It all started after my teacher made his most recent return from Japan. Now, I'm not saying that my classes usually go very well, there are always gaps and weaknesses in my training, but that first night when he got back I was for the most part utterly lost. This left me feeling somewhat disturbed, what was I doing, or not doing that caused me to "not get it"? Had I finally lost grasp of the fine thread of training? Did I need to train more, or less, or change my training altogether? My mind was whizzing all the way home and for several days and classes afterwards.
As I thought about it more, my perspective broadened from where I was then, to where I had been. I thought about my entire experience of training. 10 years ago I started training with my teacher, at that time I had already been training for 15 years. As well as training at my then local dojo, I had been to Japan, I had been to seminars and classes with high ranking Shihan, attended a few Taikai, and had cross trained in other martial arts, but I had stopped growing as a martial artist for a while. In terms of training, I had reached the top of my little mountain, I had peaked.
When I first started training at Spring Lake I could see that Jack and several of his students were at a higher level. I couldn't quite understand why, or how, but in some way I could just sense the level of my teacher, he was on this big mountain which towered over mine. Now I knew that I really wanted to get to the top of that mountain too, I imagined the glorious view from up there, and I was all set to climb. There was just one problem, I couldn't simply fly upwards from where I was. There was no cable car express to the top.
For months, maybe even a year or more, I tried to figure out why I wasn't really progressing. Why couldn't I just go up! Finally it occurred to me. If I want to climb that big mountain, then the first thing I have to do is come down from my own. Go all the way back to the ground, seemingly giving up all the ground I had gained and starting from scratch. Ugh! But, what choice did I have. And so I did. I just shut up and listened and went from the ground up.
Then, years later I was still climbing that mountain with my heart set on the top, when I looked back I saw that old mountain, which now looks like an ant-hill. Yeah, I felt pretty good. Suddenly a voice comes from far away in my subconscious and asks me, "what are you doing?".
"Climbing the mountain", I reply. Silence for a while.
"Well we aren't climbing that mountain any more Tony, we are on this new mountain now.....".
I turn and look up where the voice comes from, and there, previously shrouded by the mist is a taller and steeper and more impressive mountain than the one I am on.
"But.........", I look down. I look across, I look up "..I'm still climbing this one....", my voice trails off.
I already know that I have reached that point. The point where I have to decide, shall I keep fixated on the peak of this mountain? Or shall I embark on a new course now that it has been revealed to me, one that requires me first to descend from where I am.
I have learned that sometimes in order to reach new levels we have to throw away a good portion of what we think we know, what we think we want, and in the process even a part of ourselves. Not just once, but many times over. Sometimes we have to come down the mountain.