Wednesday, 18 July 2012


Being forced to walk down the proverbial dark alley


n the martial arts, we know all too well that the mind affects the body, often deeply. So deep that our very health is affected.

Anger - and hatred - can blind us. Or create a type of tunnel vision which can be fatal when facing multiple opponents. Grief, depression, sadness…can rob us of our will power, disturb our confidence and hollow out our energy.

Fear, left lingering in the body, will cause us to “freeze up” at the most critical moment in a self defense situation. Fear of the future will see us losing the battle - before the battle has even begun!

Most martial artists I know become very aggressive about losing control over their mind or their body. They don’t just “let things happen to them”. They do something about it -  immediately.

That’s the problem about going to sleep: most of us lose control during the hours of sleep. We have no choice about where we go in our dreams and whom we encounter. The dream just takes us along.

Sleep should be a joyful time of rest


As a youth, I woke up one morning at 1:00 a.m. on the 3rd floor of a house which was quite cheery and livable but was still condemned to be torn down later that year. It was in winter, and I was the only one at home at the time. Except for a cat, whom we called Cat.

Cat was screeching and his fur was standing on end. The room was cold. I remember bars of light coming up from the street lamps outside.

I felt something in the house, something menacing. I checked the rest of the 3rd floor, then went down to the 2nd floor. By the time I reached the main floor, Cat had abandoned me.

The cold, and the menace, was coming up from the basement. I turned on the light and went downstairs.

Nobody used the basement that much so it remained fairly free of clutter. There was just a bare floor and the furnace facing me. I knew this was the centre of the cold. This was where the menacing feeling came from.

Treat a nightmare as you would an attacker


I had plenty of nightmares as a child. They stopped as soon as I started training in the martial arts. I don’t get nightmares any more. Perhaps it’s the thought I carry into sleep that I would deal with a nightmare the way I would with an attacker -relentlessly, overwhelmingly, in the way I was taught.

The situation in the house was a type of waking nightmare - and I wasn’t going to have any of it.

I turned off the basement lights. Then I sat in a meditation pose in the centre of the room, directly in front of the furnace. I closed my eyes and did all the things I was taught.

My mental attitude was simple and direct: “Whatever you are, let’s go. I’m ready.”

I sat for ½ hour in the dark. Nothing in the house moved. There were no sounds from beyond the basement, from the street outside.

After the ½ hour had passed, I got up, switched on the lights and laughed at every corner of the basement. I turned my back and waited. Nothing. I laughed some more, turned off the lights and went back up to my bedroom to sleep.

I don’t like the invasiveness of bad dreams - and I don’t enjoy carrying anxieties into sleep just because both mind and body refuse to let go of the stresses of the day.

What worked for me was a combination of facing the nightmare head on along with chi kung/meditation from martial arts.

I’d like to share some of those techniques with you. There is no reason why you should ever be plagued with bad dreams. Sleep is a time of rejuvenation. It should be joyful, no matter what happened during the course of the day - or what conflicts you might face tomorrow.

This is just an opening post on the topic. In a few days, I’ll discuss meditation techniques, acupoints, massage and visualization techniques which hopefully will help you get rid of nightmares for good.

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