‘Empty your Cup and Taste Somebody Else’s Tea”
I want to share with you a recent experience I had involving a wonderful DVD set by Eckhart Tolle called, ‘Stillness Amidst The World’. What a truly rewarding viewing experience it was and continues to be, watching and listening to Eckhart’s lectures on ‘The Power of Now’.
The experience I wanted to share though involves what I call our tendency to ‘filter’ and accept, or not, certain information based on ‘the packaging’ in which it is presented. In this instance, my wife Judy and I had purchased Eckhart’s DVD’s and I had put one in the player with the view to watching it whilst she was out. Anyway, I probably watched about 5 minutes of it before getting bored and turning it off. I mean I’m watching this guy who is far from my ideas of a ‘spiritual’ teacher. He is certainly no physical specimen and he had this kind of geeky little laugh. Anyway, when Judy arrived home, I mentioned that I was thinking of returning the DVD set due to the somewhat ‘ordinary’ nature of Eckhart’s appearance and my initial impressions of the intro of the lecture. A week later I had all but forgotten about it until Judy remarked how she had watched the whole lecture and how great the DVD was and implored me to sit and watch it again. She kept saying, “I know you will really love it”. Well, to cut an already long story short, I reluctantly sat down and this time checked my ‘pre-judgement’ at the door and as a result, I have probably watched the whole lecture at least 20 times and it has become one of my all-time favourite DVD’s. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, how wrong was I in my judgement and possible dismissal of this knowledge based almost solely on the look of the presenter”. Another time I remember, early in my Martial Arts journey, being introduced to a so called ‘Master’ in the Arts and my immediate ‘pre-judgement’ of this person’s ability, due to my initial impressions, based pretty much solely on his physical look. He was quite overweight at the time and somewhat out of shape. Anyway, thank goodness, through circumstances, I ended up getting to know and train with this person, and since then he became and still is such an incredible influence on my life and my Martial Arts to this day. I later came to find out that at the time of our first meeting, he had just gotten over a huge illness that would have finished a lesser person, hence his physical condition. Wow, another amazing opportunity for growth put in front of me and almost lost due to my shallow assessment of the ‘packaging’ of this messenger.
My point is, how many times do we accept, or more importantly, not accept wonderful opportunities for knowledge based on the exterior of the source. I know that so often, for a lot of people, the importance of a ‘title’ or ‘letters’ after one’s name, or how the ‘presenter’ of whatever information is presented will so often dictate how receptive we are to listen and receiving this information.
I believe that we get so caught up with our own ‘filtering’ due to our past experiences, good and bad, that we often miss the opportunity to-’Empty our Cup and Taste Somebody else’s Tea’. To be totally open and in the moment, without clouding our perceptions with our own past or future experiences or ‘stories’ as Eckhart calls it, is something I now strive to do as much as possible in my life. To try to actively ‘listen’ to someone we may meet without thinking that our opinion or what we have to say is more important. Otherwise I believe we could very well miss the opportunity of receiving some wonderful and enlightening insights meant for our lives, delivered to us by ‘Teachers’ disguised in what looks to us like an ‘Ordinary Soul’s’ exterior.
Since being back in Australia teaching seminars, the focus of a lot of my classes has been the demand for so called ‘Reality Based Training’, or ‘Street Survival skills for the Real World’. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t surprise me how much demand there is out there for techniques designed for the survival of a full-on attack involving intra-personal aggression. But at the same time, it disturbs me that the state of society is such that so much of the populace feels such a need for these kinds of Survival skills. Of course, this fear is driven by the reality of what is happening and driven by the daily barrage of reports in the media of violent assaults on our streets, home invasions, kidnappings and road rage or whatever. I realise of course that this daily violence is perpetrated by a minority of ‘sociopaths’ who, for a variety of reasons, find it a necessary part of their daily lives to behave in the most abhorrent fashion.
Now this brings me to the point of this particular Blog. You see I sometimes feel a need to defend the need for these types of classes from some, albeit it a small percentage in society, who have a somewhat negative view of what we do as Martial Artists. These are the people who will criticise and actually see us as almost contributing to this culture of violence by way of the content and instruction we give to participants in these specialised seminars. For me, the following sums up the mind-set behind what I do.
There is a story in the Chinese martial arts about “The Peaceful Warrior”, where a young apprentice, while training in the use of the Chinese sword, asked his teacher why, if he was striving to be inwardly calm and at peace, did he need to learn the ways of a warrior? “Would it not be more tranquil and serene to be a gardener and tend the plants?” he asked. “Tending the garden,” the master replied, “is a relaxing pastime, but it does not prepare one for the inevitable battles of life. It is easy to be calm in a serene setting. To be calmed and serene when under attack is much more difficult, so, therefore, I tell you that it is far better to be a warrior tending his garden rather than a gardener at war.”
In other words, so often we do not have a choice as to when violence may be brought to our doorstep. And if that time should ever come, and God knows we hope it never does, then at this time we need to become Warriors with the confidence of a Warrior mind-set and commensurate skills. I always tell my students that we should never be the one’s taking the violence to anyone. You can absolutely choose to be a pacifist all your life in regards your behaviour in society. But what if the time comes that you are in a life-threatening situation involving maybe yourself or worse still, your family or loved ones. Don’t you agree that at this time it would be better to be a ‘Warrior’ than a ‘Gardener’? Don’t you think we have a right to personal survival and the survival of our loved ones when confronted by the ‘sociopath’ who has no regard for your physical well-being, or worse still, your life? I honestly believe we do. I feel proud of the possibility that a student of mine could also assume the role of the ‘Protector’, or ‘Sheepdog’ in society against the aggressor, or ‘Wolf’, who’s only intent is to wreak havoc on the weaker of our flock.