The Ancient Samurai’s Method of Alleviating Stress

By John Teng

To be clear from the start, I am not a military veteran and I am also not a medical doctor. But what I want to share you in this article was nothing less than life changing for me. Several summers ago I entered my two oldest children in a promotional karate class for the summer. The parents would wait in the lobby while a group of children shared a group lesson. One day while waiting outside in the karate school’s lobby I picked up a Black Belt Magazine and read an article about a man named Rudy Reyes. Rudy was a Marine Force Recon combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and he was being interviewed about his views on using martial arts to deal with the high levels of stress that he was dealing with over the course of multiple combat deployments. Rudy started his remark by referring to the ancient Samurai warrior culture. Rudy said that in the approximately 300 years that the Samurai culture flourished, there were no written accounts of the Samurai suffering
from similar forms of combat related stress. Besides his remarkable military career, Rudy Reyes is also a champion martial artist. And in Rudy’s opinion, the Samurai used Zen meditation, and the more “feminine” endeavors of calligraphy, painting, flower arranging, and the tea ceremony “to balance out the blood, and the gore, and the guts, the life and death, and the loss, and the rage that one feels on the battlefield.”

The moment I read that I had an idea. No, I wasn’t a soldier and I did not suffer from the high levels of stress that comes from war fighting, but I did live a very stressful life in many other ways, and those stressors do get the best of me sometimes. So it was right there and then after reading Rudy’s article that I decided if “feminine” flower arranging was good enough for the ancient Samurai, to settle their minds and spirits despite the violent lifestyle that they lived, then it was good enough for John Teng, too!

So for the last four years, I have been slowly and steadily arranging flowers around my house in the form of landscape architecture. Little by little, I had brought in 25 dump trucks carrying a total of about 200 tons of soil and mulch to fill in around the outside of the house as part of my elaborate celebration to the Samurai culture. And in doing so I found a peaceful place to settle my mind of stresses and worries that fill my mind.

I can’t even begin to imagine how horrible it must feel to be for a veteran to fight in a combat situation, and then to suffer with the traumatic effects thereafter. But what I do know is that my own level of stress greatly diminishes when I go outside and put my hands in the dirt and tending to my flowers. So many good ideas have come to me while I am just out in the fresh air taking care of my garden; spending the money to build my “flower sanctuary” has truly been a worthwhile investment in my mental wellbeing. If you too, are feeling like the stress levels in your own life are getting too uncomfortable, then I encourage you to also get your hands dirty and build your own little peaceful Samurai retreat!

Here is a link to the Black Belt interview with Rudy Reyes: http://bcove.me/oyorbzlc

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