Saturday, November 27, 2004

Practical Spirituality, Kung Fu, and Self-defense

Spirituality must be practical and realistic, or it is good for nothing and no one. Utter passivity and extreme pacifism-- allowing another simply to harm or even kill you out of a commitment to "nonviolence"-- is foolishness. For this "nonviolence" does extreme violence to the self.

"Spiritual" writers rarely write about this because they can tend to be rather too idealistic, or even out-of-touch. Spirituality must be about EVERYTHING. Spirituality is not just cathedrals, hymns, candles, and gold-plated altars and Buddhas. The whole world, with all its messes and filth and grime, must be included in a viable, satisfying spirituality.

Many personal views arise from nature and the ancient Taoist (mystical) system called "kung fu." This phrase has been terribly abused in our country. It does not refer to fighting, but to living, and living well. It means simply, "excellent mastership." Thus, an excellent carpenter who had no particular defense-skills would be a "kung fu carpenter," and a good singer who knew nothing about fighting or defense would be a "kung fu singer." Only the one who has fully mastered her life-- emotions, responses, thoughts, tranquillity, meditation, kindness, intelligence, and other factors, is a "kung fu master." She excels at living, in all its forms, varieties,and manifestations.

In short, according to the Chinese, only a mystic is a genuine kung fu master. She masters not others, but her self. Lao Tzu, the legendary founder of Taoism, and thus, of its split-off, kung fu, would have agreed. He wrote a very simple classic in mystical literature, usually called the "Way of Virtue," which takes about an hour or two to read, but ten thousand years to understand! A fresh rendering of this mystical classic is found in Luminous Jewels of Love and Light, Volume 2, Part IV, "The Book of the Great Mind and Its Expression."

There is no creature in nature that is not equipped to defend itself. Even the softest, prettiest, friendliest kitten is armed with the teeth and claws of a killer. And then, of course, there is my favorite, little Brother Bumblebee. And think of Brother Rattlesnake. About five inches in diameter, or less, he has no arms and no legs. He has a brain the size of a marble. Doesn't sound like much of an opponent,does he? Yet everyone is terrified of him, because nature has gifted him with defensive mechanisms.

Since we humans lack developed natural defensive-systems, we must often compensate by carrying non-offensive (defensive) protectors. Pepperspray is better and more effective than mace. It can be a good investment in the self and its protection. When you make this all-important investment, make sure that the spray does work. And make sure that it remains in working condition.

But the most important factor inselfdefense is not the technical method-- gun, spray, ballbat. It is psychological. It is attitude. For, at the moment that she is defending her life, the kindest, most loving being in the world must not dull, and infact, must reasonably develop, her natural "killing" instinct.

When you are attacked, you must go into a new mode of mind that can be thought of as "steely." You must become as "hard" as steel-- or at least, as close as you can come. Remember: When a person attacks you, she loses all natural rights, and savage energy is to be met with equally savage energy. This is not because you hate the other. Fighting out of anger weakens you. instead, it is because you are fighting for Love-- Love for yourself-- that you have this power of "savagery." This is not
the time to hold back, or to be asking yourself questions of "peace and morality." Drop your inhibitions-- all of them-- like old baggage, and give it everything you've got. For your life might well depend on it.

This is where your totem (animal-ally) comes in. When you mentally plug into your ally spirit, you gain its natural power. Even if your totem is a harmless frog, a frog can leap the equivalent of fifty feet! Even if it is a turtle, nothing can penetrate its shell. My spirit-allies are two: the dolphin and the elephant. Dolphins defeat sharks, and elephants lions. Neither is exactly a "killing machine," but because of a combination of structure, strength, and strategy, they are very powerful indeed!

If you will share with me what is your spirit-ally, I can recommend some patterns that help you get in touch with its energy. In traditional kung fu, the art itself had totems-- praying mantis, tiger, dragon, serpent, and-- my choice-- white crane. Among these, of course, the white crane seems most pitiable, most defenseless.

The legend is that its founding monk was meditating in the forest when he heard a ruckus. He opened his eyes to behold a rushing, ferocious elephant barreling ahead at full speed. Suddenly, in its path, this female white crane appeared, to defend its young. She was all of three feet tall, and the elephant about ten! With a combination of circular wing-movements typical of this school of Kung Fu, she successfully beat the elephant into submission. Actually frightened, he left, and she returned to her place of serenity.

This is the teaching of "yin." This word means weakness, vulnerability, powerlessness. Its opposite, yang (pronounced "yong"), means dynamic, strong force. yet Lao Tzu wrote, "The most yin thing in the universe will always overcome the most yang thing in the universe."

What did he mean? That real Power is psychospiritual, not physical. It comes from mind and discipline, not weapons and muscles. Here, training is everything. You do not need another to train you. When I was young, I remember having some spectacular "fights" that often lasted for hours. This was natural kung fu training, and also a healthy release of energy that could otherwise have been harmful.

Also, you need to consider what the ancients called a "bo staff." This can be a broom or mop, or any long, cylindrical piece of wood. (Originals were bamboo.) Then, you need to spend time every day practicing, or "doing bo," with imaginary enemies. Then, if the real thing occurs,your bodymind will be prepared. Then, you can shift instantly into "savage defense mode."

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