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The Shaolin monks and their life-changing tenets

The Shaolin monks were simple farmers and worshippers of Buddhism who learned to protect themselves from constant danger with a kind of “meditation in motion,” a non-deadly form of self-defense that did not go against their promise of peace. As their myth spread, they became known as the Shaolin Fighting Monks, respected for their spiritual dedication, enlightened message, and amazing fighting skills.

Author Steve DeMasco, entered the Shaolin Temple to battle the demons of his past. This gave him the powerful platform to live The Shaolin Way, become a Shaolin grandmaster, and write this book, and to share these 11 modern secrets of survival:

1. Survival is not enough. Take what is called the “80/20 rule.” It is an understanding that 80 percent of the time life can and should be good, and 20 percent of the time life will probably suck, because, let’s face it — you can’t control everything. The rule is just another way of accepting the fact that crap happens, and that when it does, don’t go personalizing the pain that comes from the bad things — thinking “It’s my fault” or “If only I had done X differently…” This makes it easier to deal with painful situations with a minimal amount of suffering.

2. Focus + discipline = accomplishment. From a western perspective, focus is like a golf game: on any given day you can go out on the course and hit that little white ball as well as Tiger Woods. The problem is that, unless you’re him, you won’t do it consistently, and consistency takes discipline and practice. Having discipline may not guarantee success, but the lack of it guarantees failure. A person can work very hard at doing something, yet still not accomplish anything. Accomplishing goals requires a combination of discipline and focus, discipline requires continual focus, and being able to focus requires continual discipline.

3. Self-worth comes from self-examination. Your self-worth is formed early, for better or worse, and it comes from education by people who have the “right” answers, not the answers you want to hear that only support your arrogant behavior. And hear what a Shaolin saying proclaims: “You cannot give what you don’t possess yourself, and you cannot possess what you were not given.”

4. Even in weakness, there is strength. You create your own weakness, and that prevents you from having the joy in life you should — and are entitled — to have by making yourself feel afraid, hurt, disappointed or hesitant. Sun Tzu suggests in The Art of War that “it’s not good to fall on your own blade.” In other words, allowing your own weakness to hold you back is like shooting yourself in the foot.

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5. Living to live. People are dying to live. People are struggling to survive, so they can one day expire. It should be the reverse: People must live to live. You only have one life and it’s inevitable that you will die. In Shaolin philosophy, no one fears death. There’s no way out of it, so you’ve got to make the most of every single second of every single day that you have.

6. Standing still will help you advance. Rather than stopping, people like to keep moving, but it results to draining. You can actually get further by stopping sometimes. It’s like going on a long road trip. You say, “No, I’m not going to stop my car. I’m going to keep going, then stop when the fuel dies out.” But if you stop every so often at a service station, you get that break and then keep going. “Meditation is a way to recharge batteries without getting unnerved,” Steve DeMasco writes. “Maybe you live in a fast-paced world and thinking you’re achieving targets, but instead you find yourself getting hassled and overtaxed, and as such you get sick more often. Kung fu really gave me a different outlook on living.”

7. Anger is wasted energy. Anger and hatred are created by someone else, whatever it is, and your response just contributes to all that bad energy. You’re mad, you’re sweating, your heart is racing, and this response will not make you feel any better, even for a minute. You’re still going to be angry later unless you break things down to their essence — why you are angry, why he or she are angry — and deal with it in the moment, instead of letting things simmer and get worse. Confucius says, “When you see a good person, think about evaluating that person. When you see a bad person, think about evaluating yourself.”

8. Victims aren’t born, they’re bred. Getting out of a victim mindset is no easy task. To do so, you have to learn to spot the behavior and then make a change. Your suffering, from a Shaolin perspective, is caused by an attachment to who you think you are, because your daily actions are programmed based on who you are and how you were raised. If you’re beaten and abused as a kid, you’re going to feel worthless as you get older because you’ll have no foundation for who you are and what life is all about. A Chinese proverb articulates this: “You cannot prevent the bird of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent it from nesting in your hair.”

9. Doing unto others. This is best summarized in a story: An emperor asked Confucius about benevolence. Confucius said, “He who could practice five things everywhere in the world would be benevolent.” “What five things?” the emperor asked. Confucius said, “Courtesy, magnanimity, sincerity, diligence and clemency. He who is courteous is not scorned, he who is magnanimous wins the multitude, he who is sincere is trusted by people, he who is diligent succeeds in all he undertakes, and he who is clement can get good service from people.”

10. Hope springs eternal, but hope is an action. It is an integral part of a successful, happy life, but it is not a cure-all. Only through hope can you develop and maintain the desire to take the path toward whatever you consider success, by rooting out fear, pain and suffering, and using the energy you decide to spend on hope to constructively work towards what you want for yourself and others. Mo Tzu declares, “All war, hate and fear can be conquered if men would act in a loving way toward each other.”

11. You can’t move on if you can’t let go. If you must, be your own king, your own queen, your own hero. Stare up at statues, and live out the possibility of becoming the kindest and most fulfilled person you can be as you go through your days. But while you’re looking up, or ahead, or behind — at real people or statues made to show honor and remind you of possibility — remember to look into the mirror. Who do you see? What do you stand for?

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Email bongosorio@gmail.com for comments, questions or suggestions. Thank you for communicating.

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