In Chinese, Confucius says there is one teacher among three people who walk with you. If three people walk with you, there is always one that can be your teacher. What does that mean? In our life no one is super, no one is perfect. We always have at least one mentor, someone in our life who can give us some guidance, wisdom, lessons. We learn from each other. Earlier in our life our parents are our first mentor and teacher, later our teachers, later some wise men and wise women are our mentors, then we find some spiritual teachers who also serves as a spiritual mentor.
Not only these are our teachers but also, in Daoism we always say there is dialectic, on one side is a great teacher, but if you go to the other side there is a not so great teacher, but they are still your teacher. Have you ever looked at that when life is not so pleasant to you, not so happy? Anything that you encounter: persons, incidents, even a crisis event, can be your teacher. Have you learned to appreciate those kinds of teachers? Or do you just appreciate things that make you happy?
Things that may not be so happy can be our teacher. Let's say in the very beginning of our life, our parents. Our parents have done their best, in their capacity, in their ability to raise us, they bring the roof over the head, they bring the bread and butter to the table. They bring the lesson in our life, they may try to force you to do something and you may not like it. Our parents have given up everything they have for their children, in a good way or in a bad way. Today our children look back and say "Oh, I appreciate a lot of the great things that my parents gave me, but I'm not appreciating that my parents gave me many things that I not appreciate them for." Quite often I hear those comments.
I grew up in a very poor farmer's family. Neither of my parents ever went to the school. My father was a very rough man. He would teach me a lesson with farm tools. Meaning he would beat me just to make sure that I listened or followed his guideline. Farmers only have a farmer's ability to teach a lesson. If you didn't listen he bring out the bamboo and whip you. And, you know, I was pretty much a monkey in childhood. I never spoke one word until three years old. After 3 years old I started speaking but you know I was too spunky, and talked a lot and some of the time was a little bit too spunky, and not listening well, so my father beat me physically, sometimes verbally.
But this does not mean that my father was not a kind man. As a child to hear verbal and physical abuse you don't appreciate it, because you don't have the ability to understand why your parents did such things to you or your interpretation is "I don't like it; that is horrible." Sometimes in your little heart you might develop hatred toward them. Some people can take that kind of pain for their whole life until they are 70 years old; sometimes still blaming that their parent did wrong. Okay. In China we don't have psychologists, so we go to wise men, and wise women. When I was a little child there was a little temple in the mountain, and the best comfort to me was to run to the temple to sit with the elder priestesses. I always sat with them and tried to understand why my Dad have to beat me, why can't he change to another way to tell me what he want. The priestesses taught me "Oh, one day you will understand, there is always a lesson in something. One day you will understand."
Up to today, after the years of training in Wudang Mountain – I thought I would get away from the bamboo already! I did not… My five masters still beat me with bamboo. So I thought about it, "You have to learn to appreciate the bamboo maybe?" I never learned to appreciate it until later on. Later on I appreciated that bamboo does have its wisdom. It doesn't feel good on your physical but it might be very good on your spiritual. There are lessons in there. Without me getting beat up, I wouldn't know how to appreciate the differences between people. There are differences between people: there are spiritual achievement differences, intellectual differences, experience differences, wisdom differences and cultural differences. When I came to this country I realized our cultures are very different. We look different, we smile different, we even hate differently – we are different people, and yet we all come from same source, same humans, from the immortal world – we all come from the same source, we are all a conscious, kindness, merciful and forgiving human.
Can we instill, re-instill those kinds of qualities in our mind, body and soul? Can we learn to appreciate the difference? Some people say, "My Dad was a horrible human, I will not forgive him before he takes his last breath. He needs to learn a lesson too." During the past 22 years I have coached many men and women to go to the bedside and forgive their parents, to make good with their parents. I always say "don't you think that your Dad and your Ma behaved this way because it was exactly what you needed to learn? So now at least you learn not to function like your Dad and your Ma, and for that at least, your Dad and Ma deserve appreciation."
Do you get it? When your Dad whips you, you know "I shouldn't whip my son…" Or, "my Dad did not learn how to communicate this way, so when I become a Dad, I will communicate the other way." Do you get it? Why does your Ma keep being such a talkie talkie around your ear? Because you always reject and never listen and never appreciate what she does and so she must use the negative way of behavior to get you to learn to be positive. Your Ma may not be intellectually capable of understanding but your Ma's spirit knows exactly what she is doing: by showing the negative, reflecting the positive. Therefore you learn the positive without appreciating the negative. How can your Ma take the last breath to go? Of course she doesn't want to go, she wants to hang on a little bit longer and torture you a little bit longer. Do you understand now?
I coached a lady in the southeast; She was a caretaker to her mother for a long, long time. Her mother was so negative but she never abandoned her either. They took care of each other, but she always suffered from her Mother's negativity. Through 3 years I coached her and let her understand to appreciate her Ma. She was exactly using that negative to present exactly the positive, so go appreciate, accept her, live and let live…allow your mother to be who she is, not judging her, accept her unconditionally, be merciful and forgive her. And she slowly learned it. As soon as she really opened her heart up, then her mother went. Amazing. You might find this kind of instance a lot!
