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The following is an excerpt from the book The Shaolin Workout
by Sifu Shi Yan Ming
Published by Rodale; May 2006;$29.95US/$39.95CAN; 1-59486-400-4
Copyright © 2006 Sifu Shi Yan Ming
As I go through my day today, I will remind myself to relax. Stay loose. Be flexible in my body and mind.
It’s most important to stay loose and relaxed in mind and body. To enjoy your life, you must be relaxed. When we were children, our bodies were loose, relaxed, and flexible. We could do splits, flips, jumps, and twists without thinking about it. We were pure mind in babies’ bodies.
But you’re never too old — we just get too tense, too stiff. We think too much. One of the most important lessons you can learn doing the Shaolin Workout is how to get back that childlike relaxation and flexibility — to be at home in your body again. It makes no difference if you are in your twenties, fifties, or eighties. Relax. Never feel old. Tell yourself you’re not getting older every year — you’re getting younger!
Sifu explains that there are two kinds of meditation: action meditation and no-action meditation. In the West, we’re most familiar with the no-action kind. We can all form images of Buddhist monks sitting with their legs crossed and their eyes closed, still and silent, for hours and hours, as they strive to achieve enlightenment.
The only problem is that too much no-action meditation can be as bad for your joints, your back, your neck, as sitting at a computer all day. This is what Da Mo saw happening to the monks at Shaolin. They spent so much time sitting in meditation that their bodies were as stiff as wooden dolls. He saw that Ba Tuo had not given them the proper tools to adapt Buddhism to Chinese life. Why do we meditate? To cleanse our minds and open our hearts. But if we burden our bodies with tension and pain, our minds and hearts can’t be cleansed. Your mind and your heart and your body are inseparable.
Kung fu is action meditation. The goal of kung fu is to relax your body and your mind, to extend your body and your mind, to cleanse your body and your mind. To be relaxed in your body, and relaxed in your life, is how you live fully in the present, experiencing this moment, here and now.
In our modern world, there’s another benefit to action meditation. We all have lives, jobs, families. We have wonderful things coming into our lives every day. Who among us has the time to sit and meditate for hours a day, like monks in a monastery? As you’ll find out, a half-hour of action meditation can be as liberating, for your body and your mind and your heart, as several hours of no-action meditation.
Kung fu and martial arts represent a refined form of action meditation. But any exercise program can be a form of action meditation — running, swimming, playing tennis, riding a bike. In the West, we speak of that point in an exercise routine where we “get in the zone,” where we “release endorphins,” where we achieve “the runner’s high.” Those are all Western ways of approaching the same concept: action meditation. A relaxed mind in a relaxed body.
As you go through your day today, relax. Stay loose. Be flexible in your body and in your mind. Enjoy your beautiful life every minute of the day.
Reprinted from: The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior’s Way by Sifu Shi Yan Ming © 2006 Rodale Inc. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at www.rodalestore.com.
Sifu Shi Yan Ming, a 34th-generation Shaolin warrior monk, is respected not only in the martial arts world but also in the entertainment world by stars like Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Wesley Snipes, and the Wu-Tang Clan. His kung fu classes have been featured in USA Today, The New York Times, New York Daily News, and Entertainment Weekly. Brian Gray of Inside Kung Fu magazine has called him a “living treasure of China.” He has also appeared on the Discovery Channel, MTV, and CNBC, among other major networks. Sifu Shi Yan Ming lives in New York City.