good and their own personal agendas present within any and all branches. If we cannot get past this point there's no need to look any further; we've come to the end of the rope. We need to assume (even if only hypothetically) to be able to weed out and keep only the legitimate ("don't throw out the baby with the bathwater").

The problem we face is that we - each and every one of us - can only ever be a single individual. And as a single individual we can only see the world from the perspective of the single fibrous strand our culture, our background, and our beliefs come from. (and that includes atheists as well).

The richness of this map of humanity is lost on the individual.

It is only when we attain the willingness and ability to step outside our culture, our background, our belief-system, our truth - outside of our fibrous strand - that we can even begin to appreciate the absolute majestic and grand scale of our collective human insights.

Ultimately the question is, are we suffering from division and splintering, or are we progressively refining how we perceive the truth?

Personally, I tend to learn towards the latter.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Pendulum

When it comes to the question of innate human nature I think I side more towards Taoism & Buddhism, with a light seasoning of Gnosticism.

Considering I was brought up in a culture heavily influenced by traditional Monotheistic/Abrahamic faiths, it was an uphill journey/battle for me not only to realize it and accept it, but also to allow myself permission to believe it. It was a decades long sojourn.

Like the Taoists, I believe we are all originally and innately good. Like the Buddhists, I believe we - each and every one of us - carry a potential; a natural state of enlightenment, and like certain aspects of Gnosticism, I believe we may have forgotten our 'birthright' and may become lost and confused in delusion - but the path, the way back, always lies within ourselves. But what is that natural state?

Like the Taoists and Buddhists I have come to believe the only constant in the universe - of mind, matter, and spirit - is Change itself. Impermanence. And if the one and only unchanging universal constant is Change itself, what does it means to find and follow our path back to this original, innate, and "enlightened" state, where it too must be in flux?

The Taoists have a term.
Wu Wei.
Action through inaction.
No cohesion. Once we can begin to naturally 'flow' with the Way - the Path - the Tao, all we do is flow along with it. No action is required. This is our Wu Wei nature, our Spirit-centered nature (mind). It is in harmony with the flow and ebb of the universe.

However, it is often in conflict with what Buddhists might call the Ego or the Self. David James Lee (of Wu Wei Wisdom) put it extremely well when he describes severe imbalances as the motion of a pendulum with this Ego swinging to extremes of Yin or Yang (to resort back to Taoist terms) - too aggressive or too passive.
I proposed that you could view your mind as if it were an energetic pendulum, where the two extremes would represent your Ego out of balance (both Yin and Yang), and the more central position would be Wu Wei, a place of energetic harmony or the 'sweet-spot' of effortless-effort.
He continues by describing this harmful Ego-centered nature as follows:
Imagine that the Human Centred Mind or Ego is like a well-meaning but rather misguided guardian or an overprotective and frightened parent that's worried and concerned about their child's well-being and future. Often they believe they know best and so will start to try to subtly influence, manipulate and restrict the child's life and activities under the loving guise that they have its best interests at heart. Such actions have the potential to negatively impact the child's self-confidence, self-worth and self-love and, most fundamentally, give them little opportunity to experience and hone their emotional education in preparation for adult life.
An important point to remember is that this 'Human-Centered-Mind', even though often misguided and overprotective is looking out for our best-interests (or perceived best interests), safety, and survival.

A still pendulum hangs perfectly within the Wu Wei nature. In harmony, but not in balance. How can it be, in a universe governed by perpetual Change, where the only thing that doesn't change is Change itself?

The 'balance point' in this pendulum analogy is a harmony between our Wu Wei nature - our Spirit-centered nature - and our Ego/Self nature, but we need to properly understand this Ego/Self centered nature.

Aren't we taught that the Ego is something we want to get away from; that we should strive to purge? Aren't we taught that the Ego isn't even real? That it itself is just an illusion? Wouldn't finding some sort of balance point between these two be delusional, watering down something pure into an impure state?

