One City

One City

Sometimes You Find Enlightenment by Punching People in the Face


This week I’m curating a guest post from Jonathan Mead, a friend who inspires by living life on his own terms and sharing what he can with others.  To quote from Jonathan’s own site, Illuminated Mind: “The reason for everything: To create a revolution based on authentic action. A social movement of people liberating themselves through living on their own terms.”  

While this may sound like a recipe for narcissistic individualism in the hands of the wrong guy, it can also be a pretty accurate description of mindful living when combined with the essence of compassion and an understanding of interdependence. Fortunately Jonathan has based his own life and what he offers to others on a well-grounded mindfulness practice.  Between Illuminated Mind and his free eBook The Zero Hour Workweek, Jonathan offers insights from his own experience that can cut through the fog of your day like a lighthouse beacon. It’s good, authentic lifestuff. – Jerry Kolber



by Jonathan Mead

Could it be possible to find enlightenment by punching people in the
face? How about while sitting on the toilet, or staring at peeling
paint on an old wooden fence?

The formal practice for mind-training begins on the meditation cushion. Nothing can or should (in my opinion) replace that. Just sitting is about as potent of a spiritual practice as it gets.

But then there are those other 23 and half hours in the day. What do you do with those?

After all, it doesn’t matter much if you’re calm as a Hindu cow while you’re thinking the thought of no thought, but you’re as mad as a box of frogs while you’re not.


In order to live effectively, we have to move our training beyond
the cushion and into our relationships, our work, and our habits. We
refer to these as mindfulness practices, and some of the well-cited
possibilities can be eating, walking, or standing in line at the
grocery store. But there are some less obvious opportunities for
cultivating conscious awareness.

One such opportunity I’ve found is punching people in the face.

It’s easy to label something like martial arts as a chauvinistic,
violent, or ego-driven pursuit. To be honest, the reason I first became
interested in martial arts was almost purely rooted in an ego-based
interest. I thought it was cool. I thought it was “manly.” I thought it
would make me a badass.


I still think some of those things are true. But practicing Jeet
Kune Do (the martial arts system I practice, also known as JKD) has
become much more than just a surface-level endeavor.

I now see my practice as an activity of self development. It’s an
opportunity to practice mindfulness. It allows me to practice humility,
focus, and kindness. Yes, even that.

When I practice I get direct response feedback of how mindful or
unmindful I am. If I’m not practicing self kindness (going against
myself), my technique suffers. When I beat myself up for not being as
amazing as I think I should be, I see it manifest physically and
immediately. No delay, no lag time. I don’t have to wait for reality to buffer.


That’s what I love about JKD. There is no duplicity, no hiding. It is 100% unadulterated truth.

Transmuting pain

What I find particularly interesting is the irony behind it — that
an art rooted in violence can become a practice for liberation.

But, isn’t this true in most other cases as well? Isn’t our deepest
pain often an opportunity to connect more deeply with joy? Negativity
and falsehood is a practice for realizing positivity and truth. By
moving through it, and facing it directly, we can grow.

Whatever art you choose to pursue, you can transform it into a way
of liberation. Maybe that’s writing, maybe it’s break-dancing, or maybe
it’s Jeet Kune Do.


Finding a physically mindful practice is a way for you to take your
training into visible, corporeal realm. The more you work at your art,
the more you’ll start noticing the tangible results of your
mindfulness. When you are present, kind, and compassionate, you will be
rewarded. When you are not, it will be apparent.

I’ve found that I can turn most anything into a practice of self
development. The way I train physically is just one expression of this

Nothing makes up for the formal practice of sitting on your ass, but I think there are many other way we can practice living consciously.

Punching people in the face just happens to be my preference.

I guess sometimes liberation can often be found in the most unexpected of places.

For more, check out Jonathan’s free e-book The Zero Hour Workweek.

Comments read comments(20)
post a comment

posted January 27, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Jonathan –
Well said. Liberation can certainly be found in the most unlikely of places. Viktor Frankl and Nelson Mandela are good examples. Your martial arts practice is helping you, which isn’t surprising. When you’re forced to be in the present moment you can accept reality for what it is. You can see the emptiness and the potential for creation from that emptiness.
I like this:
“When you are present, kind, and compassionate, you will be rewarded. When you are not, it will be apparent.”
It reminds me of Conan O’Brien’s recent ‘going away’ speech at the Tonight Show.
“If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien

report abuse


posted January 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I’m a long time martial arts practitioner of a traditional Japanese karate, Seido, which means Sincere Way. Our grand master considers the style to be the art of self development. And there is truly no more mindful present moment than connecting with a punch, whether you’re the one throwing it or receiving it.

