The ninja represents the ideals of a strength behind the shadows (wielding strength without being egotistical), disciplined perseverance and an underlying positive ideal for change.
Though we’ve focused mainly on physical skills (such as martial arts and parkour) in our earliest ninja guide, the other half of becoming a ninja and an awesome human being is having the proper mindset and soft skills to navigate through life. The way of ninja is not a lone path devoid of other people; life is characterised by the flux of stability and conflicts.
Having the right soft skills allows you to interact effectively with both the people in your life and your opponents. Picture being able to remain calm while handling conflicts, being able to assess a stranger’s body language for sincerity, having the confidence and compassion to stand up for someone who is weaker, and being assertive enough to respect your own time and well being. The common core to having these skills stems from knowing your ‘true’ self and being comfortable with who you are. The ability to reflect within is the first step to affecting your external environment.
And isn’t this what we want in using the ninja as a symbol of our desires; the ability and confidence to affect our external environment.
To Change The World, First Change Your Mindset and Lifestyle
First, to change the world, be the change that you want to see in others. Don’t expect to affect your environment and influence people positively if you cannot become a symbol and role model of the change you want to see.
In order to be the change, you need to alter your mindset, nurture a sense of purpose and create a new lifestyle; your way of ninja. Adapting Dr Roger Walsh’s 8 TLCs (Therapeutic Life Changes) as a template to creating your way of ninja, here are the 8 aspects of your new lifestyle that you should not ignore.
Physical fitness and abilities are part of being a ninja. And for a regular person, exercise has been shown to keep depression at bay. This is a basic need that everyone should spend time in; if you lack time, do it as movement snacks throughout the day.
2. Diet and nutrition
Diet doesn’t mean constraints on food. It’s about eating right; too much or too little of something is bad. If you can’t get your basic needs right, forget about changing the world.
Being in nature is therapeutic, within reason. While I was in the military doing outfield exercises, not being able to bathe for several days and setting camp at a mosquito-infested area was horrible. But I did enjoy sleeping under the stars (while talking about life with my platoon mates) and reading by a ‘lake’ while holding my rifle in a training exercise in Australia.
4. Contribution and service
It is inevitable to get out of touch with reality in being too focused on work, trying to balance responsibilities and burdens and chasing after material desires.Contributing back to the community and service to those who need it helps you build compassion and remain humble. It reminds one that life is a cycle of impermanence and that there are people going through various phases of ups and downs; we are not exempt from that cycle and may one day be in an unfortunate position of needing compassion.
What this means for a ninja is building the skill to connect with another human being, without the concept of superiority or inferiority. If you want to influence people and the world around you, be willing to serve and listen with sincerity.
Andrea Harkins, who runs martial arts class for kids, has poured her soul into building character for her students. Her class has even helped a cancer survivor to remain positive. And it is this type of positive change that we aspire to.
Continuing on from ‘contribution and service’, humans are social creatures and life does not exist in a bubble. Building and maintaining relationships helps with your well-being. Your family and friends are there to catch you when you fall (literally and metaphorically). As mentioned, life is full of ups and downs, and we are here to help each other in our moments of weakness. The concept of being a strong person, does not mean full self-reliance. It is knowing the impermanence of life and knowing that you have people worth protecting. That desire to protect others helps you become a stronger person.
We, as humans, are also susceptible to burnouts and boredom. When life begins to become a chore, the other aspects of life becomes meaningless. Inject challenges and the ‘element of fun‘ in your recreational activities. I, for one, am very inspired by Jules, who at her age, found her true self and constantly challenges herself with new skills and activities. In one of our Twitter conversations, she mentioned being afraid of heights. Nonetheless, she intends to conquer her fears by going base jumping. Her activities in the next few months include taking up snow boarding, on top of her passion in Ba Gua and long bows. So, try new recreational activities and meet new people who will encourage you to lead the life you want.
7. Relaxation and stress management
Remember to take breaks and manage stress. Ignoring your needs and persevering in your efforts is a sure way to getting into a mental breakdown. Once in a while, reflect on your life to cut out the non-essential stresses. Meditate. Schedule a day to do nothing.
The ability to relax and manage stress makes you a better ninja, martial artist and traceur. Remember the old masters with extraordinary calm when fighting against several opponents?
8. Religious and Spiritual Involvement
Being involved in religion or spirituality helps one to develop better. With regard to religion, Dr Walsh’s findings mentions that themes on love and forgiveness is beneficial over themes of punishment and guilt.
In my view, you don’t need to be religious to be spiritual. Religion and spirituality is merely acknowledging and accepting that life is never under your full control and the big questions will remain unanswered. It is knowing that, as a human being, you have limited power and that you are vulnerable to making mistakes. And it is about placing your trust in a higher power than yourself when you have done your best.
Take the time to reflect on what you’ve done for these eight areas of your life. Build up your lifestyle from this template.
Please leave a comment below or tweet to let me know your thoughts.