But this Human Centered mind keeps us connected to reality and the world we live in. If we were to attempt to totally purge this Ego/Self we would also be attempting to escape the world; cut off all ties from it. This would be no different than what the more radical Gnostics strived for (with their pneumatic-doctrine).

I think Noah Levine clarifies this best when he describes what lies beneath this confused and delusional Ego or Self with his comparison to a rainbow, emphasizing its temporal reality, but not a permanent or fixed existence. Our Ego/Self is real, but only in a momentary way. And as such we can have the ability to find a harmonious balance between it (with this proper understanding of it) and our innate Spiritual nature.
"Believing in a permanent self is like believing in a permanent rainbow. We all know that rainbows are temporary optical illusions based on the factors of sunlight, moisture, and heat. The environment creates each rainbow like a mind creates a self. Both creations are relatively real, in that we can genuinely experience them temporarily, but just as the factors that create the illusion (whether rainbow or self) arose, so will they also pass. There is no permanent self; there is no permanent rainbow. It is not true to say that there is no self at all or that everything is empty or illusory, but it is true that everything is constantly changing and that there is no solid, permanent, unchanging self within the process that is life." from "Wide Awake", by Noah Levine.
The middle path between our innate, albeit disconnected, spiritual nature and our momentary Self that grounds us to reality and the world we live in, is the balancing point.

A slow swing of the Pendulum. Never swinging too far in either extreme. Always staying close to this Wu Wei 'boundaries', yet always in perpetual motion - change.

It matters little what we choose to call it. I don't want to get hung up on nomenclature.
The point is a balance between the Ego that Noah Levine describes (temporary, and momentary) and that aspect that David James Lee points out of an Ego that looks out for our worldly well-being, and our innate Spiritual-Centric self.

To accomplish this we are faced with two challenges, both of which can be monumental.
The first is to abandon our belief and clinging to our identity as a permanent unchanging Self.
The second is to find an understanding of what our spirit-centric nature - stripped bare of our Ego - really is.
What methods can we use to find out way?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Enduring Road to Mindfulness

I believe plants exist within perfect ebb and flow of universal Wu Wei, and I believe most animals exist in a natural state of the perpetual Now. No worry or anxiety for the future. No regret for the past. Only living fully in the Now.

In the simplest terms I know, I think Man's original and innate state of existence is an enlightened and meditative one (not to be confused with contemplative). We're just fallen out of tune with Nature.

So how do we reconnect? How do we heal our spirit? There has to be numerous paths and avenues to do so. I can only speak of my own.

Although my spiritual journey began over 25 years ago, the most recent turn of events begins in an odd and unexpected place. Martial arts.

I had studied Traditional Taekwon-do for over 4 years under Master Florin Fratean (7th degree black belt, and original student of this martial arts' founder, General Choi Hong Hi). Towards the end, what had  caught my attention and intrigued me the most was something called Jungshin Sooyang. It is the philosophy underlying the martial art itself, a moral code if you will, heavily influenced by the Tao Teh Ching (Taoism) with some Buddhism. But you didn't need to be a Black Belt or even practice the martial art to live Jungshin Sooyang. It is a way of life and carried the potential for introspection and growth.

Towards the end of Jungshin Sooyang there is an elusive mention of a practice named Jung Joong Dong, but precious little detail or instruction.

It is difficult to study and pursue this Jung Joong Dong on one's own. There is little to no reference or material online. However, as frustrating as this may be, it is actually not a bad thing. Online information can be deceptive, misleading, and limited in scope. The expression is true that a little bit of information can be a dangerous thing. We all know someone who believes they're an expert of a topic because of online information. (Medical self-diagnosis is a prime example of this).

Google and Wikipedia do not make me an expert of any topic. Information and knowledge are different things. I refer back to my martial arts Master and teacher of Taekwon-do. Although you can find any given technique or pattern (Tul) online (it is only information or data at best), it cannot teach you how to practice it. It must be taught and learned. Knowledge comes from a mentor-protégé relationship.