report abuse


posted January 27, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I was kinda’ hopin’ the guy was getting enlightenment through active engagement with the moment, as experienced through bar brawls…Now THAT would be a unique perspective…
Martial arts are a GREAT way to learn about balance and being centered…You don’t want to lean forward to meet your opponent…You could fall flat on your face…You don’t wanna’ lean back when your opponent approaches, you could fall backwards..The same applies to meeting people…Don’t be too eager and needy..Conversely, don’t be too shy and retreating…Stay centered, and any contact you have will be genuine…
Now, getting enlightened by RECIEVING punches in the face…Ahhh, now THAT’S a sign that you’re on your path…

report abuse


posted January 27, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Every activity is fuel for practice. The martial arts have long been a path for awakening, with the associated benefits and dangers from such an approach.

report abuse

Jon Rubinstein

posted January 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Great post – I’ve been wondering how to reconcile my martial arts training and my practice. This makes a lot of sense. Mindfulness! However I do think I might have to give up watching UFC on tv. Great skill involved but it’s brutal stuff. Can’t be good for me. Thanks!!

report abuse


posted January 27, 2010 at 6:18 pm

It is certainly not enlightened of me, but I would like to punch most of the Republican members of Congress in the face right now.

report abuse

Jaysen Waller

posted January 28, 2010 at 12:10 am

i really enjoyed reading this article and think that it is a great reminder that our practice continues off the cushion, not just in our contemplation but in every action that follows. it kind of reminds me of when i went to church as a kid and they would remind us that it wasn’t just a “Sunday thing.” haha…true practice lives in every moment and so does the possibility of awareness and enlightenment.

report abuse

The Barking Unicorn, Denver, CO

posted January 28, 2010 at 6:44 am

While the benefits of mindfulness can, indeed, be realized by punching someone in the face, such martial art is still punching someone in the face. It is violence: unskillful, a defilement of the Precepts.
Try Cue-do, the “Way of the Pool Cue”. It is close kin to Kyu-do, the “Way of the Bow,” or Zen archery. In fact, the words are pronounced identically. Cue-do is even less violent than Kyu-do, for it does not involve piercing the target.
Above is a link to a recent blog post about the practice of non-striving written by the Zen Cueist, First Patriarch of Cue-do and my sibling Aspect of the Being who has existed always, without beginning.

report abuse

The Barking Unicorn, Denver, CO

posted January 28, 2010 at 6:46 am

Whoops. Captcha expired and refreshing the page wiped out the URL.

report abuse


posted January 28, 2010 at 7:53 pm

What? Like the enjoyment of a physical contact sport isn’t enough in itself? Like the natural energy of testosterone fueled adrenalin must be expunged into passivity and non-violence? Why? You think if you never had an angry thought, or never enjoyed watching men pitting themselves against each other in combat, or never wanted to feel really alive by doing it yourself, that then somehow you would be “enlightened”?
Do it, or don’t do it. But please, be satisfied that it is what it is. There is no value in denying any part of our humanity. The energy and aggression is biochemically driven. Anger is the emotion that tells us that activity is needed to make changes happen. There is no value in trying to expunge these things, it is wasted effort. Your effort is better employed in understanding them.
Don’t worry, you will become less driven by your male hormones as time takes it’s toll. Maybe then you will learn to accept your humanity, AS IT IS.

report abuse

Anan E. Maus

posted January 28, 2010 at 8:28 pm

The Gates of Paradise
A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin and asked: “Is there really a paradise and a hell?”
“Who are you?” inquired Hakuin.
“I am a samurai”, the warrior replied.
“You, a soldier!” sneered Hakuin, “What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? You look like a beggar”.
Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword.
Hakuin continued: “So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably to dull to cut off my head.”
Nobushige drew his sword.
Hakuin remarked: “Here open the gates of hell!”
At these words the samurai, perceiving the master’s discipline, put away his sword and bowed.
“Here open the gates of paradise”, said Hakuin.
From ‘Zen flesh, Zen bones’