I strongly suggest, that when there is truly a big difference between father and son, mother and daughter, then step forward, take one step forward, and open your unconditional love heart, allow your heart to open up and unconditionally look into each other's eyes, and say, "I appreciate you." The biggest deed that parents do is to bring the child into the world. As a child you need to appreciate what Daddy and Mommy did. Without Daddy and Mommy there is no me. So that is the biggest deed. For that basic deed, you must learn to always appreciate your parents. No matter how they function you always have the token of appreciation in your soul. When you don't appreciate your parents, then you are not a good human being anymore. That is the first form of appreciation I wanted to talk about.
The second appreciation is for the teacher. We say the teache opens the door of the intellect; the intelligence door. In Chinese we say Qi Men Lao Shi, Qi = open, Men = door of stupid, Lao Shi = teacher. Confucius says the teacher is the person who opens the door so you will not be stupid. Our intelligence came from our teachers, our first teacher, of course is our parents, the second teacher is the teacher who taught you how to spell, how to read, how to recognize the words, how to recognize emotions, how to recognize the spiritual, how to recognize feelings, all of these things. Our knowledge comes from the teacher. Again, the teacher is just like parents. We say the teachers are second parents. When the teacher is standing in front of the board and looks down on all of the students, the students are their children, so they bring up unconditional love and start teaching. In China, in the ancient times of Confucius, in the classroom every student laid their hands over each other sitting upright, no one dared to put the leg crossed over the knee, and they sat upright, straight, looking straight and interacting with teacher. Recently, I visited an American classroom, it was fun… I saw a lot of things that I feel were not appreciative of the teacher. The students didn't look in the teacher's eyes to listen, they played with their cell phones, and they had their legs, not only on the legs, but on the table! In the ancient classroom they would get the bamboo for sure!
Knowledge comes from the teacher. But, if you think, "the teacher gets paid anyway so I don't have to care about you!" Come on, don't do that – give your teacher a place of appreciation. Your teacher prepared the class for countless hours, stands up, does a lot of research, pours out all the love from his or her heart to teach, to transmit their knowledge to you. Why can't the students give them basic appreciation? I have visited many American classrooms, and I wondered "why didn't I remember to bring that bamboo??"
But, I really feel that there is something there. Children do not know how to appreciate. The children know that the teacher will never whip them with bamboo because if they do they will be fired. American law practices protect our children – well that is one thing that is good. But also one thing that is bad. So then you know what? The teacher loses the passion to teach, the students lose the passion to learn. How can they learn and sustain the knowledge? They can't.
Knowledge coming to you without appreciation does not stay. Just like when your parents cook the food for hours and bring out the food and you say "Oh that tastes bad Ma and I don't want to eat it" or just eat it and push the plate away and run off. When you don't appreciate the food, the nutrition does not nurture your body and spirit. And the same thing when the teacher's knowledge is in one ear and out the other it will not stay with you. We need to appreciate and accept and listen with passion. Accept the knowledge and all of a sudden the knowledge sinks into your body and your soul and all of a sudden starts vibrating and then it is in and you can remember. When I was a teacher in China, I had 60 people in one my classroom and 62 people in the other. My first lesson was to get all my students to stand up and take six breaths first and then sit down and close the eyes for 1 minute of meditating. Visualize, then meditate, then the hands crossed on the table, and then listen to me for the class. And you know what? Those children sustain all the knowledge. My classroom was up to 95% admission to the college. In China that is a huge percentage. My children never failed any test and competition is very high in China. They do that. Why is that? Because I appreciate my students.
Without you here, I am not a teacher. I appreciated my students first. They give me a platform to speak, I appreciate that. And children learn to appreciate that – without me they have nothing to learn. We appreciate each other. We make a combo: yang without yin, there is no Dao, teacher without student, there is no teacher. We appreciate each other, without Mommy and Daddy there is no me - same thing. Without a wife I can't be a husband, we learn to appreciate each other, because, as soon as the mind learns to develop appreciation, the student can sustain the knowledge quickly and deeply and permanently. I found that my students, when they faced a big challenge test, that they didn't need to study. I asked them "why you not study." They said "teacher, I remember already, I don't need to review." It's in their intellectual system already, because they sit upright, their spirits are already very alert. When you put your head down, when you put your legs up, you not appreciate the knowledge. So you are rejecting; the door to intellectual is completely sealed, no matter how hard the teacher pummels you, the knowledge can never enter your door.
Do you get it? That's why when it comes to the test, you have to study and review, and review and review. In our teaching system when you sit upright your spirit is very alert, when your eyes engage to the teacher, your spirit is engaged, when your eyes and ears open, then unlimited knowledge will flow in and then you don't need to study anymore later.