Research into the term Jung Joong Dong finds little reference. Its translation is "stillness in motion". Research into its English translation reveals mostly Walking Meditation(s). However, I think precaution is needed here. I have experienced Jung Joong Dong while practicing my Tuls (patterns) in Taekwon-do, and patterns are not walking.

Just as all Jucuzzi's are hot tubs, but not all hot tubs are Jucuzzi's, so too Walking Meditations are a variation of Jung Joong Dong, but not all Jung Joong Dong are walking meditations.

Jung Joong Dong is mentioned near the end of Jungshin Sooyang, but as it is described by General Choi, its purpose appears to be significantly more like the self-reflection of the Mindfulness Tradition. I had unknowingly experienced this mindfulness during my Black Belt Examination and the experience launched my pursuit, investigation and research into it.

I had begun by not getting bogged down in the minute details of the differences between what Jung Joong Dong might be and what Walking Meditations are, and focused on their purpose as briefly described in Jungshin Sooyang; self-reflection and mindfulness.

Professor Mark W. Muesse, Ph.D. has a course and series of lectures (c. 12 hours) on these topics and issues (a downloadable PDF is also available), entitled Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation.


Meditation is a subject of paradoxes. I cringe at using the word Meditation. It's a loaded word. It comes with its own baggage. I could have ten conversations with ten people and all ten will bring their own understanding, definitions (right or wrong) and biases to the conversation, and at no point will anyone question that we are talking about different things but with the same name.

It is probably one of the most private things you can practice, yet its benefits are also for all those around you, for in time they will benefit from it too.

However, although the practical aspect of it is private, the theoretical aspect - the learning of it - is not necessarily.

It can be a difficult and slow go going solo. If you pick up a bad habit chances are it will become deeply ingrained and established within your private practice.  There is a good argument to be made that one should be taught and have some sort of group of peers to reflect, learn, discuss, and share with.

However, having this group of peers or a teacher is different than group meditation.

We all have our own biases and I am no different, so please bear this in mind. Firstly, I think there is a difference between practicing group meditation and teaching a group to meditate.

I have no problem admitting that maybe I totally miss the point of group meditation. I don't see the benefit or purpose of it. Yes, it could build a sense of solidarity or community, but there are better ways to accomplish this, in my opinion. (The simple act of eating with one another - 'breaking bread' - is probably the most effective starting point). Group meditation seems to carry the flavour of fanaticism and cult with it.

Teaching or learning as a group - although it should necessitate some degree of practicing as a group - has a different purpose. It is to share and reinforce and solidify good or productive habits/practices and to correct or 'weed out' poor or hindering habits.

You take the lessons to your private practice. Your practice isn't the group practice.

For over the past year I have been 'going solo'. I have had some informal training. I have used both Buddhist and Taoist discussion forums in place of a peer group, but these online discussion forums are plagued with their own pitfalls. They are not up close and personal. I am not, and never have been, keen on formal organized religions.

I am entering year five of this "research", journey, exploration, call it what you will.
It is time to reach out; to practice and learn and be taught in a somewhat more formal setting. It has been difficult to find meditation being taught without the baggage of religion attached to it, but I think I may have succeeded.

Let's see where this next leg of the journey leads.


Meditation, Contemplation (Reflection) and finally, Action

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Watcher, The Dreamer, the Other, and Myself

I have never been good at most sitting meditations, although I have practiced them for decades.

When sitting on the ground - whether in half-lotus, full-lotus, cross-legged, with a cushion or without - I will inevitably slump forward (bad for the breath) and eventually fall asleep. It's just the way it is.

When sitting on a chair (most commonly on the bus) I - once again - eventually fall asleep.

How I normally practice meditation is for 20-30 minutes in the early morning - before the family and household is awake. I practice sitting meditation using a seiza bench. I have never fallen asleep on my seiza bench to date.

