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The Shaolin Way To Nip A Problem In The Bud

I have many bad character traits but one thing I'm grateful to my masters for teaching me is simplicity. Maybe I'm a little stupid but I don't think over and over again in the way I've noticed many of my Western students do. They run their problems round and round their mind like marbles. Shantideva said: “If you can solve your problem, Then what is the need for worrying? If you cannot solve it, Then what is the use of worrying?”. This quote is very powerful because it moves us away from worry and inaction and gets us to the root of what we need to do.

  • What is it that is making you anxious or worried?
  • Can you do something to change it?
  • If the answer is yes then do it. 
  • If the answer is no then you need to find a way to accept it.
  • This is the end of the story.  You don't need to think about this problem anymore. Move on.
  • If you find it hard to move on then this Chinese proverb is for you:

塞翁失馬焉知非福 (Saiweng Shima, Yanzhi Feifu). The Old Man Who Lost His Horse

During the Han Dynasty—in the third century B.C.—an old man living on China’s border one day lost his horse. His neighbors all said what terrible luck that was, and sympathized with the old man. But Sai Weng said: “Maybe losing my horse is not a bad thing after all.”

The next day the old man’s horse returned, together with a beautiful female horse alongside him. All the neighbors said: “What great luck!” But the old man responded: “Maybe this is not such good luck after all.”

The old man had a strong young son. The boy fell in love with the new horse and rode her every day. One day the new horse got spooked by a wild animal and threw the boy from her back. He broke his leg very badly and was permanently crippled.

All Sai Weng’s neighbors said: “What a tragedy, your strong son will never walk without pain again.” But the old man again said: “Maybe this is not such a bad thing after all.”

And so it went that when the New Year came, the emperor’s army passed through the border region and recruited all able young men to fight in the frontier war. Because the old man’s son was crippled he could not fight and was left in the village to farm with his father. Sai Weng said to his neighbors: “You see, it all turned out okay in the end. Being thrown from the horse and breaking his leg saved my son from fighting in the war and almost certain death. So it was in the end a lucky thing after all.”

Whenever a bad thing happens in China, someone will say “Sai Weng Shi Ma” (Remember “The Old Man Who Lost His Horse”) to remind themselves and others that bad things have a silver lining.

Shifu Yan Lei teaches authentic Kung Fu and Qigong. 



  • LifesIrony

    I understand that I overthink and worry myself to no good end and that the best choice is acceptance or change. But how do we make the move from stagnation in the pools of worry to this ability to clearly see the simple choice. Better yet, are there tools that can keep us mindful of this practice.

  • kalavera

    I take the time to write to thank you for your valuable advice, thanks to DVDs and videos I realized that I was too bodybuilding (yang) since I practice qigong and meditation in the morning, 2-3 weight training session weight body a week and a meeting shaolin kung fu and Tai Chi to score ying and work flexibility. Long continuation Sifu Yan Lei

  • Juan Carlos Polanco General

    Quiero arte …

  • Alena Beyer

    I really needed this advice today…thank you Sifu. I will face the day a much happier person.

  • Wild Gluteus

    Thank you and very grateful for your teachings. May I share some of your stories and teachings on my wall so others can view?

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