The Magic of Bamboo: Lessons on Resilience

The Zen Master and the Lesson on Bamboo

The Zen Master and his student were travelling by foot to the next village. There was a steep downhill incline through the very tall bamboo forest. The student’s foot got caught on some roots and he tripped. Instinct took over and he reached out and grabbed hold of the closet bamboo tree. The bamboo bent and bent and supported the student and he clung for dear life so as not to end up in a deep ravine.

The bamboo tree was nearly even with the ground but never broke. Regaining his footing and his composure, he returned to his place behind the Master. “Did you notice the bamboo bent but never broke?” Yes, Master. “You noticed that the bamboo sprung quickly back to its normal position?” Yes. “This is how we must be. Adversity can try to break us. But we must learn to be like the bamboo, be resilient when life tries to pull us down. We must pass through difficulty and spring back and resume our lives.” 

Meeting Life’s Challenges without Resistance 

I have a bamboo tree in water in my bathroom. It seems to never grow. In fact bamboo in the wild takes many years to develop its root system underground. Once the root system is fully matured, the bamboo shoots up to the sky seeking the light at a rapid pace. It can grow 65 feet in a few months. The metaphor follows that our psychological roots have to develop until we are mature.

At that point, growth in all areas of life promise to be phenomenal. Be like bamboo. Strong, light weight, highly resilient, able to meet life’s challenges and able to spring back. Someone said that obstacles are actually pathways. You can climb over, sneak under or plow through them. But the obstacles have a reason. They allow you to grow, to develop muscle and skill. Without them you cannot get to where you want to go. 

Resistance versus Acceptance

My entire life I have not liked the cold. I would never walk across the floor barefoot. I always wear a hat since I am bald and have no natural cover. I was hiding from the cold at all times. When I had to go out into the cold, I tensed up everywhere. Then I met the Ice Man, Wim Hof a crazy Dutch man that does the impossible. He owns 26 Guinness World Book Records. He’s learned to strengthen his immune system through training his breath and by cold exposure. In clinical conditions he’s been buried in ice for 2 hours and maintained his core body temperature at 98.6.  He says the cold is his “dark friend” that has many lessons to teach. See my post about Wim Hof.

Just from watching a few videos I realized that I can accept the cold as “my friend.” I don’t need to fear being cold. So now I’ve been playing with cold showers. I am not very brave, but I understand that using the cold, being the tough thing it is, can toughen me. I am still in my baby stages. But I am learning. This is what I mean by allowing the tough things in life to mold and fashion us into a better person. Of course, I am not advocating going crazy like Wim Hof but when you are ready taking a step into a personal fear and changing the mind set. Only take the steps you want to take, when you want to take them. 

When life throws you a curve ball, bend, don’t break and spring back. 

Best wishes, Garey

PS I found this very inviting exercise video that can be very relaxing and helpful to staying youthful as we age. Enjoy. Feel free to comment below. 

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