When I was a boy studying at the Shaolin Temple, my master told me that my Shaolin Practice was not just for myself but for the benefit of other people. I asked him, "How could my practice benefit other people ?" He replied, "Shaolin training strengthens the heart, mind and body so that a person has more command over the actions of their body, speech and mind, and therefore it helps that person live a good life. Shaolin Practice gives the inherent goodness which is inside all of us, some breathing space."
I was fourteen at the time and didn't fully understand what my master meant but I've thought about it a lot since then.
Our training is about finding the natural healthy state which lives inside all of us, and nurturing that state so it can grow into good health. We are taught that if we can just be, really be in our true natural state then all of our health and good qualities are naturally there. We don't need to force or make ourselves into something.
Through our Shaolin Qigong practice, our mind, which is usually in a whirlwind of agitation, glides naturally into the present moment, slowing down and coming to rest. This is our first taste of calm. As we become more familiar with it, we stay in this experience longer. Research on meditation shows that this experience increases our feelings of happiness and decreases our feelings of anxiety. Yes, we still have plenty to worry about but the worries no longer get hold of us. Our peace then permeates into our work,family and friends and we function better in our life.
And what about Shaolin Kung Fu? How can our practice benefit others? Well, think for a moment about what happens to your body if you don't train:
- Acceleration of ageing
- Lack of stamina, strength and flexibility
- Lack of connection between the body and the mind
- Increase of potential illness such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure
- Increase of falls in later life.
- Less energy in day to day life
Of course, not all illnesses are preventable but for the ones that are, we need to do everything we can to be proactive. Our bodies are born to move.
This is why Shaolin is a lifestyle choice. I know it's not easy. Some days we lack the motivation to train. I've been doing it now for over thirty years, and I still have days when I struggle. But this struggle is part of our path. Without struggle we can't become strong.