PART 1 of (probably many)
I remember having thoughts that the physical world is not real as a youth. I thought of my self as “half in this world.” I thought of life on earth as a role playing game where I was given a character that I had to pretend to be. Meanwhile, all my thoughts and what I later came to think of as my energy existed on another plane. Life on earth was mundane while this energy plane was vibrant and ever changing.
It was during my formal education when I was exposed to some kung-fu movies that highlighted some of the Taoist and Buddhist philosophy of China and India that I realized there were other humans and other traditions that took these inner experiences into account. The subjects of these films also seemed to have a refinement and efficiency to their way of being that appealed to me.
One image that I remember was from Bruce Lees “Enter the Dragon.” At some point in the film he is trapped by the evil boss in a small room with no windows and no doors. He instantly knew that there was no way out of the room. His response was to calmly sit down, crossing his legs. There was no wild yelling or pounding. Not motivated by fear or impatience, he simply accepted his fate and let the boss make his next move. Like water, he took the path of least resistance. This struck me because at that time in my life I didn’t understand the root motivations of the people around me. They seemed to be for the most part inconsistent and not consciously decided. This level of awareness and efficiency struck me as a very appealing way to be.
I suddenly had a direction to explore. I read all I could find about these traditions and I found teachers to study with. A university class on Chinese Medicine connected me with healers and martial artists who were steeped in these traditions. Thus began a long learning and exploring process.
I became particularly engaged with one teacher. He was supposedly a Daoist recluse from the mountains of northern China. He must have weighed no more than 100 pounds but when we played push hands(the tai chi way of sparring) he could effortlessly push me around into submission. Through his movements, he expressed some mastery of this energy plane.
I had made plans to do an extended work exchange at his temple in a remote area in China. I would do manual labor in exchange for kung fu, tai chi, and chi gong instruction. Getting ready to live out what was probably a common fantasy for American kids post- Karate Kid.