"Teacher, I have no peace of mind. Please help me to calm my mind."
"Student, will you bring your mind here so I can calm it for you?"
"Yes, but when I look for it, I can't seem to find it!"
"There, you see. I've calmed your mind already!"
"Teacher, how is that you always think so clearly?"
"I close my eyes," the Teacher responded.
If you understand this then you too will be an Empty-Handed Master.
This book's intent is to help create an understanding of the Martial Arts as a way to peace. Adults reading it together with young people can assist them in their education about relationship - what it means to live with dignity, caring and beauty in their daily lives.
Dr. Webster-Doyle's insight is that by recognizing, understanding, and accepting our violent tendencies, we can avoid acting them out.
YOUNG CHILDREN, Magazine of the National Association for the Education of Young Children
Have you ever watched a bird soar on the air, wings spread out, floating, spiraling upward, so easily, effortlessly, gliding free in the beauty of endless sky? How did you feel seeing such a bird? Like you were free too, soaring up above the earth, with no cares, no worries? Sometimes people are so earthbound, so full of the worries, stresses and strains of daily life - as if they have blinders on, like horses trained to look only straight ahead, placing one foot after another.
People are often so afraid. Few ever break free to soar like an eagle, high above the rest. People, held back by their own self-created prisons, think that life itself, their "situation," or another person is holding them back. They don't realize that their prison is their mind, that they are unfree because they think they are. People have been taught (conditioned) to think in ways that limit their lives. But there are some who fly, who break out of the imaginary chains that hold them ... because they realize that there are no chains!
Imagine a little bird that was captured and put in a cage when it was young. It only knows a world inside its limitations and has forgotten the greater world outside. One day someone leaves the cage door open. The bird senses this but stays inside its cage; it feels secure there now. Outside, in the wonderful world beyond, there are golden eagles, great birds of freedom which soar to endless heights! They have few boundaries. Their world is unconfined, creative and joyous.
Imagine that the golden eagles look down from the sky at the world below and see the bird cages, and feel the sorrow of the confined birds. Feeling great compassion, the eagles descend to earth to show the caged birds how they can be free, but few want to learn. Most prefer to go on pretending that their cage is the whole world. But some do listen to the great eagles and realize that the door is open. They too are afraid at first and remain within the safety of their cages. Their wings are weak; they can barely remember how to fly. But some try, and try again, and their wings grow broad and strong. The eagles lead them out of their cages to soar in the expanse of sky. Then the newly free birds look down at the earth below and see all the little cages and feel the sorrow of the remaining prisoners. And they, in turn, return to help their caged friends below.
And on it goes.
The high hills were covered with new snow. It was early in the season for such whiteness. The land was hushed, not a creature stirring, except for a lone large bird slowly gliding in the air far above the earth. The snow glistened millions of tiny iridescent crystals shining in the sun. The branches of trees, with few remaining leaves, were lined with frozen snow, bending low to bear their gentle burden. Fall leaves of red, gold and green were resting against a background of soft white.
The student walked slowly in silence, appreciating the splendor of this unexpected early winter. He had awakened early to put on his winter uniform and snow shoes for the first time. As he paddled through the crunching snow, the wind ceased. The frozen lake below shimmered like a sapphire in the early winter sun.
The student ventured far away from camp, lost in the beauty of the day. Suddenly, without seeing or hearing anything unusual, he felt a presence that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Like an animal sensing danger, he stopped and looked in all directions. Everything was still. As he turned to retrace his steps, he noticed an animal's tracks off to his left on higher ground. Curious, but with instinctive caution, the student climbed up to get a better look. There were three sets of prints: one larger and two smaller. By their shape, he could see that they were the tracks of a large cat.
The student suddenly felt alone, far away from the safety of his camp. He had wandered beyond the limits set by the teachers for traveling alone, but the morning was so wonderful that he had become unaware of time and place. Now realizing that he had wandered, he quickly started back down the hill by which he had come. For a moment he was disoriented and could not find his own footprints. When he did, he began to retrace his way back. Rounding a bend in a thick part of the woods, he stopped dead in his tracks! There in front of him, blocking his way, was a mother mountain lion and her two cubs. All were frozen in a heightened state of alertness.
The mother mountain lion's green eyes flared, her teeth flashing a deadly warning. The two cubs stayed close to her, not moving, intensely aware of the human intruder. The student felt fear in the air and the danger it was producing. For what seemed like eternity, they all stood frozen in indecision. The student's heart pumped faster; his muscles tensed; his mouth was dry. This was primitive fear born of the instinct for survival. In this primal encounter, the mountain lion had the advantage since she was well-equipped by nature to battle her foes with sharp claw and fang. She could also run fast when threatened, but with her cubs this was not an option she could risk- and the student instinctively knew it.
Without conscious reasoning, the student stood very still and began to sing a children's lullaby he had heard as a small boy. From some long forgotten place, the song emerged. It was as if his own mother's voice was speaking to the mother in the mountain lion. Some deep connection beyond rational thinking or action prompted this gentle song to come forth in this moment of extreme danger.
The mountain lion, almost undetectably, relaxed her defense and began to listen. For an endless moment outside of time and place, a young boy was singing to a large mother mountain lion and her cubs! There was a unity between them, primeval bond. Neither wanted to harm the other; each had been reacting out of fear for survival and wanted only peace and well-being. The song filled the student with an energy that allowed him to feel whole again, whereas moments before he had felt disconnected, as if he were outside his body with fear.
And then there arose, without thinking, from deep within him, the kiai (a Martial Arts shout) - a great booming kiai that echoed off the snowy mountains. The mountain lioness, who had been lulled by the song into momentary inaction, suddenly awoke to this commanding sound. It was a sound that did not threaten nor harm. It was a sound that charged the air with energy and strength -· a call to power that was understood by the mountain lioness. She did not show fear or aggression when confronted with this sudden charge of intensity. With dignity and respect, she lowered her protective claw and stood tall next to her cubs. The cubs looked up at their mother and she looked straight at the student. Then, without warning, she turned and slowly walked up the hill, her cubs trailing along beside her.
The student watched them as they disappeared into the snowy woods and beyond, until he was standing alone in the forest, wondering if what had just happened really did! Slowly he moved on towards camp, noticing how much more he was aware of. The smell of the woods, the feeling and sound of snow beneath his feet, the slightest glimmer of sun reflected on the scene around him - all magnified a hundred times greater than ever before. He was alive. Alive! And because he had brushed up against death, he felt keenly, exquisitely, joyously alive.