The word Zen has been thrown around in spiritual circles for some time now. Have you ever wondered what Zen actually means? I have, so I did some research. Zen is essentially the pathway to deeper understanding of oneself. Philosophy means knowledge, so Zen Philosophy is the knowledge of deeper understanding.
Through my ongoing journey of self-awareness, I have had many teachers. Bruce Lee is one of these individuals. I grew up watching him even though he passed away 10-years prior to my birth. People remember him as the elusive martial artist and movie star but, what some may not know is that he was a philosophy major at the University of Washington.
I started immersing myself in whatever teachings about 10 years ago. I used to think about the potential impact he could have had on the world if it wasn’t for his untimely death at 32-years of age.
I don’t put much emphasis on this sentiment now because it’s a story that never could be. I’ll remember Bruce Lee as a timeless master of the body, spirit, and mind. His legacy is forever embedded in my heart.
His philosophy, interviews, and books have had profound influences on me, and I wanted to share some of his wise words that have helped me. Although we are loners with different paths, we are also illuminated lanterns for each other so we can walk our paths without stumbling. My hope is that I can spark something in you.
Below are 7 Lessons from Bruce Lee
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”
Why does Bruce Lee’s legacy still live on? It’s because we have never seen anything like him. He never tried to be anyone else because that would entail diluting who he really was. If you think about anyone in history that has done something noteworthy, they are remembered because they embraced their individuality. I believe one should look at others as a means of inspiration, but believing in yourself so you can create your own mark is essential. We all have the tools and gifts within to do something special. Spend this lifetime, because who knows if there is another, cultivating and harnessing what is timeless in you and share it with the world.
“To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.”
Whether we blame politics, our boss, family, friends, diet, or our current situation in life, we are the reasons we don’t ahead. We manifest our lives every day. If it is pizza you seek today, you are manifesting it. It then becomes a reality when you go out and get that cheesy slice. Is chasing your dreams really as easy as ordering a pizza? I have two answers for you. It is if you think it is, and it isn’t if you think it isn’t. Perspective is huge and those that see the world as a hallway of open doors, tend to be rewarded. Bruce Lee came to stardom at a sensitive time in human history. The civil rights era was in full effect, we were at war with Vietnam, and the few Chinese actors and actresses that graced Hollywood played roles that stereotype Asian culture negatively. Mr. Lee saw this as an opportunity to change the way we think about the East. He decided he was going to leave his own mark, his own opportunity. If you want something in life, go get it. PERIOD. Every moment you make an excuse, you are negating the potential that could be.
“If you always put a limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
Have you ever started something that you loved and simply stopped? I’m sure many of us have and I am no different. At 21, I started a website on motivation, then another on finance, then another on Beagles. During college, I started an eBay business selling Macbook adapters that were generating a thousand dollars a month and I was also selling protein powders to students from the trunk of my car that I got from a wholesaler. Anyone of these ventures could have paid off in dividends if I stuck with it. Instead, I quit. I let negative external situations monopolize my mind. When you run and are out of breath, do you stop breathing? No, because that would be irrational. Instead, we run slower or walk until we can run again. I have stopped time and time again, but with wisdom, age, and people like Bruce Lee guiding me, I learned that you have to keep moving forward and that the only limits we have are those we set against ourselves.
“It’s not the daily increase but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
When I was younger I was always getting rid of things my parents no longer needed. Today I can pretty much wash all my clothes in one load of laundry. I am more of a minimalist. I don’t say this to boast or think that having less makes someone better than someone who has more material possessions. There is absolutely nothing humbling or admirable about living a minimalistic life. The world of mass consumption just doesn’t hold much precedence for me. I derive more joy from gardening or a long hike. I urge you to take a look at what is cluttering your life. Whether it’s things or people, sometimes hacking away at the unessential can foster a healthier mind.
“One can function freely and totally if he is “beyond system.” The man who is really serious, with the urge to find out what truth is, has no style at all. He lives only in what is.”
When you are conditioned to think as though nothing can change, you might as well be in jail because you have enslaved the mind in dogma. Bruce Lee suffered criticism, and hate from his own people because he taught martial arts to anyone who wanted to learn. He understood that he was human and so is his neighbor. Irrespective of race, age, gender, or sex, he would teach. He didn’t believe in specific styles of martial arts. In an interview he once said, unless humans have three arms, then all forms of martial arts are for everybody. You can take this lesson further. Being free from religion, political affiliation, race, and sex isn’t for the faint of heart. From the time we are born, we are given labels. As we grow older, we believe these labels and even defend them. What happens when we are free and beyond system as Bruce lee would say? I feel that fewer things will offend you and you can put more energy into being a better you.
“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
If a bee stung you when you tried to take its honey, would you still try again? Expectations almost always cause heartache, yet we continue even though we know it hurts! With politics, we expect one side to win, and when they don’t, we are upset. When our children grow up to be someone totally different than we expected, we become upset. When the love we give is not reciprocated, we become upset. Do you see a pattern here? I’ve learned to expect the best out of myself because that is the only thing I can count on. Let people be the way they want to be. Help when you can, be a shoulder to cry on when called upon, and love without expecting anything in return. A mother loves her child without expectation. Why? It’s because she understands that this living individual that she created is a part of her. What if we took note of this simple relationship and extrapolated it to all humanity. Then what? Metaphorically, I try to emulate the Sun. It’s always shining, always bright, and forever giving without expectation.
“All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside all fixed patterns. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless like water. If you put water into a cup it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”
I used to have a rigid workout schedule. Everything had to be written out and methodically planned. Now I can care less about a uniform way of getting exercise as long as I am using my body to its optimum level of exertion. We are not robots, we are all artists painting the canvas of our lives. Have goals in mind but keep leave a part of you to be adaptable, elusive, and open to different ideas that are in line with what you want to accomplish. You are the river and the ocean is where you want to be. All rivers don’t yield or stop at the sight of a giant mountain. Instead, they find a way to maneuver and create new pathways to eventually merge with the ocean. It’s our duty to find the greater ocean within us.
Bruce Lee’s lessons can be boiled down to presence. The agony of seeing a day go and the beauty that is brought on by the birth of a new one and everything in between is all the reason to enjoy the here and now. How can you enjoy the sun of today if you are still getting soaked from the rain from yesterday?
Check out this short clip from an interview with Bruce Lee. “Running water never grows stale, so you gotta keep on flowing.”
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