Kung Fu Hell: cat on a hot tin roof

After nearly two months training Kung Fu, it feels more like hell than the road to paradise. It’s like the darkness took over and even though it is said that the night is darker just before the dawn breaks in, it feels like the light is light years away not to ever be seen again. From this place of hopelessness it is often hard to keep a clear vision, an open mindset and to stay grounded. It is not just one thing, it’s a thousand things from bugs, skin rashes, sore muscles, joint pains, body aches, uncomfortable baths of sweat, missing the sea (I’ll be dedicating it a post quite soon) to the true inner demons that are the seed to any of these battles. I had to invoke all the strength I had within me, even when all the odds seemed to be against the path.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the lessons I have to take from here:

1 – Non-Attachment

This is one of the most important lessons of all. In life we often try to attach ourselves to people or expectations or our thoughts on the way things should be and it is indeed those attachments that often make us go through hell when we find the gap between what we thought things were and what they actually are. When changes start happening in a place you thought it was in a certain way (or worse, when you thought it should be in a certain way) it is often hard to deal with it, especially when our expectations collide with reality. We try to hold on to these illusions only to carry a heavy unnecessary burden with ourselves or as Alan Watts described it:

“The point is only to know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that “I” and all other “things” now present will vanish, until this knowledge compels you to release them—to know it now as surely as if you had just fallen off the rim of the Grand Canyon. Indeed, you were kicked off the edge of a precipice when you were born, and it’s no help to cling to the rocks falling with you.”

I had a very interesting talk with a Buddhist colleague here (whom I’ll be interviewing in the upcoming weeks) and the conclusion was that the source of all our problems is rooted in the attachment we create with things. I guess this pretty much summarizes what could be called the secret to inner-peace. What still astonishes me is: if we know the principle, why do we keep going against it? Why can’t we just put it to practice?

I’ve been asking this to myself and I think it is due to fear and the need to control. This fake safe sensation we have from the attachments and the distractions they provide keeps feeding itself on and on.

2 – Compassion

Another thing that I’ve been learning about is to bring compassion to the table with every single step I take. When the people who should be role models are far from it (but then again, why should anyone but ourselves be our role model?) one may experience feelings of anger, sadness and, above all, delusion. When we loose the respect to those we should trust the most and rely upon, it is a very arduous job to keep going. But in the words of a wise colleague of mine we should take the best from each person and learn the art we are here to learn with them. Whether or not they may have to work on their teaching skills, it’s not the point. The point is: they are martial artists and we should focus on what we can really learn with these people as opposed to what they may be. Even though it clearly applies the “Look to what I say, not to what I do” principle and it is always hard to respect that, because actions speak louder than words, an effort must be made to focus on the message of the words and de-focus from anything else. Plus they may be going through whatever in their life and compassion is the key to address this from an understanding perspective and focus on the things that truly matter when interacting with these human beings. Maybe it can be a two way street and that compassion and love can inspire them somehow.

3 – Focus

Fear and self-doubt are part of the experience of being a human being. Whoever never felt these may throw the first rock!

As my mind struggled with some of the observations of the previous points, questions such as “What am I doing here?”, “Is this the right path?”, “Why am I even doing this?”, “Is this even helping me or making everything worse?” and so forth started to arose. Of course that if you have people trying to push you into the abyss while you’re struggling with fear and self-doubt, it makes it considerably much more challenging. Then you really have to rely on Compassion to deal with this!

But suddenly, I realized I was just making up excuses. I realized that those were exactly the things that were holding me back: the fears, the illusions, the attachments, the looking outside. They were distracting me from focusing on myself for real!

Just like in Captain Fantastic in the end of the day no one will come to our rescue, we have to do that ourselves. There are no heroes. And even if there were any, probably “You either die a hero or you live longe enough to see yourself become the villain.” There are people! And people can choose to live with integrity and altruism, people can choose to take the responsibility to face themselves. And people have to make this choice every single day when they wake up and re-commit to it each step of the way. I feel like a phony writing these words when lately I’ve been very far from any of it! I’ve been trying to rely in external things. To be honest, I’ve always tried to rely on the external. As the same wise colleague of mine says: “Focus!”. Outside there are only distractions, I have to go very deep inside to be able to overcome everything that is holding me back and let go of all the distractions that the mind tries to create over and over again. And even though sometimes it feels like one of the main struggles is kind of this loneliness that one may feel when one chooses this path, that too is an illusion. If we are grounded and connected, we know that separation is only an illusion of the mind:

“This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.”

I am using meditation and all the tools I have available to do not run away from my fears, to take the chance to look at them, accept them and face them. I am also shifting my sight, my focus, rather than focusing in the things that should be improved, in the people that are not an example because they are probably facing the same inner battles as me. I can and I will focus in my journey. There are people and values we can rely upon. We must not attach to them, but we can and should use them as an inspiration, as a guidance in times of darkness.

In the words of Giacomo Casanova:

“It is only necessary to have courage, for strength without self-confidence is useless.”

In the words of The Mage from King Arthur: Legend of the Sword:

“Everybody wants to look away. That’s the difference between men and kings.”

And in the words of Maximus from Gladiator:

“I knew a man once who said, death smiles at us all. All that man can do is smile back.”

Now is the time to smile back!

4 – Trust

Of all the things I’ve been going through in the last days, the one that scares me the most is that I am not enjoying the journey anymore. That’s merely because the mind took over and I have to get out of my own mind. And I am in the perfect place to do that! Sometimes being on the move is just keep running from it, just keep finding more and more distractions, more and more excuses. It’s time to breath deeply and be here and now!

I had a scooter accident a few weeks ago in the first five minutes of trying to learn how to ride it. A few minor injuries and a deep fear of riding were the result. I’ve decided to learn again and this week I was on it. I fell yesterday, something milder this time. I was alone (as I was when I had the car crash some years ago) and – as back then – I got up (luckily with absolutely no injury – I think I don’t have many lives left anymore), I shaked the dust from my clothing, I picked up the scooter and I got back on it! I was scared: yes! But what else could I do? Sure at first it takes time to get balance (especially for someone who never learned how to ride a bicycle), it is scary (especially if you’ve been falling), but the point is to get back on it. If you fall, you get up and try again! If you’re going through hell, you keep on going like Maggie, The Cat:

“What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?

—I wish I knew… Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can…”

The point is to do not give up, to sense every single sensation that being on the scooter brings with it, to feel the breeze in the hair and the whole body connected to the vehicle in one of physics wonders.

“We thought of life by analogy with a journey, a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end, and the thing was to get to that end, success or whatever it is, maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”

Enjoy: that is basically the only thing that truly matters! And when we get out of our head we truly enjoy this magical experience of being alive!

In the end of the week, my Mother said the magic words, she said sometimes when she thought about me here, I reminded her of Arya Stark, a strenuous training, facing everything one thinks one is or was, accepting faith, life, learning how to trust, how to let go, how to release fears and control, accepting a girl has no name, accepting a girl is no one. We are no one and per consequence we are everything, we are all connected in the great cosmic dance!

So in this International Children’s Day (in Thailand Children’s Day is actually on the 12th of June) it is time to grow up! Growing up means I can still choose to put the pink glasses and go through hell in colors and laughers, but keeping awareness and being realistic about the great play that everybody and everything is a part of. It means getting out of my head and enjoy! No analyze, no attachment, no purpose, just the purpose of being alive!

“You know why I like to teach children, Jack? So I don’t get so wrapped up in being an adult. So I can remember there are other things that are important in life – like riding a bike, playing in a treehouse, splashing in water with your good shoes on.”

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