Friday, April 22, 2011

Be humble too!

In a previous post, I discussed about the importance of having patience in learning tai-chi and other forms of mind-body exercise.  Here, I shall talk about another important requirement: be humble!

My experience is that those students who have some physical or psychological problems are usually those who are more humble in learning mind-body practices. In particular those who have sought medical advice and therefore can appreciate the (legitimate) limit of western medicine. Interesting to note that many famous tai-chi masters said that they suffered from different kinds of physical ailment when they were young, and that motivated them (or their parents who sent them) to seek a teacher to learn tai-chi!

My coaching experience in zhan zhuang (a prerequisite for tai-chi learning in my system) also showed the same pattern. Those who have lots of confidence in their physical/mental being or their supreme intelligence in understanding things appear most likely to be among those who won't proceed further after a "definitive lesson" from me (although they have actually learned the feel of chi in their bodies!) These more "intelligent" students will typically say,"Paul, it is so easy, I just stand for half and hour everyday". But failing to appreciate the subtly of the practice, chi won't be generated after half hour of standing. And these "intelligent" students will quickly give up practicing ("It is demonstrated to be not-my-cup-of-tea.")

In the old days, intense physical endurance was the way to induce humbleness in the student. In the autobiography of famous tai-chi master Wu Tunan (吳圖南), the master said that as a kid he was trained under the Founder of Wu-style tai-chi, grandmaster Wu Jianquan (吳鑑泉 - no blood relationship with Wu Tunan), he was made to practice zhan zhuan for hours on end with a burning incense hanging over his head, so that he couldn't stand up and relax for a second. Needless to say, he sweated all over, and after his working muscles were all tired and numbed, his "sleeping muscles" would be activated to generate chi to keep his body in posture. Interested readers can also google the training experience of Jackie Chan (成龍), how he was trained hard with the others of the Seven Little Kids [Fortunes] (七小福) under their master Yu Zhanyuan (于占元), the famous Peking Opera master.

In the Indian tradition, there are endless difficult and complicated postures (Asanas) in yoga that can induce humbleness from the most restless or "intelligent" souls!

In the modern world, a health seeker will never be prepared to be humbled by a coach that force him to stand in "an embracing a tree" stance for hours on end with a burning incense over his head. Nor can he be forced by his yoga coach to lock into difficult Asanas one after another. He will simply walk away, and no more business for the coach!

So, humbleness, for the modern man, must come from within, without which one can't proceed with mind-body exercise with good results. This is democracy, freedom and free-will. Who says there is no price to be paid for these goodies that Man has been fighting for and has (at least partially) won!

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