It surprised me that the old woman, wearing a kabaya, Balinese ceremonial clothing, her top a lacy purple version, asked me for help. And in Indonesia. My friend Scotty and I were walking my puppy, and had just got to the end of our favorite rice field walk and were pausing to soak some sun before returning.

She explained that the fronds was taking back for the ceremony wouldn’t stay put. She’d tied them on to the back of her rickety motor bike, though between them and the basket with ceremony rice, holy water and sweets for the God, each time she started driving, it fell sideways.

Scotty, Mr. Adventure and outdoor, survival specialist was the perfect guy to secure the package, and she was off quickly with thanks.

“Thank you,’ ya, she said to me as she started on her way astride the bike. She was looking a bit rickety, and about to come to a narrow pass between field and another parked motor bike. I instinctively said out loud a common Balinese parting comment ‘hati hati.’

It means be careful. Ironically hati, which technically means liver, though metaphorically means heart, when said twice – ‘hati hati’ – becomes ‘be careful.

I followed it quickly with Nikmati, which means enjoy. Scotty asked me the meaning of Nikmati just as I smiled at the surprise of the rhyme. I smiled a bit more, then, as it took me back more than 20 years in time.

One John frequently dug his chin into my ribs when he held me down. It was judo practice and I was his student.

The other John would give me time to attack during randori, free practice. We’d already have our grips, our feet sliding back and forth, forward and back, a little dance-like, and he’d wait to throw me until I’d tried to throw him a few times.

They both liked me and were genuinely motivated to help me grow. As a judoka and as a young man. I was in my mid twenties and they must have been in their 40s, both with wives and children.

The day I left the dojo for the last time, moving from Western Massachusetts – the Northampton Judo club was in xxx, just next to Northampton town itself, housed in an old coffin factory – both John’s stood in their gis and said goodbye to me.

They were both very good judo players, having trained together under Sensei Kano, a notorious judoka who would still sometimes show up to the club and before we even got changed into our gis he would tell us we had to drink sake with him.

He was famous for standing on the mat when his students walked into the club in street clothes and immediately tell them to randori with him. When they protested that they needed to change and warm up first, he would smilingly mock them ‘if someone attacks you on the street, are you going to tell them to wait while you get warmed up?’

Both Johns stood with the solid feet evenness of those practiced in martial arts, facing me evenly. Side by side, hands on their black belts, their gis still on. I was leaving early that night.

John Lally was the ‘second in command’ of the club. I didn’t know the stories, though the rumor was that the two had grown up in their judo world like brothers, competing together and against each other. That they had been an ass-kicking team in the region, and somewhere along the line John Demo had emerged as top dog. He was at the end of the line when we bowed in before and after class.

Lally smiled his kind, round smile, shook my hand (we didn’t hug in those days). His parting words were ‘be careful.’

Demo, shook my hand too, his silver hair twinkling with the flash of his teeth. ‘Have fun.’

I’ve thought of them and that moment many times over the ensuing years. My training soon grew away from judo, into yoga, and much more into the far more challenging realm of emotion and spirit. Their advice, and specifically the combination of the two suggestions, the order or them and the priority we might hold between them, continues to guide me in my own life and in how I share with clients and students.

Both are necessary.

Full of care, which might also be called a reverence for life, can be an incredible devotion, can be massively useful for those of us dedicated to living a radiant life.

On its own, it can also imply or become distorted to living from fear.

Fear, incidentally, is something that serves us well. Or can. And not something to be rid of. I’m emphatic on this point. I say steer clear of any imperative, brand or statement, that suggests ‘fearlessness’ is the way to go.

Bravery is where it’s at in my book. Not the absence of fear, the willingness to act in the presence of fear.

And what of Demo’s injunction to me? Some would hear ‘enjoy’ as selfish, self-serving or even hedonistic. Some would call it arrogant or inconsiderate. I call it the wise and pithy balance, to the caring gift of Lally.

Life, like judo, exists at neither one pole or the other. It’s in between. It’s balance.

Enjoyment on its own might indeed come at the expense of others. Being careful alone could lead to a fear based contraction that shrinks the one who is careful, and all those around him.

As I set off for a rafting trip with my daughter this am, my advice to myself, and to her is both. Hati hati, nikmati. I wish you the same.

Author's Bio: 

Daniel Aaron - spiritual teacher, coach, astrologer, yogi, father and author of the forthcoming book Spiritual Leadership, has dedicated his life to understanding the human patterns that create suffering and how to change them. Through his online membership, seminars, retreats and 1-1 private coaching, he has led thousands of people to live brighter, more fulfilled lives. He teaches at Omega and Esalen Institutes, founded the internationally recognized Radiantly Alive center in Bali and resides on Maui ( (816) 372-8088.