“Gong-Fu; Hard work over time to accomplish skill. A painter can have Gong-fu. Or the butcher who cuts meat every day with such skill his knife never touches bone. The musician can have Gong-fu, or the poet who paints pictures with words and makes emperors weep. This, too, is Gong-fu.” – Lu Yan (Jackie Chan), The Forbidden Kingdom.
You too can master Gong-fu. We are all engaged in some cycle of skill acquisition. Whether it involves learning a new skill, a language, sport, or movement, very little in life comes easily. Nor should it! We all have that thing, that special something that we are seeking to acquire in life. Often enough, we find that we have gotten more out of the journey, the time and effort taken to achieve that which we are seeking than we ever could have from the thing itself.
The beauty of the path is not to be underestimated
We all have our own Gong-fu to master, and this mastery takes an investment of time and a huge commitment to the cause. Through this commitment we are taken on a journey, and it is on this journey that we attain our grasp of mastery. I say a grasp of mastery because true mastery is simply and illusion. It is something that is beyond our comprehension, a truly Platonic concept of something so perfect that it is the purest expression of itself, and as such, can only be conceived in the mind rather than the body. Should this dissuade you? NO! It is through the journey that we become the best that we can be – not by reaching of some preconceived idea of mastery which, once arrived at, shatters our own perception of mastery as we realize just how far we have still to go on this long winding journey.
But do not be disheartened, my friends and fellow travelers. I challenge you to look back on your journey. Look back deep into the time that you have spent in the pursuit of personal gain. See how far you have come, not how far you have still to go. For truly, the path never ends, the journey is eternal and the destination unreachable. But this does not make the journey any less wonderful, any less beneficial, or any less important. On this journey you will experience mires and mistakes which will seek to throw you off the path of mastery. But these are also important parts of the journey. Without these mistakes and plateau’s we never learn what it is to go off the track, and miss out on some of the most developmental experiences that the journey of life has to offer. It has been said that there are a thousand lessons in defeat, yet none in victory. In my mind there has been no truer word spoken on the subject of a defeat. However, remember that the point of a defeat is not to crush your soul. True failure at anything is simply a reminder of how much you have to learn. Like a stern but nurturing teacher it shows you where you are weak and what part of yourself you have to strengthen and develop in order to endure the journey of mastery.
Enjoy the failure, it’s showing you the way to success
This journey is a development of the mind, spirit and body. Without the mind we cannot perceive the image of perfection and mastery. Without the spirit we have no fortitude to hold fast against the whirling and beating storms that life throws at us. Yet, without the body we have no vehicle to carry the mind or the spirit, no way to express their strengths and suffer their weaknesses. Take this view of life into every single action that you take. Some may practice martial arts, others may train their bodies, and some lose themselves in the never-ending labyrinth of the mind. But while some practice one thing, go out into the world and practice everything. Every step you take, every word you say, thought you have, and weight you lift, each person you make love to. Seek to make it the purest, most perfect expression of who you are, and what it truly is.
This is no easy thing. But this is the Gong-Fu of life. This is the martial skill that allows you to combat the imperfections of yourself and your mind. Aspire to be more – do more and think more so that you feel more. Put yourself before all things, and yet have nothing that you value less that yourself. The Buddhists say that attachment is the root of all suffering, and that only through detachment from all things can we truly reach enlightenment. But I do not see a cause for nihilism in these words. What I see is a commitment to not put one thing above the place of another. To not love one thing with all that you are, but to love all things, at all times, with all that you are.
Love each failed lift, because with that failure you have moved one step closer on the path to mastery. The journey of life is measured in feet, not miles.
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