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Nonduality: The Mindset Secret of Zen Archery

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Zen and the Art of Archery, Eugen Herrigel’s account of his instruction under the great Japanese archery master Awa Kenzo, is one of the great spiritual classics of the twentieth century. Now, Zen Bow, Zen Arrow by John Stevens compiles Kenzo’s teachings in a simple and accessible way.

The hallmark of Kenzo’s teaching is the use of the bow for spiritual cultivation. But understanding what that cultivation consists of can be difficult. It certainly was for Herrigel, who mistakenly thought that he was there to hit targets until Kenzo demonstrated that he could easily hit targets without even seeing them. The target was not the point because the target, the bow and the archer are one. To recognise that truth is the purpose of Zen archery.

This is the state of satori, literally “removing distinctions.” In ordinary life, we make distinctions, we grasp after material gratification, we objectify others, we become self-conscious and show off under the gaze of others. This is the state of dualistic view, which in Buddhism is the origin of suffering. Kenzo’s method of archery is a vehicle for letting go of that duality. Consciousness without duality is oneness with all things.

Here are a few elements of the method:

Nonattachment and Single-Minded Attention

“Human beings always cling to things. Practice begins when you stop clinging.” Kenzo insisted that his students release desire, worry and attachment and be fully present when practicing kyudo. He was even known to scare anyone whose mind wandered with a loud kiai. Kenzo practiced according to the words of Chinese Song Dynasty archer Chen Yuanliang:

“Aim with your mind, shoot with your hands.
Do not let your mind wander.
Do not let worries distract you.
Do not be in a hurry.
Do not be intoxicated.
Do not be hungry.
Do not overeat.
Do not be angry.
Do not shoot when you lack enthusiasm.
Do not shoot obsessively.
Do not compete with others.”

Ultimately, the student should be able to take this attitude of single-minded attention with them into daily life. As Kenzo said with characteristic bluntness, “Be in the dojo wherever you are. It is your choice- live like a sage or exist like a fool.”

Formlessness

Other than the necessary basics, Kenzo was not interested in technique, as many of his students discovered when they began either showing off or using tricks to hit the target. This defeats the purpose of mindfulness, because it comes from dualistic thought, preferring one outcome over another and awareness of appearances. “Technical tricks,” Kenzo said, “ultimately lead nowhere. Shoot without shooting.”

Chen Yuanliang wrote, “When you hit the target, do not be elated. When you miss, do not be crestfallen. Concentrate naturally on the target and use your mind to shoot.” It should be noted that Kenzo himself always hit the centre of the target.

To teach this lesson to some of his students, Kenzo would berate them no matter what they did until they decided to ignore him and just shoot. Just shooting was the point. As Kenzo said, “With no set form, pull the bow. Release the arrow with no intent.”

Oneness

Kenzo turned holding the bow at highest tension into a meditative exercise, combining single-pointed attention, proper breathing (“Belly breath is healthy. Chest breath is ordinary. Shoulder breath is sick.”), and nondual awareness. “When the bow is fully drawn,” Kenzo writes, “you and the bow should be one.” Oneness with the bow and with the target becomes oneness with nature and with the Buddha mind.

At this point, there is no objective but to be one with all things. If the bow shoots, it is not by the will of the archer. The enemy is not the target, but one’s own dualistic thought and grasping mind.

Inner Alignment

The power of the archer is built up by cultivating the tanden (dantien in Chinese), the energy field below the navel. To “aim at the target with your belly” means to align all one’s energies behind single-minded attention and oneness with the target.

The Aim

As with all the Japanese hara arts, the cultivation of single-pointed attention and inner power, transferable to any activity, is an important element of Kenzo’s archery: “Shoot the big bow in whatever you do.” But there are deeper dimensions, using the practice of satori to refine the spirit and the character. “A practitioner must be unshakeable in intent, fearless in spirit, full of compassion,” but he must also strive for oneness with heaven and earth and with the nondual Buddha mind.

It should be noted that Kenzo was persecuted in Japan for his fusion of archery and Zen practice, even though the idea of spiritual archery had a long history, especially in Chinese Taoism. Yet many people around the world have found inspiration in his method, a classic of Japanese simplicity.