Now, my commute to work is about a 40 minute bus ride. I don't know whether I'm just stubborn or a slow learner, but regardless of my past experiences I still attempt to meditate on the bus.... sitting... and I still end up falling asleep. However, this past week, I had a profoundly bizarre experience.

Last week, while 'meditating' on the bus - while still "sharp" and conscious within the confines of my head - I realized I not only fell asleep, but was beginning to dream. While fully cognizant, I watched myself dream.

I watched alongside the dull and groggy Dreamer what seemed like a unconnected jumble of images and half-understood stories. And oddly enough, some other part of my mind was acutely aware of where my bus was, because before my bus stop, I chose to awaken The Dreamer and depart the bus.

My question is, who is The Dreamer? Or maybe more importantly, who is The Watcher?

Solace and Compassion: Black Belt Thesis

Originally Submitted Jan. 2012
(Edited version)


When asked to write this piece about my experiences here as a student of Master Florin Fratean, I was tempted to take the easiest path and speak of my experiences and 'adventures', my accomplishes and failures in the school itself. However, of everything I have experienced, learned and been taught - the various techniques, patterns, sparring, board breaking, tournaments, playing the rolls of referee and judge, the physical conditioning, and the health benefits – I came to realize all of these features (bonuses really) are most definitely measurable and testable; as they are clearly observed and literally tested during the Belt Testings.

I could talk of Master Florin as a great teacher and instructor, as I'm sure many will (and there is a great amount to be said and written about this, to be sure!) However, I decided to take the less traveled path and speak of my experiences in Taekwon-do outside the school. To speak of Taekwon-do's spiritual nature. (And yes, I am aware this might make you cringe at first).

Taekwon-do. The most obvious translation is “The Way of the Foot and Hand.”
Tae - “to break with foot”, Kwon - “to break with hand”, and Do... I believe it is the “do” that is most important. The “Do” is borrowed from the Chinese Dao, or Tao, meaning the way or path or route to something. The Tao is the fundamental nature of the universe, and I think that is important to note, for I believe it is this fundamental nature of the universe that this martial art ambitiously reaches for.

The gist of this piece is Taekwon-do's value within myself and outside the school in the world we live in.


I have been questioned by some as to why I am tattooed.
All of my tattoos have deeply personal and spiritual significance. Each has a story to tell.
Our greatest moments of growth are often during our most painful experiences. The only difference between myself and the “un-inked” is that I wear my scars on my sleeve; literally in my skin.

I have a large dragon-tattoo on my back. (A painful 25 hour ordeal). A good friend of my wife from Taipei, Taiwan, tells me that, in her culture, the dragon as a tattoo represents a sort of protection from harm and fear. However, it isn't that the dragon is tattooed on one's body that give it its power but that it exists within one's heart.

It is with humility that I share part of my history, my story of my tattoo, not to brag or show off. Quite the opposite. I have been asked once, why would I get such a large, painful, and expensive piece when nobody would see it? But that's the very point; it is not for anyone else. It is an outward expression of an inward conviction. It is solely for myself.

The Asian Dragon can represent many things, often symbolizing power, strength, courage, and Indomitable spirit (Baekjul Bulgul). However, in my case its significance is far beyond this common symbolism. This tattoo is a summation of my spiritual journeyi to date and these last three and a half years as a student of Master Florin in Taekwon-do play a very heavy influence.


I have always been aware of a deep spiritual nature in Taekwon-do.
No, not religious. Religiosity would be its opposite. And no, I do not mean “spiritual” as in New Age hocus-pocus. My understanding of spiritual is a simple but vitally important one. Spirituality teaches us how to cope with ourselves and with others. Really, it is nothing more than Solace and Compassion. (Even the Atheist benefits from a spiritual health. Religion has little to no place in what I speak of).

I think it is for this reason since the first day I walked in this school as a white belt, up to and including today, that two particular points caught my interest and continue to capture and hold my attention.

