We all need people who inspire us. We observe specific qualities in certain people that help make us want to be better in some way. We may try to emulate those qualities that agree with our thoughts of what is good, or right, accepted, or we just think are “cool”. There may be someone that helps us to think better thoughts, be more giving, more grateful, or simply inspire us to try harder in our day to day life. We may see that person as somehow better than us. We may believe they are somehow more capable than we are. This is a load of you know what.
Let me tell you a little secret: there are no heroes. There is no one better than or less than anyone else. Each of us is a spark of the same divine energy. Each of us is capable of doing or being virtually anything that we truly believe is possible. And, each of us is, or certainly can be, an inspiration for others. There are no heroes? Actually, we are all heroes.
As a teacher, I must be the best student. And I must always keep in mind that those that came before me are the ones who have allowed me to do what I do. I was inspired to follow their lead and through it I found my own path. I’m just a conduit that the information is currently passing through. We are all responsible for what is experienced by those who come after us. How we see it, how we respect it, how we appreciate it will all greatly effect future generations.
How you practice determines what you get and what you learn. You are each an example for countless others. There will always be a new person at one time or another who looks at you, and relates to you, and then believes they can do it too, because of you. You help make others accomplish more just by being you.
People are greatly effected by their environment. Are you a positive or negative influence in the environment of those who know you?
We all need seniors to help guide us on the path. What you need to do and when you need to do it is something that only those who’ve already experienced it can help you with. It is not intellectual knowledge. It will not be nearly as powerful if it is simply from memory. Just as food must be chewed and digested in order to nourish you, the practice must be experienced through personal effort over time. Then it will be there for you when you need it most—when you face your greatest challenges. You can’t fake it.
We all feed off each other. Juniors can also inspire seniors. We all get lazy at times and sometimes we forget how important consistency is. When things are going good and you feel strong and positive, it is easy to forget what got you there. It works so well that you stop doing it. Be contagious with effort in life.
When a fellow student seems to be making more progress than you, jealousy gets you nowhere. Use them to inspire your own practice. Not so that you can keep up. Never compare with others, only yourself over time—from one year to the next. We all have different abilities and responsibilities. Smile when you see others doing well. Get inspired. Get challenged to do a little more but accept yourself for what you can, and are willing, to do.
The environment here must be one of support for each other. Everyone plays a part. When working together rather than independently we can all grow exponentially. Consider this: before Henry Ford came along a car took two to three weeks to produce. Ford had the idea of each worker having a specific job in the assembly line of a car and the result was that he was able to produce a car in a matter of just 90 minutes! This is a wonderful example of how a community effort can have phenomenal results. Working together, anything is possible.
All you need is a little culture added to milk to make kefir (a liquid yogurt) and keep it going from batch to batch indefinitely. Every proper salute, every acknowledgement of gratitude, every straight line you help make, every time you take it upon yourself to wipe a smudge off the mirror, pick up something out of place or dry up a wet spot on the floor—taking responsibility for your dojang—every time you try as hard as you can and show you’re fully engaged in the moment—in the practice, you grow and you inspire others to follow you and do the same. That is the power of school culture. Then take it with you into your day-to-day life positively effecting the world around you.
Taking responsibility for our world
In nature, all things are related and have their place. For example, although we continue our “war on germs” we cannot survive without microbes. A sterile world is not possible if it is to also sustain life. The use of antibiotics doesn’t magically destroy only the bacteria that are leading to various symptoms of illness, all bacteria are negatively affected and so our health is further compromised. Antibiotic soaps and detergents contain chemicals that are poison to life and are then flushed down the drain and into our fragile environment.
Louis Pasteur, the father of the germ theory of disease, is said to have stated from his death bed, “the microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything.” And Charles Darwin, the recognized father of the theory of evolution and “survival of the fittest”, conceded at the end of his life that his theory had shortchanged the role of the environment.
Two prominent figures in our modern way of thinking and doing things, yet we missed both of their most profound realizations of their own work — environmental effects.
We may forget, but although we have found many ways to shelter ourselves from the environment, our food, water and air must come from the natural world. How bad are these microbe-destroying chemicals? Take a moment to notice the effect on your eyes and skin after swimming in chlorinated water.
Our Ba Gua Zhang is a real traditional old-school martial art derived and based upon the observation of natural laws. In taking our dojang experience into the everyday world, we must learn to better live within our environment rather than shelter ourselves so far from it that we lose touch. We are an extension of our environment. Our very lives depend on it. We must learn to consider seven generations ahead when making any decision, as the Native Americans did.
Water tells it like it is
Spectacular crystals form in water when it is shown the words, “Love” and “Gratitude”. When words such as “Hate” or “War” are used, water molecules actually appear sick.
