Alone, being truly alone, not lonely in an emotional sense. How often do we find ourselves alone with no one around, in a place where there are no distractions aside from thoughts?
Most of us do not like being alone and steer away from it. I am not speaking of being alone at home or in the street; there we are still surrounded by everyday distractions of life: t.v., newspapers, telephones and more.
What then, is the meaning of being alone?
It is much like other things that we carry out: first and foremost, it is a physical practice, something that is done with the body, not on an emotional level.
Being in a place that is cut off from people, a distant place to which you don’t take any objects that might deflect attention such as a book, a newspaper or friends. What is left then are many thoughts, those that tail us and deal with simple everyday life: work, friends, and family. Then there are those that allow us to look deeper, to wonder about things that we don’t usually think about since we are busy with a million other things.
In the beginning it might be upsetting to face the thoughts that arise in such a situation. However, with time I’ve learned that things aren’t so bad, after all, there’s no one who watches neither laughter nor tears, there’s no one to judge.
If you cannot go to a distant place to be alone, the physical aspect can always be reproduced in small doses, perhaps even in a dark room. If possible, it is better to get out of the house to an open field or to a place that is far away from distraction, and then do nothing but pay attention. It might be overwhelming and confusing, but in time things start making sense.
The practice is physical. Many times, when thoughts are confusing, we don’t have to think but rather listen, listen to familiar sounds: a car, a bird singing. Then we can relax, close our eyes and eventually listen to the inside sound, to our breathing, to ourselvesâ€¦
In the 1980’s “Enter the Ninja” The movie, hit the big screens (starring Franco Nero and directed by the great Menahem Golan).
Back then, when there were fewer entertainment options, people were influenced by the movie and the sequels that followed. A new fighter had emerged, a Bruce Lee alternative.
I used to practice Karate, and walked around carrying a Shuriken I hacked from my mother’s blender knife. I was climbing trees, building camps and making weapons like: wooden catapults, a device that shoots darts out of an antenna pipe, a stick that shoots rubber bands or a fork turned into a stabbing device – these were common in the neighborhood where I grew up. Training and fighting with the kids in the adjacent neighborhood were part of everyday life and I was ready for anything, or so I thought.
Seriousness began after I was eighteen. When I enlisted, I stopped practicing Karate and looked for a way to continue training since my old dojo had closed. One Friday as I walked around Tel Aviv I was enlightened when I saw an ad that read: “Come train in the Ninjas’ martial arts.
I went to class with my brother. We saw about twenty people there and stepped on to the mat. The instructor introduced himself and asked that we call him by his name and not use any title. The lesson began with a sentence in Japanese, that I didn’t understand, some strange clapping of hands and a bow. And then it began: a really unbelievably hard warm-up of almost forty minutes of push-ups, sit-ups and what have you, some fast exercises, blocks and kiai. That’s how I remember it to this day, still slightly foggy I guess.
I went home with my body in pain and the experience repeated itself every Tuesday. My brother quit after a month and a half. I continued because at some point we began sparring which was the highlight of the training session. It was much tougher than anything I experienced before, but it was fun to come home with an aching body, scratches and black marks, noticing that my body is still in one piece, but still feeling great.
Today I’m on the other side – I am a Ninjutsu instructor. It took me sixteen years to understand the difference between dreams and patience.
Let’s just say that today it is less important, life is not a movie, you cannot set off a smoke bomb and disappear every time something doesn’t work out for you in life, you have to work and invest time every day in order to do something.
These days, every child watches Friday morning TV, and then comes to practice thinking that within a week they would be the best Ninja in the world. I look at them, and in their eyes I can still see they don’t understand walking the path, they just dream of reaching the goal. But I am at ease; these are the Ninjas of the next generation.