-Dr. Symeon Rodger

 

 

 

 

 


Dragon Gate Exercises for Self-Cultivation

The deliberate, systematic cultivation of the mind-body organism is the great legacy of the Taoist Complete Reality school. Although it’s easy to get lost in the complexities of the systems, there are plenty of simple ways to put these principles into practice whenever you have a few minutes to spare, or even in the middle of an everyday activity. Jonathan Blank’s book Secrets of Dragon Gate with Dragon Gate sect lineage-holder Dr. Steven Liu provides an accessible overview of some of these exercises:

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The following are a few exercises that can help you to become more effective and maximise your potential in everyday life.

 

Exercise for the Mind

A system of exercises for consciously building up your mind’s inherent abilities is part of the Dragon Gate tradition, and there are some easy preliminary exercises you can practice anytime. Some are related to watchfulness techniques you may already be familiar with through our programs, standing apart from the thought-stream and watching the arising and ending of thoughts. There are also exercises designed to boost attention and memory.

Attention Exercise: This exercise begins in a meditative posture and focuses attention on different senses in turn for one to two minutes. With your eyes closed, reach out with your sense of smell, and note all the different smells you can identify and what they tell you about your environment (this may be best done outdoors). Then the sense of touch- what do you feel? Is there a breeze? Are you warm or cold? What are you sitting on- is it hard or soft? Then the sense of hearing- do you hear cars, birds, insects, the wind in the trees. Finally, open your eyes and take in your surroundings in detail. Notice subtleties of colour and texture, the shapes of plants, the even just the cracks in your wall if you’re indoors.

Memory Exercise: Related to the attention exercise, this memory exercise focuses on a past event that you remember well and have positive associations with. Focus on each of your senses in turn, and try to remember everything that they took in, the small details of your surroundings that you might otherwise have forgotten, just as you did for the attention exercise. This practice can help cultivate powerful observational skills and recall.

Manifesting and Mindset Exercises

The Dragon Gate teaches that the quality of our experiences flows from the way we think about them. As the I Ching says, “The auspicious and the ominous both arise from the same circumstances.” In other words, it is how we respond to our circumstances that most often makes them good or bad. The dualistic practice of assigning judgment to a situation therefore harms us more than it helps us. It is better to “nurture your dreams” with optimism and look for a way to turn a problem into an opportunity. Going along with changes while remaining true to the pattern of the universe is a Taoist paradox that encompasses the dual reality of the cosmos- everything changes, and everything remains the same.

Two specific meditation exercises that are used to aid in manifesting are as follows.

In the first, visualise an empty space in front of you. Then invite whatever you would like to manifest in your life into that space. Observe the manifestation and any thoughts it brings as it is established and ultimately dissolves.

For the second exercise, choose one thing that you have a powerful desire to manifest. Visualise yourself in the state of having manifested what you desire in as much detail as possible. See your surroundings, the clothes you are wearing, the activities you are doing. Employ all of your senses to make it as real as possible. Next, spend several minutes creating a feeling of trust that this manifestation is as real and solid as your everyday world. Focus on the feelings of pleasure you get from having attained your goal. Close out by focusing on a feeling of gratitude for what you are manifesting.

Everyday Intention

Almost any activity can be performed as meditation if you treat it as such, staying mentally present and paying attention to your movements and breathing. Another aspect which Dragon Gate practice introduces is the establishment of proper intention.

For example, when preparing food, breathe deeply and consciously relax your mind and body on the exhale. Set the intention of preparing food that will nourish and sustain you and your family with the nutrients and energy you need to attain your goals. As you prepare the food, focus on your breathing and make an effort to maintain proper abdominal breathing.

A Holistic Approach

While the exercises we have covered relate to only a few areas of self-cultivation, they are part of a larger and deliberate system for enhancing each aspect of the mind-body organism and its relationship with the world, while remaining conscious of the deep interconnections between different aspects. From cultivating energy and absorbing it from the natural world to enhanced perception to all aspects of physical exercise to sexuality, every area of life is encompassed in one way or another in this planned and deliberate approach to life.
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Taoist Longevity Checklist

Living a long life is one thing; staying healthy and fit with your faculties intact and with the ability to enjoy your life is a much more demanding goal. We know of a number of populations that have or historically have had exceptionally long and vital lives. The video above takes a look at the very long-lived elders of rural Okinawa. But when it comes to looking systematically at the factors behind truly resilient longevity, no medical tradition in history has done so much research over such long time scales as Taoist medicine. An excerpt from Daniel Reid’s excellent introduction to the Taoist approach can be found here.

Here are a few of the most basic elements of the Taoist approach to lasting physical and mental health.

