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The tidal bore wave roaring down the Amazon river was stuck in my head. Local tribes named the Pororoca – meaning ‘Great Thunder’ – because of the sound the wave makes. It can be heard 15 minutes before it comes into sight. Trees and other debris are swept along the river making it a threatening site. Alligators that frequent the water disappear as it approaches. Piranha scatter.
In the absence of a scientific explanation, local tribes fear the wave and have made up stories to explain its occurrence and fury. For surfers however, it is a mesmerising site. As the river narrows the surge of water condenses and picks up in height. As the bottom of the river becomes shallow it forms into a breaking wave that follows the contours of the river for miles and miles. For me, as each day past I preferred to use this as an escape from my life trauma. I researched the wave and tried to track down anyone that could give me information that could put me there. As with all endeavours, the louder and more persistent your knocking is, the more doors that open for you. Slowly, evidence started to surface that this was possible. Contacts materialised. An expedition organiser was found. Money was discussed and dates made. Due to the accuracy of measuring tidal movements and full moons, the exact date and time of the next wave was chosen. September 7th.

Four months to go.

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IMG_3405Pororoca Part 1
The world’s longest wave first made an impact on me in the form of a large screen in an Australian pub. Looking for a break from my struggle with depression and life problems I was standing in a bar surrounded by people 20 years younger than me. On a large screen was an aerial view of a surfer riding on a wave.
No eyebrows raised there.
Then the shot panned back and on either side of the wave were rolling green fields. The wave, with the surfer on it, kept going… and going… and going.
I stood, transfixed at the natural phenomena that I was seeing. You see as a surfer this is a dream come true. A wave that doesn’t stop. The discussion with the person next to me informed me that it was somewhere in South America. He had seen a documentary on the National Geographic Channel. His interest turned to matters of the other sex but I was transfixed. Somewhere deep inside of me I made a decision that would change the direction of my life for ever. One that would take me to the other side of the world and into one of the most remote places on the earth. An area where time stands still.
The longest wave in the world takes some time to get your head around. It rolls down the Amazon River only twice a year: once in March, and once in September. It is the result of the tidal flow of the largest river in the world when it meets the incoming tide of the ocean. Combined with a full moon, the moving bodies of water clash and form a tidal bore wave. Scientists call it a “hydraulic jump”. At this point, I had no idea it would help to put my problems into perspective.

Pororoca Part 2 Tomorrow.

The way to make a massive difference in someone’s life is to give them good advice and to show you care.
Here’s an example…
I was witness to a serious case of bullying last year. Actually it was more of a full blown assault than simple bullying really. As I was the witness I was standing in the Principal’s office with the main offender. He had been caught red-handed. I expected the principal to show him the consequence of such a serious breach of school rules. I expected a dose of old fashioned discipline. 

What happened next showed me the power of personal relationships. The Principal looked at the boy and said, “Has your mum had the baby yet?” (He knew the boy’s mother was expecting.) The answer was, ‘Yes – yesterday.’ 
The Principal’s next reply was classic. He said, “When you leave for home today, take some roses from the school garden for your Mum.” 
The boy nodded. 
He then said, “Now, tell me what happened.”
Call this compassion, call this a pattern break, call it what you like. It worked. The boys tough exterior melted and he told the truth.

The Dalai Lama was right.

Nothing beats compassion.

World Suicide Prevention Day today.

Posted: September 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

Some of you may know I am a speaker for Beyond Blue.
I registered as a speaker after a friend of mine died by suicide two years ago. I knew he was struggling with depression. I had talked to him about it. I had encouraged him to get help – which he did. He went on medication and changed his lifestyle. I thought he was in the clear even though he spoke of his continuing struggles.
I thought of calling him in the weeks before his suicide.
I got busy and life just got in the way.
It was just a phone call but I put it off.

These days you can plug your hands-free ear piece in and call when you are driving. Just to say Hi. That’s all it takes.

