Tag Archives: teaching

Oneness

This lovely question landed in my youtube inbox the other day. I think it is the kind of question others probably wonder about, too–it is the same kind of question I wondered a lot about, so I would like to share it.

Sent to: profquesada

Hi, I’ve been watching your videos, and have been reading Alan Watts and I have a question that keeps coming up whenever the concept of no self is talked about. I understand very well the fact that other things should be considered vital and important to us such as the air, the trees, ect., because without oxygen our lungs would be useless. But where I start to lose understanding is why this vitalness of other things is linked with the concept that we are the same as them? Yes everything is interdependent, but the difference between an earthworm and I is that all of my cells have a certain DNA structure or code that is different from the earthworms’, and even different from other peoples’. This is a question I thought a lot about that I don’t ever see discussed. Thanks for your videos they were very interesting to watch — Ellie

Hi Ellie,
I’m happy to know you enjoyed my talks. I’ll respond to your question very simply. You’re quite right, on the material plane, I am very different than an earthworm! However–and this is the whole point of meditation, really–the idea is to transcend this material identification. It is the same tendency that is at the root of our body identity, and all the suffering we bring upon ourselves because of it. Our physical identities are like masks we wear for a limited time, then, as a snake sheds its skin, we shed that persona. What’s left? That’s where different traditions come in, but that doesn’t matter for now. The practices nudge us out of our illusion, our delusion of separateness and dissolve us into this, whatever-it-is. Call it suchness, call it Brahman, call it God, call it energy. Everyday, we can simply call it beauty!
~DQ

Is Sparring the Same as Fighting?


We were talking about breathing again, in class. And again, we started by taking a deep breath together. But this time, I told them to rest a hand on their bellies and  see if they could direct the breath to that magical region called the “tan-tien,” by the Kung-Fu masters, the “hara,” by the Zen masters, and the “solar plexus” by the yogis. We are increasing the oxygen delivery to the brain, and thereby balancing our nervous systems, as well as our state of mind.

One student shared his experience with Judo and the instructions given by his teacher to breathe from the belly in order to combat nerves and conserve strength.

If the martial artist reflects steadiness and calmness, why do they fight? Isn’t that violent? another student asked.

Excellent question.

The point of sparring isn’t to fight, as you might suspect, I said. It is to train.

It is in the face of challenge that you put your tools to use. In the martial arts, you don’t confront, you don’t go against, you don’t use brute force. You learn that you don’t have to reside in a constant state of opposition to what lies within nor to what lies without–impatience, anger, discomfort, provocation from others. You learn that you have power over the impulse to react to all of it.

Thus, there, on the training mat, the martial artist learns patience. He learns to become intimate with his calm center, the source of his power, balance and composure. The source of his stillness–the stillness that gives way to heightened perception and intuition.

The Dojo is the training ground for what would be better thought of as a game of skill, like chess, or a dance, rather than as a fight. The student of any martial art is taught to always avoid confrontation. The point is about personal development, rather than public display.

On this point, here is an anecdote written, in 1979, by Joe Hyams, who took direct study with Bruce Lee:

Some time later I watched a “crossing of hands,” or match, between two martial arts masters. I had gone expecting to see a magnificent display of flashing acrobats and whirling limbs. Instead I saw two men in fighting stance study each other warily for several minutes. Unlike boxing, there were no feints, no tentative jabs. For the most part, the masters were still as statues. Suddenly, one of them burst into movement so quickly that I was unable to grasp what had happened, although I did see his opponent hurtle backward. The match was over and the two masters bowed to each other.

Equally poignant was the comment Hyams’ teacher made afterward:

Now you have seen the power of controlled patience on the mat. The same thing applies to problems in life.

And I would also point out the power of humility, as displayed so elegantly through the tradition of the bow. If only that were a value held dear in life today.

What’s So Great About Now?

We are two weeks into the spring semester, and I have a brand new group of students, 105 of them, to be exact. I told them this class wasn’t going to be like their other classes, before inviting them to inwardly survey their posture.

After the inevitable adjustments and repositioning, we took a deep breath and together we sighed away our collective morning hassles. The traffic, the parking, the rush, and any trace of resistance that may have surfaced along the way. After talking about the shift that naturally follows that first round of conscious breathing, some students offered to share their experiences. One said that it brought him into a heightened state of awareness.

Exactly! Because the mind follows the breath.

Another student asked, without one ounce of sarcasm, what is so great about being here, now, when most everything sucks. A wonderful question.

I’m not sure why, but I thought of Christopher Reeve. I asked my students why it was that some people, who have problems much bigger than our own, are able to live in peace. In Reeve’s case, the tragedy he endured trumps the minor inconveniences most of us face on a daily basis, the trivialities that send us into fits of rage. Yet, he lived the rest of his life working on behalf of others with spinal cord injuries. Although he faced his shortened life as a quadriplegic, he lived it with a renewed spirit of gratitude and purpose.

Why is it that the rest of us are so easily upset and indignant over the most minor inconveniences? I pressed.

Some people see things differently, one insightful student offered.

Exactly!

Because everything is perception. And so, despite our universal hardships, some will suffer more than others, not because of the actual events, but because of our interpretations of these events.

It’s what the yogis and the mystics and all sages and masters have been saying for ages–look around and see into your own mind.

A Charming Enlightenment Story

Once I heard a charming story about Shiva and Parvati, and it was lingering in my mind.

I remembered the good-hearted man who only wanted to be of use, and because of his pure, humble heart, and his service to Shiva–without knowing it was the Lord himself he was helping–he achieved spiritual liberation.

Here is the short and sweet story, as I transcribed it for Spirit Voyage (it will open in a new window).