1. Mindset: One thing you’ll notice immediately about the Okinawan elders is their complete lack of worry and neurosis. They take a purposeful, cheerful, even-keeled and optimistic approach to life that many Westerners living in far greater material comfort would envy. This inner discipline is possible for them because their culture supports it. For us, establishing emotional equilibrium may require a more involved process of clearing emotional traumas and their associated energetic blockages from our energy systems. We must also learn the habits that support a positive mindset- meditation, proper breathing, exercise and a healthy diet- everything physical impacts our mental reality.

2. Preserving Jing: Jing, the potential energy which the body uses to create Qi or life energy, can easily be scattered, diminishing our energetic resources. Energy follows attention, and if our attention is taken up by worry, if we focus on the past or the future instead of the present, if we constantly allow our attention to exit through the senses in pursuit of pleasure, we disperse Jing. Learning to recall that attention through the practice of abdominal breathing is the most basic longevity practice. Mental discipline is essential. Beyond that, of course, taking in poor quality foods or neglecting to take in other forms of energy like sunlight or energy from the natural world reduces the quality of our energy supply.

3. Reduce Grains: While Taoists certainly used herbalism extensively for health maintenance (as with all ancient cultures, they recognised that food is medicine), their main dietary longevity practice was the restriction of grain foods. They recognised that grains consumed in quantity have a negative effect on the entire digestive system, putting great pressure on the body. This is confirmed today by the increasing manifestations of gluten allergy and its associated intestinal ailments. We also know that grains raise blood sugar levels and insulin production almost as badly as eating raw sugar. The human body was not set up to live primarily on a grain-based diet.

4. High-Quality Natural Foods: Taoist diets have generally emphasised a majority of plant-based foods, many of them fresh, and a reduction of flavourful but unhealthy foods. Today, of course, we must consider the poor quality of much of our abundant food and choose wisely.

5. Fasting: Periodic fasting to cleanse the system of toxins and allow the body to reset is an important longevity practice.

6. Meditation: The benefits of meditation for maintaining calm and relaxation are only the beginning. Taoist teachings contain many meditative practices especially developed to improve the health of the energy system and the entire mind-body organism. (We teach some of these in our Ocean of Energy program, which you can find at: http://theoceanofenergy.com/special/)
7. Movement: External exercise, vigorous daily physical exertion, is an important part of maintaining vitality, but equally important is taking your body through its full range of motion, stretching all the tissues and improving joint and organ health. (Our Ocean of Energy program gives comprehensive video demonstrations of how to do this: http://theoceanofenergy.com/special/)

8. Energy Work: Directly developing the resilience of the body’s energy system was another important key to longevity. Qigong, the series of systems developed by the Taoist tradition for this purpose, has incredible health benefits. Prisoners held in terrible conditions during China’s civil war and Cultural Revolution periods were able to maintain their health through this practice. (Our Rock Solid Health Qi Gong program takes you through the top 5 Qi Gong systems used for centuries to promote health, immunity and longevity: http://www.rocksolidvitality.com/dvd/)

The Taoist longevity tradition has produced amazing results, and is available to help us live out our lives in superb physical, mental and emotional health, IF we’re willing to invest the effort needed to learn it and live the kind of life that will create these incredible results.


How to build a truly excellent day, every day

Excellent days don’t happen by themselves.  They’re built.  We have to build them.  This is a process that requires intention, planning and foresight.

 

Step 1: Building Basic Supports

Do you wake up feeling terrible?  Ask yourself what you’ve been eating and drinking recently, if you’ve exercised, if you’ve set aside time for meditation, energy work and all the other things that set you up for a day of feeling great.  What you eat today, the time you take to exercise and meditate sets you up for a better tomorrow.

 

Step 2: Goals

Take a moment to sit down and write out how you spend an average 24 hour day.  Then review your priorities for that day.  Did your use of time accord with your priorities and your longer-term plans?  Did you do what you had planned to do?  How extensively did you plan your day, and how much of the plan translated into reality?  When and how did your day get sidetracked?

Most of us schedule our lives based on urgency rather than importance.  We scramble to get things done based on urgency.  Dilbert’s boss has three boxes on his desk: “Aging,” “Crisis” and “Moot.”  Many of us end up organising our lives that way.  We wait for everything to become a crisis, so that the important things are squeezed out by the urgent things.  Only by refusing to do this, by scheduling based on importance first and urgency second can we reverse the trend.

So, about those priorities- ask yourself what really gives your life meaning.  What really feeds your passion?  What will help you to grow or feed your desire to grow?  What will help you become who and what you want to be?  What feelings do you want to cultivate?  What relationships would you like to have?  What contributions do you want to make?  Like a personal mission statement, the answers to these questions become the criterion by which you assess your priorities.

