How A Bully Vowed To Never Fight Again

Essential to our long term happiness,  how to use River Effort to  awaken our innate, universal drive to care for ourselves and each other.

by Sensei Doug Diamond/Youth Program Director

I have a son in kindergarten, and last week I had the opportunity to sit and speak with his class for 20 minutes. Our discussion centered around River Effort which is a term we use at Life Ki-do meaning a self-identified and self-maintained state of feeling good about who you are and what you are doing by focusing on the quality of what you are putting into this moment, rather than trying to get the sense of how we are doing and who we are from others. What I learned from these 5 and 6 year olds reaffirmed to me the transformative and empowering experience of feeling our own highest effort.

At the end of our interactive discussion about River Effort, we used a few simple Qigong breathing and movement exercises to see if we could create an experience of River Effort that the kids could all feel and identify. I was moved by the deep focus and commitment to this experiment that I saw invested by each and every child. It seemed to be their nature to move their bodies with a lucid, luminous awareness of themselves and everything around them. My son’s teacher also participated fully in our work and was visibly changed from it.

After attempting to feel our breath move into various parts of our body, we all held hands and tried to share the feeling of inhaling and exhaling with the people next to us, and finally with the whole circle. It took a few breaths, but on one group inhale in which I simply asked the group to attempt to inflate the entire circle of people, the group of kids and adults spontaneously and fluidly rose to their feet in unison, every hand and every mind helping another with strength and grace.

It was a beautiful surprise for me to witness, and the look of excitement and understanding on the young faces is one that I can still see clearly. “I get it, I can feel it!” was one of the exclamations that I heard from the group at that moment. I was inspired to ask for more feedback from these wise young people, and I heard so many descriptions of true inner strength and well being that I cannot list them all. “I felt calm,” “I felt happy,” “I felt strong and comfortable,” were a few.

One boy’s comment stuck with me in particular, since on a previous lunch visit with their class this boy had courageously admitted to me that he had just punched a child on the playground because he was so mad that he couldn’t control himself. When I asked how they were feeling after helping each other with River Effort, the same boy rose his hand and said (with the profound simplicity only a child can summon), “I feel like I never want to fight again.” Unprompted and unsolicited! Why did he say that he felt like he never wanted to fight again? I believe it was very simply because this sweet young boy, who at this point in his life is having a real challenge with his self control, for a brief moment experienced the strength inside to be who he really knows he is.

What we call River Effort is an integrated experience of ourselves that empowers our highest capacities for focus, ability, and perseverance. Maybe even more essential to our long term happiness, the young boy in my son’s class reminded me that River Effort also awakens our innate, universal drive to care for ourselves and each other.

With courage.

With care.

The Life Ki-do Way.