report abuse

Your Name

posted January 28, 2010 at 8:42 pm

machoism comes from fear and insecurity.
Instead of finding a way to truly conquer fear and insecurity, machoism dives so deep into the ignorance that it convinces its adherent that the only true way is the exact opposite of the actual solution.
We don’t conquer fear by trying to conquer and dominate others.
We conquer fear by simply recognizing others as our friends and serving that.
Our demented ego may try to convince us that friendship is weakness. But that is purely the ravings of delusion. It is the whispers of the Devil trying to destroy us.
All the truly great warriors in history come to bemoan their actions. Whether it was King David, who, as a military commander was one of the best in history, or simply men like General Eisenhower, who, as a President spoke very harshly about what he termed “the military industrial complex.”
Don’t be deceived.
Violence is the road to destruction. It is not cathartic, it is not a path to freedom, it is only a path to feed the bottomless hunger of the ego. It never satisfies…it only deludes.
But, yes, letting go of violence does indeed take enormous discipline and enormous courage. But that is the work of real men and women…denying their lower animal self, accepting humiliation and through that humility rising into their true spiritual self.
Or not.
Or just accepted the path of least resistance, surrendering to violence and never rising above the most primitive aspect of human nature. There is no happiness there…never was, never will be.
Now, if you want an athletic challenge…sure, go see if you can break some records lifting weight or running marathons or such. Sure, there is great benefit in that kind of striving. But violence?
Every single black belt I have met has come to the same conclusion: there is that moment, in a bar, when someone says the wrong thing, when you’ve had too much to drink…and you realize that you are one tiny step of self-control away from committing a murder.
Every real martial artist has that experience. And no one in the martial arts community thinks that is fun. Then you start to re-think this whole “physical mastery of violence” thing. Then you start to realize that the mastery has to be spiritual…and you’ve just spent time years developing yourself into a constant loaded weapon that can go off at any time.
Not exactly what ya planned when you just wanted to beat up the neighborhood bully.
So, take a little advice from something lunatic enough to be absolutely fearless….it is a recipe for disaster.
If you want freedom, embrace your inner nerd, your inner geek and be content and happy. The road of the warrior is filled with self-hate once you fully realize what you have become.

report abuse

Victoria Vives

posted January 29, 2010 at 9:03 am

LOVE IT Jonathan! Pretty AWESOME!!!! You know that I agree :) V

report abuse

Your Name

posted January 30, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I am sure there is much wisdom to shared be here but Mr. Mead wastes a lot of paper should you choose to print his Ebook! Environmental Rapist! Peace and love but fact.

report abuse


posted January 30, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Despite all things contrary if you print this ebook it is 60 pages
that could easily be 20 or less. Environmental rape from a Buddhist?

report abuse


posted February 1, 2010 at 8:41 am

most forms of martial arts aikido shao lin gung fu wing chun (which is the base for jkd) teach that violence for the sake of violence is wrong but to take action when it is needed is good they also teach a spiritual side of the arts to hone and develop your spirit to create peace o sensei for one taught one of the deadliest arts but at a later time because of his discipline grew very much in tune with the world on a spiritual level

report abuse

Haiti pride

posted October 25, 2010 at 11:52 am

As i’m concern about my Haiti. After an Heavy natural disaster It’s become back dated. And bearing unmeasurable sufferings. Still now it’s facing crisis from all sides, created from the Earth Quake as well as by nature. But It’s time to change the day, So request all of you to come forward to make tha days ahead distinctly.
I think at this moment HAITI really needs help to be rebuild.Outgoing Haitian President René Préval has set the presidential elections for Nov. 28, 2010.
According to ma justification,
Haiti Election Candidate should be under consideration as a deserving personality,
who can supply the best support and leadership
Thank you.

report abuse

Richard Riley

posted December 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Been following Jonathan for a while now. I love his blog and his general attitude towards life. Loved this article as well! I can definitely relate about how martial arts can make you more mindful of your thoughts and actions and can make you more compassionate and patient. I’ve practiced martial arts for about 7 years and I’ve seen people starting out wanting to learn how to beat up people, but by the time they are black belts they hope they never have to use what they’ve learned on an individual. It’s funny how an art form can change your entire perspective.

report abuse


posted June 30, 2011 at 11:56 am

This was an enjoyable read, as I found it to be a literal punch in the face kind of read. I don’t ever want to be punched in the face, again, however. And, I imagine it must hurt as much to punch as to be punched. Humans have hard heads. Not so hard teeth, however.

report abuse


posted October 1, 2015 at 11:13 pm

Je vais sûrement mettre en signet et revenir à lire la suite de votre information utile. Merci pour l’article

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting One City. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Most Recent Buddhist Story By Beliefnet Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading! ...

posted 2:29:05pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Mixing technology and practice
There were many more good sessions at the Wisdom 2.0 conference this weekend. The intention of the organizers is to post videos. I'll let you know when. Here are some of my notes from a second panel. How do we use modern, social media ...

posted 3:54:40pm May. 02, 2010 | read full post »

Wisdom 2.0
If a zen master were sitting next to the chief technical officer of Twitter, what would they talk about? That sounds like a hypothetical overheared at a bar in San Francisco. But this weekend I saw the very thing at Soren Gordhamer's Wisdom 2.0 ...

posted 1:43:19pm May. 01, 2010 | read full post »

The Buddha at Work - "All we are is dust in the wind, dude."
"The only true wisdom consists of knowing that you know nothing." - Alex Winter, as Bill S. Preston, Esq. in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure"That's us, dude!" - Keanu Reeves, as Ted "Theodore" LoganWhoa! Excellent! I've had ...

posted 2:20:00pm Jan. 28, 2010 | read full post »

A Handful of Leaves (is free)
In our What are the Sutras? meditation and study classes at IDP-NYC, the free translations of early Suttas by Thanissaro Bhikkhu and others--available on Access to Insight--have been an invaluable resource. The site often provides ...

posted 4:06:07pm Jan. 26, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.