Who knows. It might just be the difference that is needed to get through one more day. And life hits us one day at a time.

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I think of him often. Usually at sunrise or sunset. Seems appropriate as heaven is within reach on these days.

So You Want To Become A Samurai?

Posted: August 13, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Are there simple things that the Samurai did, on a day to day basis, that forged a strong mental character? 
The answer is yes. 
It seems that the actions needed to show strength weren’t that different from today’s deeds.
Daidoji Yuzan was a Samurai who lived until the ripe old age of 92. Born in 1639, he travelled around Japan and, like many people today, found that the young Samurai of his day lacked the strength of constitution that the warrior class was famous for. He felt they needed direction in living. To correct this, he started a series of essays that still exists today. His writing formed the backbone of actions that warriors looked to for guidance in a life of service that ultimately could end in their own death in battle.

His advice includes:

  • Protect your health fully
  • Be moderate in desires for food and drink.
  • Give wide berth to matters of sex (he called sex the primary deluder of men)
  • Respect your parents.
  • Rise early.
  • Practice.
  • Speak little of prowess in ability.
  • Be prudent in finances and be disciplined in savings.
  • Take care of clothing and possessions.
  • Keep in mind the desire to perform at least once in life a great meritorious deed.

Yuzan rightly so, said that, “One can distinguish with no confusion the brave man from the coward, even in times of peace and tranquility”.  

So it seems your training starts now, whilst reading this.

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“Learning is to a man as the leaves and branches are to a tree, and it should be said that he simply should not be without it.” So said Takeda Shingen, one of Japan’s best known generals who lived in the 1500’s. At age 52 he was hit by a bullet and died, but not before his legacy of knowledge had been recorded for all those who wished to see what a life of warfare had taught.

So it seems that a warrior can steel himself for battle not only by hard physical training but also by improving his academic abilities. If this logic holds, we can therefore create a life that rewards us more by following the same path. We can create happiness more easily than by just ‘trying harder’ – as our well meaning friends and relatives urge. If we research and see how others have dealt with difficulty, we find the same thing. Not only does it transport us to a higher level, we actually feel less alone. We realise that others who have come before us have also struggled (sometimes more than we have.) Our pain becomes more palatable purely through comparison with the trauma of others.

The question now becomes where do we look for guidance?

If the Samurai looked to the victors of the past, so should we. We should look to those who have left a record of actions that created a fulfilling life. Surely someone else has met with similar difficulty and has triumphed through a series of actions that will allow us to experience similar results.

The Samurai knew that attention to detail on a daily basis would lead to victory in a range of activities. They would not miss their regular training as they knew that hardening their resolve in battle came through defeating common human weaknesses. They knew that each time they didn’t attend to trivial household duties left them with the knowledge that they had chipped away at their level of discipline.

‘A nine storey tower begins with the foundation’ is a saying accredited to the ancient Samurai. In this same way, our foundation of attention to seemingly little things is the foundation upon which we build a character strong enough to withstand anxiety, panic, despondency and depression.

Quite often this can be as simple as rising earlier than normal and getting organised. It can then be improved upon by a short period of reading every day. Reading for a small period of time every day will bring about more emotional intelligence than 10 hours of last minute research when confronted with psychological pain.

At that point, it is often too late.

Rising early

Why try?

Posted: July 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

I share this moment with you as it happened today.

It was a clear flashback of a moment in 1980. It was a decision I made that changed the direction of my life for the next 35 years. Today I revisited that moment as if it took place only yesterday.

Throughout the 70’s I was a small boy who had moved schools regularly due to my father changing jobs. As a result of being ‘the new kid’ I seemed to attract the attention of the local bully who usually didn’t physically abuse me but did much worse. He made me feel ineffective. As a result, I developed a burning desire to never feel that way again. To feel confident when threatened.