Guk Gi (Self-Control) and Taekwon-do's 5th oath (“I shall built a more peaceful world”).

These two features blend extremely easily with spirituality;
Solace (for the self) and Compassion (for others).

Solace is the Fruit of Guk Gi

Clearly Self-Control applies to learning when to reign in our power1. Most especially during sparring. To have the ability to use only 50%; to not go 'full out'; to hold back from outright fighting or 'brawling'. Even to control our emotions and our temper. We must not allow our anger to override us.

Its opposite is just as true. We see this during board breaking. In this case we want to attempt to release 100% of our power. It is still, never-the-less, control.

But I believe Guk Gi can and does extend far beyond these examples.
I believe Solace is the fruit of Guk Gi...and for me, there are other applications of solace.


I worry about the future. This has always been a problem I’ve struggled and battled with. I worry about my financial stability, about my family's health, my kid's schooling, my wife's business, my job, my friends, my relationships, my well-being. And when I allow that rogue beast Worry to roam free, it does nothing but further feed and breed Fear. (No, not fear in the sense of being afraid of something or someone. But fear in the sense of Fear itself).

Too often I fall into the trap of living in the Past. Analyzing whether this or that choice or decision could have changed where I find myself today. When I open the memories and doorways to the past I run the risk of flooding myself with regret for what might-have-been.

When I spend my energy worrying about Tomorrow and regretful for Yesterday, I do nothing but destroy my Today. The illusion is that our Today – our Now – is a tiny hairline separating Yesterday from Tomorrow. The truth of the matter is that there is no future and there is no past, but only an eternally endless Now.

Alan Watts likened the practice of living from our center to martial arts, where we are encouraged to “stay always in the center position, and stay always here”. He says, “If you expect something to come in a certain way, by the time you reposition your energy, it is too late. So stay in the center, and you will be ready to move in any direction”. When living from your center, in the now, he adds, “you stand a much better chance of being able to deal with the unforeseen than if you keep worrying about it” 2

I have found practicing the Tuls (patterns) in Taekwon-do extremely “centering” and a near form of Meditation. The concentration and focus clears the mind, forcing me to forget everything but the Now, returning the balance.
I do not miss the point of every pattern (at least to my limited knowledge) begins in one position and returns to this same position. A centering. A balance point.

I believe General Choi deliberately encouraged this symbolism of centering; reigning in our runaway imaginations – not dwelling on the past and not worrying about the future, but always returning to this state of centeredness.

I believe the trick is to borrow this learned wisdom as we practice it in our patterns and apply it to our lives on a daily level. It can only make us better and stronger.

I have found the Patterns bring me a tranquility; a peace of mind during difficult times; soothing as a meditation and finds for me an inner peace. I can remember during that extremely stressful time (May – June 2009) when we sold our old house and purchased our new home, practicing the patterns in class was the only time I enjoyed peace of mind.


I shall build a more peaceful world”

This is a difficult one. I am sure nearly everyone would at least in theory agree that this is a good and noble oath... but it is easier said than done. The question is, how do I attempt to accomplish this?

Within the gym it manifests itself with respect for others, humility, and most importantly, I believe, teaching and mentoring the young (whether directly or through example). For the young are the future.

Tao gave birth to One,
One gave birth to Two,
Two gave birth to Three,
Three gave birth to all the myriads things of the universe.3

Kanji (text) from tattoo

Without a somewhat long explanation, the simplest way to explain this saying is to say that Truth is progressive. It is not a static thing. It is a living, growing, and evolving thing. Failure to see or realize this is to ultimately fall victim to religiosity.

I had spent my entire education within the Roman Catholic school system. Nearly my entire youth was spent in conflict with a rigid institution based upon inflexible Tradition. Although I hold value in Tradition – it allows us to have an identity, something to call 'home', a culture – when dealing with an overpowering tradition for no other purpose but its own, it becomes oppressive and flies in the face of truth. Unchangeable, immutable, inflexible Tradition is a dead and dusty thing.

