Wednesday, April 6, 2005

There remains the classic story of a sensei (teacher, mentor) who instructed one particular gifted student. Day after day and month after month, the sensei instructed the student on the finer aspects of the martial arts; sharing with him the secrets beyond the martial arts themselves. Until one day, the student felt he was ready to challenge the sensei to a contest. Reluctantly, the sensei agreed.

The student was filled with confidence and respect as he addressed the sensei and took his stance. The contest began and to the student's surprise, every move and step he made was anticipated by the sensei. Before long, he found himself on his back - again and again. Each time he got up, he was more determined to conquer the sensei. After several times he found himself again on his back and finally relinquished to his mentor.

As the student stood and bowed, the sensei quietly said, "You have learned your last lesson of the martial arts. And it is this: When you lose, do not lose the lesson."


Losing is a difficult construct; a confusing concept. Not because we haven't experience it first-hand (that's hardly the case in Life), but because we often times either do not fully understand the basic premise or we have not delved into its personal meaning for our life.

There are hundreds of varying dictionary definitions for the concept of losing; the overwhelming majority of these define the concept by using words such as "fail" and "defeat." And for those two words alone, there are several more ambiguous definitions. Now try and explain these constructs - losing, failure, defeat - to your children or nieces and nephews. For so many reasons, I often wonder if we would do much better to omit these three words from all languages. But as it is, these three concepts are alive and well and promoted heavily by our national sports, our national media, our institutions of higher learning and our national corporate world.

We all must individually make choices on how to journey through and conduct our own life; especially how we view ourself in light of our journeys. We will lose loved ones through death, but does it constitute personal failure? We will lose employment due to downsizing or circumstances beyond our control, but does it constitute personal defeat? We will lose competitive contests on any given day, but does any particular contest denote personal failure or defeat? Perhaps it depends on where our eyes and minds are focused...

During my summer residence at a Crosier Monastery and throughout my college years, there was very little that I took seriously. But through the befriending of one particular elderly priest in that monastery, there was one lesson with which I walked away. He would instruct me, time and time again, that "Life's sole purpose was not where my eyes were presently directed but could be found in a simple paragraph buried in Philippians 3:14 [I will leave it to you to search out and read at your leisure].

He would tell me, over and over again, that is where my eyes must be throughout my relationships, my career, my spiritual journey, my hobbies, and my thoughts. He would say, "Never let your eyes stray from this focus." In light of this focus, perhaps personal loss, personal failure and personal defeat in our everyday living holds no power.

You and I will lose throughout Life... at least it will most definitely feel like we've lost. And I guess that's okay. But as the sensei reminds his student, it is important we " don't lose the lesson." Within all of Life's journey, there are lessons to be learned and relearned and learned again. And it remains only a simple and shallow loss when we don't take the time to delve into the lesson.

When was the last time you felt like you lost? What was it you were hoping to accomplish? And on what were your eyes and mind focused? And what was the lesson you gleaned from the experience? In these questions lies the lesson...

In less than a month, I am planning to compete in a city half-marathon (13.11 miles) - as preparation and training for a summit climb of Mount Rainier (Washington) this summer. I am told and have read over and over again that only half of all those attempting to summit Mount Rainier actually succeed. My climbing team has been told to "enjoy the journey for as long as it lasts - whether it's to the summit or not." And it's because of accepting this reality, I've come to rethink my feelings about this half-marathon. Will I fair well against over 1000 runners from different age groups? I have no idea as this is my first race of this distance and caliber in over twenty years. But I've come to realize that it's not the others I'm racing against; it is a personal-best time that I am chasing down and racing toward. The very fact that I have the ability to walk and run deserves to be celebrated... and I will come across that finish line, either running, walking or crawling.

In your attempts at chasing down your personal finish lines, be sure to also leave enough energy to chase down the lesson that comes with it.

hoedl's haven
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2003