Next, list your roles.  We each have a number of legitimate roles to fill in life, and we need to balance them for the sake of our own happiness and self-trust.  Personal development, by the way, is a perfectly legitimate role.  Try to keep the list to seven items or fewer to keep it manageable.

Write out your goals and priorities for the week.  What do you want to accomplish?  We all know the feeling of waking up and knowing that there are a thousand different nitty-gritty tasks competing for our attention.  It’s much better to plan out a set of goals we can actually accomplish, starting with the ones that are meaningful to us, than to live under siege.  Schedule in time for yourself and your family, and especially for quiet reflection and recharge.

Resolve to think about your ideal future when you get up in the morning, whenever you have a free moment during the day, and before you go to bed at night.  If you make the plan and then don’t think about it, you will never do anything to further it.

 

Step 3: Intention

What do you want your day to look like?  How do you want to feel?  Take a moment to visualise it.  If you have no intention for the day, if you have no idea of what feelings you want to create, how will you create a great day rather than a terrible one?

 

Step 4: Morning Routine

Your alarm clock goes off.  You smash the snooze button in a half-conscious outburst of anger against the soul-crushing machinery of modern life.  It goes off again.  This time, take a moment to create the feelings that you want for the day.  Don’t jump out of bed- your energy system doesn’t appreciate the morning shock treatment.  Instead, concentrate for a moment on proper abdominal breathing.  Keep your mind clear- it’ll help that your brain wants to go back to sleep anyway.  Once you’ve established a state of calm, get up slowly.  Stretch.  Take a moment for yourself, to think about what you want to accomplish that day, to meditate or pray, to take the dog for a walk in the morning air, to get in some outdoor exercise, whatever it may be.  It’s worth waking up a little earlier to establish this groundwork for the day.

 

Step 5: Establishing Creative Mode

Our usual, survival mode thought patterns are extremely dissonant and reactive, producing incoherent brain waves.  My knee hurts, my boss doesn’t like me, my roof is leaking, I need more money, I’m craving chocolate, the house smells like popcorn, and I wish I were doing something else than what I’m doing.  All different kinds of things from the past, present and future draw and scatter our attention.  Our senses and our imagination become the enemies of mental coherence.  The creative brain, on the other hand, has extremely coherent brainwaves.  We need to clear out these distractions to allow that creative coherence to come in.  Think about it- can you be in a state of joy and fulfillment and still have your attention scattered?

Take a creative goal that is meaningful to you, and resolve to do something to further it or learn more about it every day, and to participate in an activity related to it once a week.  Thinking + doing, repeated consistently, leads to a state of being.  Establish time to focus exclusively on that one thing, without distractions.  Let go of past and future and just be present.  Then go on to do some light physical tasks and let your subconscious chew on it.

 

Conclusion

There’s much more to each of these steps, of course, which we’ll get into later on.  But there is also more than enough here for you to take a terrible, awful, no-good, very bad day and set yourself up for a better tomorrow.

 

Next Steps

If you would like to get the inside track on exactly how this science of creating your day (and, by extension, your life) really works, you might like to join us this coming Thursday night, May 29, for a special teleclass on this very subject, where we’ll go much deeper into the “how to” details.

You can reserve your seat here (and you also need to reserve your seat in order to receive the replay):

https://globalresilience.leadpages.net/smm-excellentday/

 

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Never Before Revealed: Resilience Secrets of the Hobbit…

[Spoiler Alert – book and movie!]

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit…”

…and you find true resilience in the unlikeliest of places!

J.R.R. Tolkien created the hobbits to represent everything stable and ordinary and decent about rural Britain.  Hobbits tend their farms and eat too much and have fun, but are absolutely harmless and uninterested in adventures or the affairs of the Big People.

And yet, in The Hobbit, the fate of three kingdoms will hang on the actions of Bilbo Baggins, just as the fate of the entire world will hang on his nephew Frodo in Lord of the Rings.  It all comes down to a mysterious decision by Gandalf, the great wizard.  Thirteen dwarves intent on wresting their mountain kingdom from the evil dragon, Smaug, have need of the services of a burglar.  This dragon is a creation of Morgoth, a fallen higher being and the worst threat the world had ever faced; there are suggestions in the Silmarillion that dragons themselves may be spiritual creatures turned to Morgoth’s side.  Gandalf would know- he himself is a higher being, called into the world by Galadriel.  Having taken up human form, his mission is to protect the world from the next foray by the dark powers.  That means Smaug and his kind.  Gandalf’s answer?

