Life @ Shaolin: What I Actually Do

With the backdrop of an rapidly advancing China led its new open-minded leaders and the rise of the commercialized enterprise called “Shaolin Temple” lead by its political minded abbot Yongxin, I think it is important to talk about why I am here and what I really do.

I came to Shaolin, not because of the flashy kungfu so often wrongly portrayed as voilence in action movies, but because of the “spirit of shaolin”; it’s essence of a peaceful mind centered around three parts the chan ( Zen Meditation), wu (martial arts), and yi (Chinese herbal medicine). These are the reasons why I came to Shaolin, and these are the principles that, many say, have been neglected in preference for tourists dollars, commercial deals, and personal indulgence in the name of spreading the Shaolin name. But just because many say it isn’t here, doesn’t mean I will just pack my bags up and leave (the thought never crossed my mind), and now after months of work and working my connections, I ended up with my own version of the “Chan, Wu, Yi”.

A typical day looks a little like this:
5:30-6:30 am: Morning Prayer Class with the few monks that actually wake up early enough for this, most tend to sleep in till much later.
7:30am: Breakfast at my current residence, a flat I rented on a nearby hill just beyond the temple’s view.

9:00-12:00pm: Traditional kungfu training with my master in the mountains behind the temple, away from the swarming tourists.

12:30pm: Lunch back at my place, follow by meditation then a nap till 2:00pm.

2:30-5:30pm: Training in the mountains, sometimes we train among the thousand yr old buildings in the temple to get a bit more feel.

6:30pm: Dinner.

7:00-9:00: Tea time at my master’s tea lounge, where I meet and learn from all kinds of people from Chinese medicine experts to martial arts film directors, it is truly one of the most enriching experiences of the day, even after all the training.

9:30: Usually when I go to sleep, once a wk, I will take time to reply to all my emails, fb msg, and etc. But most nights ends in me sleeping soundly.

This happens to me Monday through Friday, sometimes I have more Zen-centered conversations with my master during training, so I have to train more on my own time, but this is a rough sketch of my life here. On Saturdays, I head down to the Shaolin Orphanage a couple miles down the mountain to spend some time with the kids, they are just the cutest, weirdest, most awesome-part of my week. I play basketball with them, teach them how to rap to Tupac songs, educate them in the art of sarcasm, occasionally some formal English classes when the head of the orphanage is looking, but en general just spreading that “Jerry Wisdom”. On Sundays, I wash my cloth and myself included, clean the uncleaned, unwrinkled the wrinkled, write the unwritten, blog the un-blogged, and check usually send a call to my mother telling her that I am still alive and well and that I hope she knows how lucky and unlucky she is to be living in Amurica.

Surely, I did not expect to experience 90% of the troubles I have met so far, but life has a way of circling back to where it begins, so eventually I did end up with the Shaolin spirit of (chan, wu, yi), just in my own unplanned, unexpected, and unique way. And I made a whole bunch of friends along the ways, who are all in some way connected to my past.

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Coldest When it’s About to get Warm

This is an idea that is much easily understood when it is “self-experienced” rather than being explained to or told about. But I am a very stubborn person, so I am going to try the impossible.

It’s actually a very universal idea, in regards that it can be applied to almost anything and would fit right in. Let’s start with the seasons and the changing of the planetary weather on earth. The hottest time of the year is around summer solstice (which is June 13th this yr), it’s “official definition” is that it occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet’s semi-axis in a given hemisphere is most inclined towards the star that it orbits, basically when earth looks at the sun and says “what’s up”. Summer solstice is also the exact same time that the earth starts to “get cold”, this occurrence is not manifested in temps above ground, but the earth itself is actually getting colder by the day as it continues to turn. Basically the idea is that the start of any conversation is the when the conversation begins to end. I hope you don’t think I am a dumbo for stating the obvious.

