Other Activities

This section introduces some more activities which I am interested in and attempt to implement in my (daily) life. So far, they are non-professional and only part of my leisure time. However, I could imagine developing project ideas related to topics such as cold exposure, outdoors, or daily life training. If you have suggestions or own projects in the planning stage, let me know.

 

Meditation: There are plenty different ways and desired outcomes of meditation. During my trips in Asia, I practiced with a variety of teachers. Since communication was sometimes a challenge, I actually do not know exactly which types I have been introduced to. Personally, I am most interested in the effects at physiological levels and what is possible to influence in the body through the mind. Many of these effects are similar to what the scientifically respected 'bio feedback' is known to achieve. Obviously there must be a difference in magnitude of the effects between athletes or patients doing bio feedback for some weeks/months compared with experts in meditation practicing for years. The second (to me) most relevant aspect is the effect on the mind and personality in terms of theoretically living through situations or preparing oneself for situations. This is clearly a different method of meditation. Unfortunately, I did not manage to practice permanently since I started in 2009; sometimes more, sometimes less frequently. Currently, I just use it sometimes for relaxation and well-being.

 

Philosophy: First, I focused primarily on books addressing Far Eastern philosophies (mainly Taoism and Zen). Soon, I began to read only translated primary sources (original author) instead of secondary sources (other authors discussing the primary source) and I would highly recommend that to everyone for the following reason: Many phrases or whole paragraphs (especially from the Far East) are written in a way that they deliver multiple messages. How someone understands the text and to what conclusions the reader may come, should depend on the reader's mind. These will be the proper lessons for the reader's current state of mind, not the lessons another author would conclude and deliver.

I read classics like 'Tao Te Ching' or 'The Book of Five Rings' (simple and applicable, not only to swordsmanship) but my favourite book and author may be 'The Unfettered Mind', written by Takuan Sōhō. Later, I started reading more and more scriptures and letters from Greek and Roman philosophers, one of my favourites is Seneca because the reader can feel he was not only talking but really living his teachings to the bitter end.

During 2012-2015, I studied philosophy at the University of Salzburg but participated only in selected subjects of interest.

 

Cold Training: As a child I never was sensitive to cold (at psychological level at least). So I never was stopped easily because of feeling cold and I think I exposed myself more frequently to cold than others do. But since I recently heard about scientifically proven effects of cold showers and especially about the Wim Hof Method, I implemented a systematic cold training to my daily schedule. It includes one breathing exercise, cold exposure under certain conditions (e.g., try to suppress increase of muscle contraction, continue calm breathing, creating specific mind-set...), and instructions how (not) to warm up again afterwards. It is unbelievable how it can boost your energy level for the rest of the day. Besides, it can teach you to accept physical discomfort better, feel more comfortable outside your comfort zone, and to relax under physical stress.

 

Daily Life Training: If your work does not require you to be physical active you could think about making your daily life more challenging. One thing is you could add some exercises between your daily tasks. Another thing could be to adapt your routines in a way that they become physically more challenging. It does not take much time (you just may need a bit longer for some tasks because of increased difficulty) and it can make fun to experiment and play with movements. You can use only one arm/leg or adjust levers when standing up from a chair or lifting objects (challenging your strength), you can do things standing on one leg or just the toes (challenging your balance) or in stretching postures (challenging your agility). If you think such measures will not have a mentionable effect keep in mind that the difference in physical shape between an office worker and a street worker does not result from the street worker lifting heavy weights few times during work but from performing physical tasks hundreds of times throughout the whole day every day. The modern life comfort is what makes us weak, not the lack of condensed 1-2 hours training sessions 2-3 times per week.

 

Light Outdoors: The beauty of light outdoor activities is in the close connection to nature and in experiencing the simplicity of nature and human being. It taught me what we as humans need and through what unimposing events we can find satisfaction. But most importantly, it taught me that having more can be a burden and create pressure, having less can be relieving. It is not only about carrying things around which you might not need during the whole journey; it is about not worrying to maintain things you own and knowing that you do not need more than what you can manage to get by yourself. This makes you free in your actions and decisions. Sometimes I have periods where I enjoy and even need this absence of anything one may wish for but does not require. In my first own trip at the age of 20, I travelled mainly in the nature for two months with a tent. After this journey, I did several outdoor travels for 1-2 months always sleeping outside, never again with a tent because it is not needed (whether it was in the jungle in Vietnam or Panama or elsewhere). My backpack for two months outdoors weighs a total of 10kg (no hightech, superlight equipment).

 

Travelling: I travelled in five different Asian countries (six trips, total of eight months). The first trip was in Japan for two months, accompanied by a friend, at the age of 20. For both of us, it was the first big trip far away from home on our own. We travelled mainly through rural and natural areas and restored food at any occasion. Whenever we passed more civilised areas, I asked for martial art schools and joined class. During later journeys I also looked for and found meditation teachers and sometimes stayed in areas to practice frequently with particular martial arts or meditation masters. In reality of course, you do not find them in temples or in the mountains but in gyms, public parks or schools before dawn (/dusk) or even in a backyard workshop (happened once). I never travelled alone, twice I tried: Once a wild but very friendly dog joined and followed me until the end of the trip; once I met a new friend in the streets of Taiwan who spontaneously joined me for the rest of the trip which lasted another three weeks (we shared my very basic equipment for one person, always sleeping in the nature). He definitely shares and can handle my philosophy of light outdoors. Although he lives in Taiwan, we managed to travel together once per year for the last four years now.

Philip X. Fuchs         University of Salzburg, Schlossallee 49, 5400 Hallein, Austria         philip.fuchs@sbg.ac.at         +43 (0)680 2459 225