 

Gandalf decides to back thirteen vagrant dwarvish warriors and their forlorn quest.  But, he emphasizes, the quest may depend on securing the services of someone even more formidable- a hobbit.  This decision to counter a fire-breathing dragon with a creature whose main concerns to that point had been eating, drinking, pipe-smoking and gardening might seem rather odd.  Even stranger, Bilbo’s role was to be The Burglar.  Not only was he no warrior, he most likely hadn’t stolen anything more than a few peeps at the neighborhood girls.

Bilbo certainly thought little of the idea: “We don’t want any adventures here- nasty, inconvenient uncomfortable things.  Make you late for dinner.”  Gandalf, however, would not take no for an answer and invited thirteen dwarves to dinner at Bilbo’s to make him listen to the whole thing.  You see, Gandalf knew that, once presented with the whole picture, Bilbo wouldn’t be able to bring himself to refuse.

 

But what made this hobbit ideal for his pivotal role?

Bilbo was stalled in his own personal development, so much so that he saw no need to develop.  But although stalled, he was neither corrupt nor cynical.  He had the values of an ordinary, decent person, and this is why he first embarks on and then sticks with the quest.  He doesn’t want to go- but the thought of turning down the opportunity to see the world and be part of something really significant was too much for him.  Although hardship does tempt him to abandon his friends, Bilbo chooses to stick with them when they are confronted with orcs and giant wolves, precisely because they don’t have a home to go back to as he does.  Bilbo was willing to sacrifice for his friends.

Zhuge Liang, Chinese strategist, administrator and polymath, once wrote, “Straight trees are found in remote forests; upright people come from the commons. Therefore when rulers are going to make appointments they need to look in obscure places.”  Gandalf certainly couldn’t have picked a more obscure place than the Shire and Bilbo is more “upright” – meaning he has more character and can be relied on to do the morally right thing where others would cave in to their own short-term convenience – than many of his fellow adventurers.

 

Bilbo’s second asset is his immensely flexible mindset.  Whatever circumstance he is dropped into, he reacts with presence of mind and does whatever needs doing to move forward.  If that means playing a game of riddles with a wizened schizophrenic cannibal in a dark cave, he goes along with it.  If it means charging a wolf to rescue his friend, he’ll do that.  If it means flattering a dragon silly to get it to delay eating him and reveal the chink in its armour he’ll do that.  If it means negotiating the dwarves’ mistrust and doubts with some hard-headed bargaining, he’ll do that.  If it means discussing the culinary vices of roast dwarf with three trolls until the sun rises, he’ll do that.  He keeps putting one foot in front of the other, and when he’s at his wits’ end, he changes the rules.  During the riddle game, Bilbo is one riddle away from being eaten and can’t think of another riddle, so he asks Gollum what he has in his pockets- breaking the rules of the game, but putting off being devoured.

Bilbo’s no great fighter, nor does he have any non-culinary talent worth mentioning other than this ability to be dropped into any situation and come back again better than he arrived.  That last bit is important, because it isn’t just ingenuity that gets Bilbo out of tight squeezes – it’s the universe rooting for him.  He’s open to what comes his way, and while it can get him into trouble, it saves his life several times.  He isn’t relying only on himself, and it is for that exact reason that he always comes out of a situation a little better than he arrived in it.

 

There is a rather weak scene in the film where Gandalf attempts to explain to the beautiful Galadriel exactly why a hobbit is necessary baggage on this mission.  The truth is that Gandalf does not like to, and until his transformation into Gandalf the White generally will not, rely on great power or might to do his work.  Good, as he says, is found in the little people of the world, not in armies or empires, and in order to work for the good, Gandalf will always rely on a small and unlikely band of people armed with courage, faith and sharp wits (your mileage may vary) and bound by integrity over armies or magic.  That his closest friend among his own order is the bird dropping-adorned naturalist Radagast reinforces this bent in Gandalf’s character.

 

On the other side, of course, there’s Bilbo, middle-aged, comfortable, not accomplishing anything in particular when Gandalf shows up.  Gandalf has faith that given the opportunity, this anonymous little scrap of hobbit will rise to the occasion.  He doesn’t force Bilbo to go, but he has faith that Bilbo will, not for the gold, not to have his name remembered or even because he particularly wants to but because the dwarves have given him something to believe in, a chance to matter, an opportunity to help their whole nation.   Without that chance, and without Gandalf’s belief and persistence, he would have remained just as he was until the end of his days.  With it, his actions lead to the downfall of the enemy of all life.