I hope that all of us learn to appreciate our teacher. When I've visited China over the past 22 years, I still visit my elementary school teacher. I go in and bring a little gift. I say "I appreciate you; without you there is no me." Go back to acknowledge that, because with that small action you wipe away all the dust in your teacher's body and soul. Your teacher will really be happy to see you come back. If you make a phone call or email or make an appearance, the teacher that day will be so bright. That is number two, your teacher, you need to appreciate them.
Number three, you need to appreciate is your spiritual teacher, those priests in the church, those wise men in your community, even wise men like your sister who taught you, your brother who taught you, your grandpa who taught you, the neighbor, your uncle, who gave you spiritual guidance. When you are emotionally down, it is the people who are in your life, who lend you a hand, comfort your soul, and calm your spirit down and tell you everything is going to be all right. Do you remember when you look back in your life so many years, how many such kind people have, in your life, lent their hands, comforted you? Maybe even your classmate, even your doggie? Your little dog, your little pet is your companion. See what I mean. When you went to your church a nice very gentle soul, a priest, the congregation, sister, brother, might learn that your hand's up and reach out. You might open some spiritual book to you read, even though you never met the author. Have we learned to appreciate those people? Then their spiritual teaching, their action, their world, can deeply can deeply sink into our soul, and then we learn to appreciate. Then we really sync with them.
In my life I have had a lot of spiritual teachers, because I was chosen at six years old and brought into the mountain. I had lots of masters out there. And then after I went back to the community, I still traveled all over the China to search out some great teachers to teach me; I appreciate them. I had very good martial art skill at 16, 18 years old, and I went from state to state to state to search out high martial arts skill to "challenge" (really to study). I won many times, I lost many times. Even though I lost many times I see those humble teachers and they bow to me and make me sweat. The elders who practice all their life and I beat them and then they bowed to me; I learned the greatest martial arts virtue from these people and they make me humble. I never took advantage. If my skill was better than other people's they still have something to teach me, so I never took advantage, never beat up anyone spiritually. Everyone in our life always has something better than us even they got beat up by us. So think about it: in your life, when you beat up somebody intellectually or you beat up somebody emotionally, when those persons react with kindness or with compassion, how did you feel? Did you offer that kind of appreciation in your life?
The third appreciation I mentioned is our "enemy"; people that we normally would not appreciate. Those people who have done some emotional attack or emotional damage or physical damage or attack to us. We feel very challenged to forgive them. Again, those people – it is you and they making a puzzle. If you look at a piece of paper, without the ink, there is no picture, you and your opponent are a puzzle, maybe you draw him to you or he draws you to him, and make that kind of event, the unhappy event. Think about it, there are a lot of lessons in that unappreciated moment. Maybe that person is in your life just helping you, to be your companion, using negative to teach you positive. Can we learn from this? Can we learn to appreciate the spirit, appreciate the other person? They are here to make a puzzle with you. My teacher taught me that when I engage in the battlefield, the first thing to do, is never to draw the sword, but to bow first to the person, even if you know he wants to kill you. Bow to the person. Respect the art, the art of the war. Without this person in front of you, there is no war. When this person stands in front of you, pay attention and appreciate this moment. When this person is in front of you, then you have a game, see what I mean? Without this person there is no game.
You appreciate the people that you cannot appreciate, because you learn wisdom from the event. And that wisdom it is yours to keep from that event, therefore we extend our heart to our "enemy" or opponent that we appreciate them.
So, why speak of appreciation? We in our life cannot act alone. We cannot grow up, just like a little sprout when it comes out from the seed, from that little sprout growing into a big tree, and from the harvest and yield the fruit is produced. This can never be done in isolation, there are so many conditions that we have in our life. Do not take for granted the soil, the sun, the care, the fertilizer; lots and lots of things make us who we are today. For example– there are many people who put their love and soul to give us the clothes that we wear, the food that we eat – there are many people involved in that, the person that you are today – is because of the many teachers involved in your life. Even your enemies made you become a stronger person.
Give thanks to all the people associated with this little life. We are a little self, the little self must exist within the bigger self, we are a little self, we must exist within the whole universe. We must appreciate the whole universe. Learn to appreciate your ancestors contributions, it is the totality that makes me exist, it is me, one person, who also makes the whole exist. Appreciate each other on these special days coming.
Thanksgiving must give a new spiritual meaning. It's not just about the Mayflower anymore. Although it came from that incident it is more today that we look into our heart and soul. What can we be thankful for? Who can we give thanks for? Why should we be thankful, how do we give thanks, what quality of thanks can we bring up from our heart and soul. Look into the day, when you do that your life will be full of appreciation and then we'll learn joy and happiness is the only purpose of our life. May all your life be filled with happiness, appreciation and joy during these special holidays. Thank you very much… In Chinese, Confucius says there is one teacher among three people who walk with you. If three people walk with you, there is always one that can be your teacher. What does that mean? In our life no one is super, no one is perfect. We always have at least one mentor, someone in our life who can give us some guidance, wisdom, lessons. We learn from each other. Earlier in our life our parents are our first mentor and teacher, later our teachers, later some wise men and wise women are our mentors, then we find some spiritual teachers who also serves as a spiritual mentor.