Everyone has stuff going on in their lives. We like our stuff, we cling to it and identify it as being part of us, it is my stuff. What do I mean by stuff? I mean things that we don’t like, things we complain about, things that upset us. You say you don’t like your stuff? Really? Well if you don’t like your stuff why are you clinging to it, suppressing it and carrying it around with you like a bag of garbage?
I have worked on a world level since I was 16. I have worked in England, the U.S.A and Japan for long periods of time and not just going for a holiday for a week or two. This has taught me people are the same all over. The only difference is the language we speak and the colour of our skin. Our thoughts, feelings and actions are the same. We are all human beings trying to get through life as best we can, trying to deal with what life throws at us and we are all into figuring things out in our heads.
I was thinking about what I should share in this blog today and I remembered an important lesson I learnt in America. In 1987, I was 27 and was living and working in L.A. California. I lived in a bad neighbourhood in Huntington Drive. At that time there were two gangs fighting the Crips and the Bloods.
The Crips are mainly an African-American gang. They were started in L.A. in 1969 by two men called Raymond Washington and Stanley Williams. The Crips are one of the biggest and violent gangs in America. They have about 30,000 to about 35,000 members. They are engaged in murders, drug dealing, robberies and lots of other criminal pursuits. They are recognized by the use of the colour blue in their clothing.
The Bloods are made up of mostly but not exclusively African Americans. This gang was also started in Los Angeles. They wear red in their clothes and they have special gang symbols and hand gestures that they are identified by.
At the time there were a lot of drive-by shootings going on in L.A. by these gangs and it was becoming more and more like a war zone. I wanted to help try and solve the problem by offering the young people another option. Instead of joining a gang to turn their focus to sports and education. I wanted to use basketball, boxing and several other sports and educational programs to motivate the young ones to set goals to develop themselves into leaders. A good way to reach the young people was through the churches in the area I thought. So I put my ideas down on paper and set out with my proposal to meet the various church leaders in the area.
The response I received at first was that I was cute being from Ireland and a nice novelty. After they saw that I was serious about trying to assist they started coming up with the “ Yeah but …
” responses. It turned out these leaders were more interested in talking about the problems than actually doing anything to solve them. The other response was I was too young to understand the complexity of the problems. Having grown up in Northern Ireland in the troubles, I did not see things their way. It was clear that the solution was not going to come from these churches.
Next, I reached out to the grassroots leadership the community activists and shared my proposal with them. They were interested and thought it was a good idea but the problem came to lack of funding. I was an outsider and they did not know me from Adam. I told them that I would set up fundraising programs to support the program but I would need their members to assist in the fundraising campaigns. They wanted money but not the additional responsibility or making it. Lastly, I approached schools in the area and offered to start after-school programs to help the young people. I again was rejected because it was too dangerous to bring children from the different parts of the city into a local school. If one was shot or beaten up the schools would be held responsible.
I looked at the situation and realized this was not my fight. It was time to let it go and let things play out as they would. Soon after I left America and went to Japan to get on with my life. At that time I did not have the skills, experience and knowledge I have today. Aikido and living in Japan taught me the skills I need to help people and that is what I am doing every day.
The lesson this taught me was that you cannot help people to change or solve problems until they are open and ready to change. Even then most people will resist change because of fear, being comfortable with their problems and having bad habits for a long time. The sad thing is we don’t have to suffer!. We have the knowledge, the technology and the skills to be happy peaceful and successful, but until we come to the point of being sick and tired of being comfortable yet miserable, things will just stay the same. I hope this can help you see that when you focus on problems all you get is more problems. When you let it go and focus on what you want you have the power inside to create the life you want. Problems or solutions, which do you choose to give your energy, attention and focus to today? Until next time I wish you peace love and success. Martin Sensei