Throughout Tolkien’s work, Hobbits are the poster children for resilience and the certainty that ordinary, decent people can do surprising, amazing things when given the chance to do something that matters.

 

Dwarvish Brittleness

 

The Dwarves are an effective counterpoint to Bilbo’s form of resilience.  While on the face of it, the dwarves seem in every way tougher and more resilient than the hobbit, the reverse is true.

On the one hand, the dwarves are strong, courageous, extremely determined and have kept their cause alive throughout long years of wandering and exile.  But this limited form of resilience is offset by a rigidity that renders them extremely brittle, particularly where their leader Thorin is concerned.

 

Thorin sets out with twelve loyal companions to recapture his grandfather’s kingdom, showing courage and faith.  But he frequently quarrels with Gandalf, a rather powerful being and his most important ally.  When Gandalf proposes they take Bilbo, Thorin disputes the choice, and will continue to doubt and quarrel with Bilbo throughout the journey, even once Bilbo has repeatedly proven his worth.  Thorin likewise does everything possible to avoid getting any help at all from the elves, near-immortal beings of immense knowledge, at least some of whom might have been willing to assist the dwarves.  Thorin is bitter that the elves who lived near his homeland didn’t charge into certain death in a hopeless attempt to save the dwarves from Smaug, and this feeling extends to all elves, including the ones who weren’t there.  This inflexibility will continue to get Thorin into trouble, to the point where his admitted virtues will not be able to save him (I did remember to put a spoiler alert at the top, didn’t I?  Anyway, read the book.)

 

We hear that Thror, Thorin’s grandfather and king-under-the-mountain, was corrupted by his love of gold and of the Arkenstone, a gem found within the mountain.  Thror was deluded into believing that his kingdom was eternal, and not only ended up with few friends in the outside world, but attracted a creature even more gold-hungry than himself.  After Smaug drove him out of his kingdom, Thror spent the rest of his life fighting hopeless battles until at last, even his armour-plated beard couldn’t save him.  The dwarves united to avenge his death, and though they won in battle against the orcs, the dwarves were severely weakened.  Perhaps it is no accident that when Thorin attacks Azog, the orc who killed Thror, the theme music is the same used for the Ringwraiths in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  This pattern of rigidity, insularity, greed and general inability to get along with people who are on their side continues for the dwarves until Galadriel finally manages to get through to Gimli in Fellowship of the Ring.

 

Consider the Following

 

We all know a great many “hobbits” and a few “dwarves”.  In this world, the “hobbits” are not only looked down upon, they are taught to look down on themselves.  How many do you know that are ripe for new challenges and a more meaningful life?  What can you do to help?  How many people around you could do something extraordinary if given the chance?  How many are so far gone that they wouldn’t even believe in the possibility?  How can you help to restore their faith in themselves?

On the other hand, how many people do you know who have fallen prey to the tendencies which dog Thorin, and are suffering for it, some without even knowing it?  Chances are, a number of them are in leadership positions, and a number of others are collapsing into a state of bitterness.  What can you do to help them?

 

The Hobbit and the Dwarf, in fact, represent two sides of the resilience coin and both are necessary.  Another way of describing this that we’ve used before is the “Yin” and “Yang” of resilience:

The Dwarves are all too much “Yang” in their approach – they have the determination, ferocity and bravado, as well as the physical skills to match.  Yet they’re not entirely in charge of their own thinking – all too easily they’re carried away by their own prejudices, assumptions and preconceived ideas.  They allow their own eyes to deceive them.  And they don’t always have the character to do the right thing even when that’s damned inconvenient.

The average Hobbit, being much more “Yin” in his approach, does have that character and, when the moment arises, that character is what allows him to rise to the occasion in an astounding way.  He is far less the prisoner of his own limited vision and his temper seldom gets the better of him.  Now, let’s be clear; Bilbo could use a healthy dose of the Dwarves’ warrior skills, no doubt about it!  However, those skills can be taught and learned much easier than character and mastery of one’s emotions.

As we cultivate our own resilience day in and day out, we need to be conscious of precisely this “yin-yang” balance in our approach.  Some of us think resilience will come entirely from working out at the gym.  Others of us expect it to come exclusively from our meditation sessions.  In both cases we’re fooling ourselves – we need to strive for this balance in our training.

~Dr. Symeon Rodger 


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