Monday, September 29, 2008

Finding Happiness

One needs to love oneself in order to love others. That is the foundation of happiness but how does one learn to love oneself? There really is some truth to faking it until it becomes real. I always tell everyone who has a poor self-image to make the effort every day to help others in need. Some need help with a door, someone always needs to get into traffic from a parking lot or to change into their lane, some could really use a kind word or a simple compliment, while others may only need a smile to brighten their day. The subtle rewards from helping others also slowly and subtly transforms the self-image of the helper in a positive way. The day will eventually come when the cumulative love from those who were helped becomes the love within and resurrects the love of self.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Lesson

A long time ago there were many children waiting outside the Shaolin Temple hoping to be chosen to learn the mysteries within. No one outside really knew what went on within the temple walls but many rumors persisted and stories were being spread amongst the public. On this particular morning, a child named Tai Gui had been sent by his parents in hope that he would be chosen. The gate finally opened up and the Masters came out to look over the eager children to see if any were worthy of their knowledge. One Master observed Tai Gui and decided to take him on as a student monk. Tai Gui was beside himself as he continually bowed to show his gratitude toward his new Master as he followed him into the great temple. He was immediately initiated into his new role beginning with the shaving of his head, was cleaned up, and sent to his Master to be taught the mystical fighting skills he had heard so much about. Upon arriving at his Master's quarters, he was soon to be tasked doing something far different than what he had expected. His Master took him out onto the grounds and instructed him to fill two buckets with water and then pour it into this large cauldron until it was full. He was then to slap the water out of this vessel with the palms of his hands alternating between left and right until the cauldron was empty. He was then to fill it again and do the same thing over and over. This went on for two whole years, all day, every day, nonstop. Now during this time, Tai Gui saw many other students learning strange and foreign fighting movements, exactly what he had so eagerly desired to learn, yet here he was endlessly carrying out this meaningless and frustrating task day in and day out. After two years, the students were allowed to go visit their families but Tai Gui felt humiliated at the thought of having to tell his family and friends what he had been doing. The others had so many great stories about the mysterious fighting techniques they were learning but what was he to say? Well, when he got home, the house was full of his family and friends all asking him what he had learned. They were so excited and eager to hear about his experiences. They were relentless out of their need to know but what could he say? He later found himself standing at a table, the kind of table they made back then out of very thick, hard wood, kind of like a butcher's table, when yet another question about what he had learned caused him to lose his temper. He angrily replyied," I have learned NOTHING!!!!!", as he violently came down with his right hand striking the top of the table. This thick, heavy, table instantly cracked, splintered, and fell into pieces right before their eyes! Everyone gasp in shock at what they had just seen, and were whispering, "the stories are true, they're really true!" as they looked at him in awe. Tai Gui looked down at the broken pieces of this strong, heavy table and in that moment, he understood that these last two years were far from meaningless but had made him powerful beyond his understanding. He returned to the temple a very changed young man knowing and feeling the enormous rewards from this task he had so despised. It had not been a complete waste of time!

Lessons come in many forms, in many different settings, and often seem silly and a waste of valuable time. Never make the mistake of passing on a powerful and immensely rewarding lesson because you think it has no merit or benefit. It just may be the most important lesson you will ever learn!


Note: This is a true story that was recounted on The History Channel several years ago. This was just one of several incredible stories recorded a long time ago at the Shaolin Temple in Henan Provence, China. Shaolin Buddhist Priests were men of peace who were highly educated in medicine, science, history, and the literary arts. They were also highly trained in many styles of martial arts such as Northern Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu, Southern White Crane, and possibly, Tai Chi Chuan. Man to man, there is absolutely no doubt to me that these humble priests were the most powerful warriors to ever walk this earth!

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Shaolin is a quiet, solitary art. Beyond acquiring inner peace and harmony, it requires absolute inner stillness and the ability to contemplate void without flinching in a total absorbtion of what-is in the moment. Without that, you cannot find center. Without center, you cannot find self. And without self, you cannot become selfless, entering the necessary state where egoism cannot meddle with intent.

Shaolin is not the art of an aggressor. Yet neither is it meek. Soft and hard, hard and soft - one motion, one movement, one moment.

Simultaneously gentle and merciless, Shaolin does not battle with an enemy.
It simply, cleanly and absolutely ends confrontation by any means necessary utilizing the most conservative, most effective action. Seem from afar, its movement can seem to an observer to be explosive, its result magical...and it is, yet the foundations remain rooted in only principle. Effective application can only come from principle.

Shaolin is not flamboyant. It is practical. The art of the peaceful warrior and scholar, it is the art of the farmer, the peasant - that is its roots, and those roots are ancient beyond measure.

To maintain integrity of self, yet never violate another - that is its perfect form and expression.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Power of Now

Life is so wonderful! In fact, I could not be happier if I was twins! Clearing my jungle one piece at a time, always aware of every beautiful creature or flower, feeling the cooling breeze on my face as I glimpse an audience of clouds gathering, I feel an immense joy emanating from my center and at the same time, humor erupts into laughter at the realization of how much happiness and contentment I am feeling clearing land with my weedeater. This is painfully hard work for me yet by being in the moment, that timeless zone that transcends the physical, that plane of existence so powerful yet serene, where doing becomes non-doing yet all is done, I realize the folly of complaining about the task at hand, the lamenting over the massive amount of work to do, the whining and cursing at the sweating heat, and the shear waste of energy spent outside the present where dogs and people chase their tails. Life is now and if you stop to think about it, life is gone!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Stonecutter

There was once a stonecutter, who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.

One day, he passed a wealthy merchant's house, and through the open gateway, saw many fine possessions and important visitors. "How powerful that merchant must be!" thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. "How powerful that official is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a high official!"

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. "How powerful the sun is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the sun!"

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. "How powerful that storm cloud is!" he though. "I wish that I could be a cloud!"

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that is was the wind. "How powerful it is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the wind!"

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it—a huge, towering stone. "How powerful that stone is!" he thought. I wish that I could be a stone!"

Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock, and felt himself being changed. "What could be more powerful than I, the stone?" he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.

- from "The Tao of Pooh"