It was so refreshing to see Florin's Ultimate Martial Arts Centre's motto on their vans,
Where Tradition Meets the Future”.
It is the values of Tradition yet with the living openness for growth, learning, and evolving! And for me, coming out of years and years of struggling conflict, it was like a breath of fresh air!

I shall build a more peaceful world”
These are powerful words.
It is this oath that must transcend the boundaries of the gym. I see this as living Compassion.
But rather than ask how might I accomplish this, maybe I should ask what stands in peace's and compassion's way?

What is an obstacle to peace?

Worry, anxiety, Fear of what might yet be. Fear kills the Future; murders its potential; slays the perpetual Now, for it is in the Now that Fear's price is paid...

Fear is my greatest enemy.
It is a battle I’ve fought my entire life and one I continue to wage war with.
I have battled and struggled with worry, anxiety, and Fear for far too long. One of the driving reasons why I choose to study the martial arts of Taekwon-do was to at least attempt to combat this internal Fear. Through Taekwon-do I can see this desire and growth with the meanings of its belt colours:

  • White is innocence.
  • Yellow is the fertile earth from which a plant sprouts and take root.
  • Green signifies the plant's growth and its reaching towards the sky.
  • Blue signifies the heavens and sky towards which the plant matures into a towering tree.
  • Red is the colour of the plant's first fruits. Red indicates danger. The student has sufficient skills to inflict injury to an opponent so must exercise caution and control. The red also acts as a warning to opponents.
  • The Black belt is the exact opposite of white. The black colour represents the student's ability to overcome Fear and triumph over Darkness.
The Dragon of my tattoo represents a striving for this fearlessness; the confrontation and triumph over this Darkness. Darkness is not only the absence of Light, but includes triumph over ignorance. (And Fear is the child of ignorance). But defeating this Darkness – overcoming this ignorance – sometimes means actually embracing the unknowable; potentially one of the most divisive issues on this planet; Peace's greatest obstacle.

To me, Compassion towards my fellow man, woman, and child outweigh one's belief. And this, quietly, caringly, must be carried out into the world. We must teach and mentor the young. We must teach them how to think, not what to think. We must choose education over indoctrination. We must become humble ambassadors to the world.


I'll end by asking a question.
Once I remove everything that I have learned from Taekwon-do that can be measured and graded and tested in class;
Once I remove myself from the school;
Once I remove my uniform;
Once I remove my belt;
What is it that remains within me?

I believe the answer is solace and compassion.

In my soul I carry the spirit of the “Taekwon-do Dragon”. It is alive and well and lives and breathes in my very heart. It is what allows me to find confidence and peace within myself and compels me to show compassion and hold hope for a better and more peace filled world.

The symbol of the Dragon I literally carry in my skin, and it is this that I carry out into the world.

1 I think it's important to avoid confusing “power” with strength.
I believe “Power” is composed of 5 elements: 1) physical strength, 2) speed, 3) accuracy, 4) technique, and 5) belief.
Only when all of these elements are joined together do you truly find your “Power”.
When sparring (either in training, practice, or tournaments) the rule is 50% Power. (It shouldn't be full contact). The reasoning is that (I think) sparring in Taekwon-do is a points-system, not a brutal “knock-them-down-drag-them-out” sport.
However, that leaves us with the problem of how do we know what our “100% Power” is if we cannot use it in sparring? The use of board breaking is to demonstrate one's “Power” without inflicting it upon another human being or opponent. That is why, I believe, we do board breaking.

2 Candance B. Pert, The Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine (New York: Touchstone, 1997), pg. 27

3 Excerpt from Tao Te Ching, verse 42, by Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism
i I had mentioned that this Dragon-tattoo is a summation of my spiritual journey for me in which TKD played a large influence, but not the only influence. If there is interest in learning more about the meanings and symbolism behind this tattoo, please feel free to visit my blog site and read more at