It’s almost that time of year again…
Where our complete ass-backward culture comes out on full display – New Year’s Resolutions, vivid projections of the future and swaggering declarations about big changes to be made in the new year.
There’s only one huge problem…
Looking Forward is Not Enough
“The path into the light seems dark,
the path forward seems to go back,
the direct path seems long,
true power seems weak.” Tao Te Ching
The ninja knows that to look forward and truly see, we must first look backward and reflect.
Yes. Have goals. Strive. Look forward.
But first, take a moment to look backward and reflect, truly reflect, on your own life (and not on, say, the year in review according to Facebook, T.V., or pop culture.)
What does your personal year in review look like?
It’s utterly incomplete to just make goals – that’s like saying “I want to climb Mount Everest, but I have no idea where I am right now.” Good luck with that.
Orient yourself so you can see where you’re going within the larger context of where you’ve just been. Locate yourself within the greater movements of your own life and inner reality.
The only way to master time and space is through timing and positioning; you can’t be awesome at either if you don’t know where you are.
Massive Cultural Blind-Spot
This obsession with growth, expansion, new things and moving forward blindly is totally imbalanced and not in accordance with the way of the ninja- who finds just as much value, even comfort – in decay, contraction, the old and moving backward.
Many people rush ahead, create grand goals for the future and their dreams are quickly discarded and left to die, nowhere to be found by February. This behavior has been programmed into all of us and those of us that follow this programming blindly – year after year – are what I call #HumanRobots.
It’s the difference between zero (0) and one (1). Both have much to teach us, but our culture is way too focused on one (1), which is linear, a line extending outward and forward.
Zero (0) is circular, a symbol for infinity and the dualistic/cyclical nature of life: good and bad define each other, forward and backward move each other, depth and height support each other. That is why we #TrainDeep in order to #RiseUp.
Plenty of people ascend to power, only to self-destruct because of their lack of depth: Tiger Woods, Bill Cosby, Anthony Weiner (ok, most politicians) and on and on.
Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success or failure: which is more destructive? TTC
By making use of this dualistic aspect of life – by orienting ourselves between the extremes – we can avoid becoming imbalanced. Power is neutral; it can be used for good or bad. The more external power you have, the more internal power you need to wield that power with skill. That is balance. Otherwise, you’ll use your power to create what you don’t want.
Balance. Balance. Balance. And yes, external balance helps with internal balance.
Looking Beyond Appearances…
is an essential skill of ALL real ninja; to not take things at face value and to look deeper.
To see far off into the distance is very powerful – it allows you to see and sense things that others cannot. This is why those who follow the way of ninja are said to have magic that defies reality.
Could it be that the super powers of ninja lore and legend were inspired by people who had developed their natural human sensory perceptions to such a high level that they seem to defy reality?
Perhaps magic is just a shift in perception… and what seems impossible to one person is obvious to someone else with highly developed senses?
This is the essence of kung fu, which is normally thought to mean “martial arts”, but a more poetic (and accurate) translation is “acquiring tremendous skill through great sacrifice.”
What are you actually willing to sacrifice to reach your goals? How about your cultural blind spot and social programming? Will you give up the comfort of certainty for the wild frontier of the unknown?
By making a sacrifice for our goals, we make our goals sacred – and once we’ve done that, achieving them is only a matter of time (and it’s often less time than you’d expect.)
Extreme Darkness and True In-Sight
To see far and know the future, we must be able to look deeply within first and know ourselves. This is called “true in-sight”. This time of year is the best time to practice this special kind of ninja training. When the days are shortest and the external darkness greatest is the exact time when our inner light shine is brightest.
If you carve out a couple of hours to do this practice, well then that is achieving a goal right there, because you’re really willing to look and see. As a bonus, this practice will also actually work and be a huge step toward reaching your goals for next year.
This is my fourth new year’s doing this practice and it’s mind-blowing how much it’s helped me manifest in my life – the craziest example being in for New Year’s 2012 when I used it to move into a new 2 bedroom apartment in Manhattan. At the time, that seemed like a complete fuckin’ pipe dream, but this practice made it clear that this was the top priority for the new year and 5 months later we closed on our apartment… and my dream became my reality.
Super Ninja Vision: Secret New Year’s Practice
Ok, here’s the deal. When I do this practice, I take 5 – 7 hours to do it and spread that time out over a week. It can be exhausting work, but it’s totally worth it. Each day, for the last few days of the year, I work on this practice for about an hour and then into the first few days of the new year.