“Water has a memory and carries within it our thoughts and prayers. As you yourself are water, no matter where you are, your prayers will be carried to the rest of the world.” This was written on the inside flap of the book, “The Secret Life of Water” by Masaru Emoto. He also states, “The thoughts in our hearts have an impact on all life and in the creation of our world tomorrow.”
Experiments done by one Cleve Backster back in the 1960’s, discussed in “The Secret Life of Plants” by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, revealed a plant’s ability to connect and respond to the feelings, thoughts and emotions of their caretakers even at great distances of hundreds of miles.
With plants attached to galvanometers, Backster was able to see that plants react to even the intention of harm or distress of any kind: When he simply intended to burn a leaf; when a dog entered the room; when a person did not wish them well; when a spider in the room was reacting to a human trying to limit its movement; his various reactions during his trip to Times Square on New Year’s Eve—even though the plant was at home miles away (he used a notebook and stopwatch where he noted exactly what and when he was experiencing something in the crowd); He even realized he was upsetting the plants when a preservative in the jam he was using was killing the culture in his yogurt!
In his experiments, Backster was even able to show that plants can remember and identify a guilty party! After having witnessed a man, chosen randomly out of six volunteers, proceed to “root up, stamp on and thoroughly destroy one of two plants in a room. The criminal was to commit the crime in secret; neither Backster not any of the other students was to know his identity; only the second plant was to be a witness.” This second plant showed no reaction when the other five students approached it, but when the one who destroyed the other plant approached the meter went wild!
By learning this we should begin to know that treating someone else poorly has negative affects on your own well-being. Even having poor thoughts about a house plant can have detrimental affects on the life of that plant. Good positive thoughts will benefit everyone around you.
Anyone and everyone you come in contact with is touched by you one way or another. The energy you put out is felt by others and has some influence. Stressed-out people create stressed-out environments. Calm people create calm environments. But what happens when they cross paths? Well, I would say the one who is more versed in handling adversity and remaining calm within a storm will ultimately win out. The goal is learn how to get back in balance more and more efficiently. Just as water can put out a fire, the calm and centered can help bring the stressed-out down from the ledge.
Now maybe you can see that once you become aware of your part in the grand scheme of things you may realize how much you really can do to change the world one person at a time. Your practice makes you healthier, stronger, more clear-minded and resilient. You are better prepared to handle any situation in your life. Knowing this can in itself become your inspiration.
Once you know the truth you realize that you are responsible. It is you who can make a difference. It is you who can bring others up instead of down. And because of your newly expanded awareness, you can choose moment by moment how you respond to and within any given situation. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” It is up to you. Once you know these things you become responsible.
It takes the whole school environment to teach real martial arts. Everyone must take the practice serious enough – take responsibility for the environment and therefore the future of the art. A strong culture is made by everyone. Each of us protects the practice and the place. If we each do our part we all get more out of it. Whoever is leading you in class, your practice and the environment here must not skip a beat. That is what is being passed down to future generations.
Do your part to spread the art
The practice of real martial arts should flourish. With so much suffering in the world we all need to do what it takes to make our lives better.
We are all responsible for the world we live in. Do you know anyone who wouldn’t like to be healthier, stronger, more flexible, more confident, better able to focus, more disciplined, stronger willed, better at handling adversity, less stressed and enjoying the peace that comes from knowing who they really are? Ah, but there’s consistent work to be done over time in order to enjoy all that comes from the practice and that’s where the ball is usually dropped. That is why true Kung Fu (achievement through effort over time) is so rare — but you can make a difference.
My Shifu, Master Bok Nam Park, brought this rare Chinese martial art to the United States from his home in Inchon, Korea. He left all that he knew; his family, his friends, his language, and his culture, believing that this is the best place to spread something so valuable and beneficial for all who practice it. The greatest gift you can give back to the art is your own consistent effort over time and your willingness to share the art with those you know. What more can you do as a student than to do the work on your self, be an example of the benefits (which is automatic if you’re doing the work), and to help this art grow and spread. When you share with family, friends and co-workers what you are experiencing here and what you are learning about yourself through the practice, you too become a conduit that the knowledge of old is passing through. You then begin to change lives. Every year our dojang should grow. Every year the Ch’iang Shan Ba Gua Zhang Summer Camp should be bigger than the year before reflecting this overall growth. Would that be inspiring?
Most of the world still thinks that martial arts is about tournaments, trophies, black belts, egos and violence. Is that what you expected to find? Unfortunately, in many schools, it is probably accurate. Who do you think is best suited to change that perception?
As real students of this art, we are all responsible for its future. Do tell others. In today’s world, we cannot afford to keep it a secret.
People want to know what they can do to live a better life, and few ever consider that real martial arts, which includes the deeper philosophical teachings, is a very effective way. Imagine if more people in your life were getting the same message and working on understanding themselves and therefore more conscious of others. Imagine more people taking responsibility for their lives and their ways. What might that be like?
Originally Published in the Fall, 2006 as “All Together Now””