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Shaolin and the Individual Spirit

This past weekend my wife Marisol took me to the USA Shaolin Temple near Canal Street in NYC.  Her karate teacher from her Venezuelan childhood had recently recommended that she go there to study, saying that the head of that temple, Shifu Shin Yan Ming, was “The Real Deal.”  Coming from Marisol’s “Shihan” (which means “master”) this was high praise, as he himself is “The Real Deal” too.

I entered the temple to find that there was a class test being administered by Shin Yan Ming.
 As we took places in the back of the room, trying to be as inauspicious as we could, he was sharing some words with his students that really resonated with me, and moved me to write this piece. 

He began with the words “Conflict is the key to life.”  He went on to tell his students “This is your time.  Express yourself. Be free.”

As I stood in the back of the room, these words penetrated my soul.  I thought about the rather short period of time that we all have on earth as I considered Shifu’s words “This is your time.”  The message of being free and expressing myself, which I took to mean “be authentic and true to myself,” was powerful as I considered the powerful forces that we all face that encourage conformity and cause us to lose our individual spirit and with it our unique purpose and style.  And, this of course is a part of the conflict that he must have been referring to.  How incredibly difficult it is for one to be free in a world that constantly challenges that freedom!

I left the temple meditating on the words “This is your time.”  I began to come to grips with my own life and the challenges that I face, and those that I witness daily in the world and that can easily bring our spirits down, and I realized that, in spite of those, this is really my time and its up to me to make of it what I may.  I left rededicated to myself, to the life that I’ve been given, and to expressing myself during that life with great personal freedom.  I suppose there is a price one must inevitably pay for not conforming, but to me that price seems to be relatively small when compared to the price of losing one’s individual spirit.

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