I limit myself to only 1 hour/day because it can be very emotional and draining. Be sure to be gentle with yourself and have fun with it. And know when it’s time to take a break or stop for the day – your body will tell you by getting cranky, in one way or another. Don’t forget your Core Ninja Principles and have FUN.
And if this is your first time doing a practice like this, know that you can get plenty of benefit by limiting it to 15 minutes per day over the course of a few days. Remember, perfect is the enemy of good. Give it a shot and don’t try too hard.
- Look backward – Take stock of the past year and look at your calendar month by month. What were the highlights? What were the biggest challenges? The biggest surprises? What inspired you the most? Who was the biggest positive influence? What was the most frustrating situation/person/thing? What did you waste time on? Biggest regrets? Consider your health/fitness, relationships, career and passions.
- Write it out – Make a list using all the events of the past year and organize them in 3 categories: Top 10 Successes, Top 10 Biggest Challenges and Unfinished Business (things you started and need to continue to do into the new year.) Of course, feel free to add your own category, but I recommend not having more than four categories. Simplicity is powerful. Limit each list to 10 things at the most, but it might be even more powerful to limit each to a top 5.
- In-sight Meditation – Sit in a comfortable position, breathe, relax, close your eyes, look within and count your breaths. Look and see. When you are relaxed and feel really good (and only then), ask yourself what your top goals should be for next year. Sit with eyes closed, ask out loud and keep looking and seeing. Don’t discount any images that arise, especially ones that seem random or spontaneous or don’t make any sense. Keep them in the back of your mind for the next step.
- Look forward – Based off of your reflections, insights and previous year, make a list of everything you’d like to accomplish in the New Year.
- Prioritize – Looking at your 3 (or 4) list of goals, choose the top 10 most important and write them out. You may notice a theme. Keep simplifying.
- Relationships – Now write out a new list of the Top 10 Relationships you’d like to cultivate in the new year. Include at least one stretch one (like Richard Branson), at least one family one, and at least 1 person that is a positive inspiration and mentor for you. Remember, you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, so choose wisely.
So, now you’ve got a list of your top 10 goals for the new year, they’re based on your previous year and you’ve also got a list of the top 10 relationships you want to cultivate. Now take those lists and burn them to ash!
Ok, just kidding, but do consider doing some kind of ritual once you’ve completed your lists – some kind of symbolic action that represents what this process, the new year, and your goals mean to you.
This is the real secret ingredient that no one can tell you how to do exactly, you’ve got to play around and figure it out for yourself. It has to come from inside of you and be super authentic and vulnerable. But here’s a hint – the action you take might scare you a little in a positive, exciting kind of way – like perhaps burning a piece of paper that you just put 7 hours of work into!
Enlist the Help of a Ninja
If you really want to double down on success and have a super close friend who is positive and empowering (or a spouse, etc), do this practice with them! But be warned, this ups both the potential risk and the potential benefit of this practice.
Having someone who knows you will mirror, reflect and provide feedback in a way that makes you feel safe is invaluable. But inevitably, if you’re really taking this practice seriously, it requires taking a good look at yourself and that can be very humbling, even scary. So if you’re not sure you can trust your friend, trust your gut and do it by yourself first, then maybe share the results.
This is the first exercise that the ninjas who are brave enough to do the Ninja Fitness Academy in January will do. Each ninja will have an accountability buddy and will share their goals, insights and challenges with the entire group.
Wheh, talk about challenging! And rewarding. And awesome. And intimate. And weird. And awesome again. Because this practice is a real catalyst when done correctly. If you’re interested in joining our NFA, you can apply here.
Avoid the Traps!
Remember, the point of this exercise is not to make a massive fucking to-do list, but rather to simplify, prioritize and look for a theme for your next year. Perhaps you’ll only focus on your top 3 resolutions. That’s good, don’t overwhelm yourself and don’t just add more shit to your plate. Consider what you have to stop doing (sacrifice), in order to do other stuff that is more aligned with who you are becoming.
In other words, less is more. Don’t fall into the productivity trap. You’re not an industrial machine and your life is not one long work day. Perhaps you’ll replace some mindless tv watching with meditation, or making art. Perhaps being more gentle with yourself will bring your life into balance more than “I must learn French this year.” Being is just as important as doing. Find your balance.
“In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the wisdom,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.” TTC
Post Questions in the Comments by Dec. 20th!
I’d love to help YOU personally before I leave, so fire questions in the comments. I’m heading to France for 2 weeks for some snowboarding and time with the in-laws, and am excited to do this practice for the first time outside of the USA – hopefully in a cozy mountain chalet with a fire place, no electricity and just my wife and ninja baby.
As always, TrainDeep,
Jonathan ~ Super Cosmic Ninja Master