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this place is sacredAs you think, so shall you become.

Bruce Lee

Lately I have been deep in my head, thinking about a lot of things…an ex girlfriend, looking for work, what’s next for me–all kinds of chaos in the mind, a post new years’ haze. I brought this head into the martial arts club the other day and onto the mats.

My mind and verbal thoughts carried into the beginning of warm ups with my training partner Neil. He listened and then patiently said, “TC, this place is sacred, don’t bring those thoughts in here.”

It was as if he threw a bucket of cold water in my face. I had been blind to the obvious. The mats, this dojo is a sacred place, just as is life.

The mats are a microcosm for how we approach the rest of life. There is a Zen saying that the way a man does one thing is the way he does everything. The dojo represents all of this. Upon entering the mats or when facing an opponent, one bows. This is respect for the teacher, respect for the mats, respect for the opponent. The mats are a place of humility, there is always someone stronger, faster, more experienced. There is a saying to check the ego at the door. One must have humility as there will be many failures upon the path. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu we say tap, nap or snap. I would rather be humble and play another day rather than have my ego fight only to have an arm broken or to pass out.

The mats are a place of truth. My professor and one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters of all time, Saulo Ribeiro, once said at a seminar “you cannot lie in Jiu-Jitsu.” Just as in life, we ultimately cannot hide our true being- our essence will eventually be exposed. In life we put on masks, and front the fear that resides inside of us. We mask our lives with superficiality that is akin to mock fighting on the mats. Jiu-Jitsu is called ‘arte suave’, the gentle or smooth art, because one can control another person without having to punch them in the face over and over again. This also means one can spar full-out without beating each other up everyday. In this, there is no mask to hide behind, there are NO LIES. It is what it is. Our spirit, our being exposed to the universe fully expressed exactly how it is. Just as in life, what we put forth on the mat is this expression, it is our being. Just like pinging a bell, strike it lightly and you will get a light sound, strike it with your whole essence and you will get the full vibration.

The mats are a place of NOWNESS. There is no place for past thoughts, or future hopes. There only is right now. If I think any other way then I am exposed, I lapse and I will be defeated. There is only RIGHT NOW. In fact in life this is all we ever really have, this moment right NOW. This is the ultimate lesson striving to live moment by moment.

The mats remind me that I am the one, they reflect my essence back to me at all times. My experience on the mats and in life, I have no where else to look but in this reflection. I alone am responsible. For my Jiu-Jitsu, for my life, for my happiness- there is no where else to look. There is great freedom in this lesson. All fingers pointing elsewhere quickly point back to me. Out of shape? Train harder. Not advancing fast enough- research, train and ask questions. Unhappy in life? I am responsible for my own happiness. Not getting along with another- I can create something different. Being cause of my own training, my own life puts all of the power back to me. I create my own experience on the mats and in this lifetime.

The mats bring gratitude. Gratitude for each moment. Gratitude for the health to train. Gratitude for the experience of living on the edge and pushing beyond limits. Gratitude for my teachers and for training partners. This one comment by Neil brought all of these thoughts to me. For this I have such gratitude for that moment as I will never forget it.

The mats are sacred. Life is sacred. Each moment, we never know when it will be our last. We express ourselves in this universe by our thoughts, by our actions. We are simply an expression of our moments. Our being, our essence in each moment we create. We create each experience. This is the fight. We fight only ourselves. To better each moment over the last. This is the essence of this sacred space.

All of life is sacred. Bow down to life in this way just as you enter the dojo. Namaste means ‘I bow to you’ and in essence means I bow to the divine in you. Approach life like this, bow down. Treat all beings as divine. Treat life as divine, be humble to all beings. Bow down. Let your life be your truth, let go of your fears and expose yourself in all of your being, ring the bell loudly. Be the cause in your life, live NOW, live in gratitude.

Yes, this place is sacred.

Namaste, I bow to the divine in you.

Be well. Be love.

Call to Action:

  • Treat all of your life as sacred. Every moment.
  • Be humble, live fully expressed with truth, be cause in your own life, be grateful.
  • Be LOVE

Thomas D. Craig

Author of A Cup of Buddha and soon to be released Is that so? A Modern Fable of Awakening

writer. seeker. Zen warrior