How To Use Failure As A Pathway To Wisdom

There was a famous Ch'an teacher called Dogen Zenji who said: "Hitting the mark is the result of ninety-nine failures."

This means it's okay to fail. We need failure to lead us to success. Thinking in this way means we will never be discouraged with our practice but able to use each experience to enrich it. What makes our Qigong or Kung Fu practice go deeper is the day-by-day effort of taking time out and practicing. If we talk about it all the time then it's just a dream. It's the doing that matters.

People sometimes ask me, Why do I still do Shaolin Steel Jacket? I'm thirty-six now. I no longer fight in competitions. I don't need it for my daily survival. But I want to demonstrate to my students that we are far more than we think we are. I want my students to go beyond their limitations, the limitations people set on them or the limitations they set on themselves. Interestingly, it's usually our mind that we have to work on, more than our body. Our mind tends to act like a badly trained puppy and the training is a way to calm it down. Going through the process of training in Shaolin Steel Jacket was one of the hardest things I've done. It strengthened my mind as much as my body.

The Buddha said that enlightenment couldn't happen until the mind and body were in harmony. Ancient statues of the Buddha show his lungs and chest expanded with Qi. Before he began his journey to enlightenment, he was an excellent martial artist and archer, and I believe those arts aided him towards enlightenment.

At the Shaolin Temple we say the highest kung fu is sitting meditation. But we don't need to sit on a cushion to practice meditation. When your mind and body are completely one, that is meditation. Whatever you hear, whatever you think, that is meditation. In your everyday life you always have opportunities for meditation.

Make your Shaolin practice your meditation. And when you do it, just do it without success or failure or expectation.

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