This feeling became second to my love of surfing. When immersed in the ocean, I felt a peace that didn’t seem possible on land. It was a deep contentment as if I had finally returned to a place that I had always belonged.

This feeling was always there and never dimmed.

So in 1980, in my late teens I found martial arts. At last, a way to create a sense of power over those who belittled me as a child. My instructor was a powerful, tattooed man who exuded power and confidence with every move. Although very different from me, it was his presence that I desired.

So I threw myself into training every night.

I remember one afternoon, I was in my special place, the Indian Ocean. It was nearing my favourite time – sunset. I was feeling at one with the ocean and realised that if I was to make it to training, I had to leave now. The hunger to improve myself nagged at me to the point that I knew some changes had to be made. I left the surf early and made it to the class on time.

35 years went by. My white belt turned black, I won full contact kickboxing state titles, created muscle bulk through weight training and, through self imposed hardship, created an ability to push myself past limits I thought I had. Any fear I had as a child had long since disappeared.

Just today, I stayed in the surf until after the sun had set. As I walked back in that euphoria that only a surfer knows, that moment in 1980 came back to me. A memory as clear as my last wave.

I remembered the decision I made that changed my life and smiled as I realised I had come full circle.

So, what does this teach me?

  • It teaches that pride can only be achieved if a person throws themselves fully into an endeavour. Whether you are successful is not as important as the commitment to see it through.
  • It teaches me that a journey that is incomplete is as good as one you never started. So keep going.
  • It teaches me that regardless of an outcome, if you hang in there, it’s all good. It’s worth it in the long run.
  • Going off track by chasing different dreams is ok. Just don’t chase too many.
  • Knowing which dreams to chase is key. It’s something no one can teach you. You have to work it out yourself. But that is where the reward is.
  • When it’s all said and done, being proud of your effort is all that matters.

As they say in Australia, “Give it a red hot crack”

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Justin is 54. When he was 12 years of age he started competitive swimming. This lasted throughout his teens. Five days a week, up at 5 AM to do an hour in the pool.

You remember those kids. Wet hair at school at 8:30am.

When Justin’s competitive years finished in his late teens he kept up the early morning ritual. He still does it today.

He says that the early morning ritual sets him up physically and mentally for the rest of the day.

The point is not that swimming is the answer. The point is that the ritual is the answer.

A Ritual Gives You Perspective.

Ever notice that you can see things clearly when you are distant from them? Holidays in remote locations give us the clarity that is absent when we are in the thick of things. Early morning rituals provide a snapshot and the same result.

But perspective of what? It is sometimes called a helicopter to the ceiling. It means separating yourself from your day to day life and stepping back.

Leadership

Psycho hygiene.

Victor Frankl, author of  “Man’s Search For Meaning” talks about psycho hygiene. As author of one of the most interesting books around which is an account of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl coins the term psycho hygiene. As we all know, physical hygiene means small things done on a daily basis to contribute to glowing health. Psycho hygiene would therefore mean the same thing. Small things done on a regular basis that contribute to good mental health. A good routine every morning is one of the many things that contribute to solid mental health.

Mine is simple. Meditation, Goal writing in a journal and 15 minutes on a personal project. (The actual project isn’t important)

That’s it.

Simple and effective.

Keeps me balanced and happy.

The number of people who blame their childhood on their problems is huge. They say, “If I had a better start in life I wouldn’t have all these problems”. Well, every day you get a fresh start but it isn’t that easy. Our childhood trauma lingers in the form of memories that trigger the original feelings that we experienced. 
Read the rest of this entry »

In writing a book on Depression I have been comparing ancient wisdom – that of Buddhism, Bushido and Red Indian philosophy, with current wisdom from the last 100 years. The following section, compares the quest for happiness (Freud) with the search for meaning (Frankl). At this point, I turn the draft over to you for feedback. Sometimes the best ideas are yours as they rebound back at you. Please use the comment bar below to offer your response. Read the rest of this entry »