The very things that we do to try to get rid of problems often make them worse.
While an admittedly extreme practice that I would not recommend to most, years ago I was exploring the way of Shugendo, a traditional Japanese discipline of seeking enlightenment through nature (see Chapter 8). It taught me a valuable lesson for dealing with challenges, and helped me understand the importance of moving into unpleasant feelings rather than avoiding them, in a very memorable way.
I was very excited when my friend and mentor Don Myochiriki Siclari told me he would be able to meet with me for waterfall training in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Don had trained in that area with a traditional Japanese teacher for years.
We drove into the area as evening began to fall. At first glance, the waterfall didn't look like much, but as we approached it, I saw that it was much larger than it had first appeared. Peering down from a cliff, I could see that a vast amount of water was flowing through this waterfall, which had been carving away solid rock over the centuries. A curtain of water spread perhaps 30 feet wide, and the waterfall itself was about 20 feet high. We made our way down a dark, rocky trail with flashlights in hand. There was no easy way to reach the waterfall directly, so we would have to go downstream in order to swim and climb our way toward the ...