How can this be applied to other things? Well let’s talk about my training at shaolin, using the logic establish above, the most painful and hardest moments of training is actually the beginning of my success and the good times. So if we can add this layer of understanding to our thinking, we can definitely introduce a new color to our spectrum of life. However, it can also offer a harsh dose of reality, using this logic, when you are reaching the apex of your success in life, it is also when you begin the downfall of your failures. It is true, we see this in athletes that play more years than they should, and than their body allow them to. AKA Shaq.

Overall, this little fact of nature here shows us that there exists cycles in life that we are unable to change. But by understanding these cycles we can view our current lives with a more accurate perspective, and take out some of the “stubbornness”, “over-confidence”, and “ostensible bliss” that can sometimes cloud our judgement.

PS: The above is written by a Chinese dude training at a temple in china, so it’s completely normal if you don’t understand, if you are an Aussie,  sorry just know that I didn’t write this for y’all.

What is Kungfu?

When I say the word kungfu, most of my White friends would start inmitating Bruce Lee sounds and pretending to be a martial arts master. But the word kungfu is not directly connected to martial arts in any way, as most tend to misuse it. The word “kungfu” in Chinese simply means “time spent (practicing something)” or “a learned skill”, most of the time it is use to desribed an amount of time/effort or to compliment someone’s skill in an area.

The word “kungfu” ‘s written form is very symbolic of its meaning, the writting is comprised of two horinzontal lines and two diagnol lines coming through them. It examplies the idea that it is simple to practice something, but to master it takes years upon years of dedication and creative ingenuity. People aren’t seperated by what form or techniques they use, they are seperated by their kungfu, their time spent in one area and their skills acquired in that area.

One can have kungfu in almost anything; writing, cooking, singing, even skills like chopping vegetables can be considered kungfu. More modern activites like skating or basketball are areas as well, most of the time kungfu is used to described mastery of “physical activities” (yes writing is a physical activity, a manifestation of mental thoughts).

Chinese Wisdom: Your Body is the Universe

One of the new ways I will be sharing my experiences in China with you all is through the discussion of some of the “Chinese Wisdom” I am currently learning to understand and appreciate. For those of you who are Asian, these might sound “remotely” familiar to the “Confucius Says” jokes or even “rants” by your Asian parents and relative. I just hope that doesn’t get in the way of you enjoying my posts and trying to pry open the vault of wisdom it holds.

One of the first concept I learned from Chinese Medicine after I got injured at Shaolin was the intimate relationship with natural universe and our bodies. All the laws of the universe, from it’s patterns of growth to the Circadian rhythms of plants, are all exemplified in the human body in ways both obvious and unfathomable. Like nature, our body takes time to change such as growth in height and of body hair, but change is also happening constantly in our body such as when we produce proteins and renew enzymes every single second. The constant state of change and activity is one of the principle similarities, another is the balance of opposite, the Yin and Yang. Just as our bodies are constantly growing and changing, it is also constantly decaying and dying. For every new cell generated, waste of the dead ones must be transported out of the body, it is always working and striving for a state of balance.

Whenever one has a question about life or about the world around him, one has to look no further than ones own body, because all the answers to questions of philosophical depths to cutting edge science can be answered by observing and understanding our own bodies. Whether you believe that we are creations of Gods or a product of time and constant change, our body is the most intricate and enigmatic object known to man. Even the most advanced computing technology of today is no match for the human brain, a mere part of the human body, though a very important part. Until the day of Singularity comes, when Artificial Technology can reach the same efficiency of human thinking, I firmly believe that all the questions we have today (from chemistry to physics to psychology to math to even bio-fuel) can be answered by further researching and analyzing the human body.

That is how great I think our body is, which is also my reason for respecting all human beings no matter their background, ethnicity  sexual choices, income, education, or personal belief. Because I believe the human body is absolutely wonderful and beautiful, almost as beautiful as the human soul. So the next you disrespect someone, think of it as disrespecting yourself,  because respecting yourself and your body means respecting others who share the same human body.