Nei Gong : Inner Work

Don’t go looking to find yourself, you are not lost. You’re not anywhere else but right where you are buried under all the events and conditioning you received growing up. The real you is still under there but it is the acquired self – the you everyone thinks is the ‘real’ you – that has been running the show. We are conditioned to fit into the norm, speak the right languages, get the right education, and jobs. But many times, this does not let the true self be expressed much in our lives. Maybe on vacation once a year, or when we engage in a loved hobby. But certainly, many people do not get to let their true selves walk among us, or even know-how.


So, we sometimes run. Hide ourselves away looking for who we really are. It used to be common to see young people out backpacking before college ‘finding themselves’. But this luxury has certainly disappeared as the world has changed. With wages too low, costs too high to live, people now are turning to buying vans instead of houses. Working longer hours to pay their bills and renting their lives away all the while wishing they could find happiness, find out who they are. Well, maybe everyone already knows that happiness is within and not a result of things or places. But do they do the hard work to try and dig through their own stuff and face down their demons to find it?


That is what the inner work in our lives is about. Studying ourselves and looking into the dark corners of our souls we like to hideaway. Looking inside ourselves to study what is actually in the way of our true selves being expressed. It is the least fun work in the world it seems, painful, soul-wrenching work. It is work that does not always get good results either. Sometimes it is simply too much for people since the things we must look at are ugly and dark. Lies we tell ourselves must fall from the very first attempt at unraveling what is within ourselves. Comfortable lies that make life easier are a part of us all in one form or another and removing that comfort is painful and necessary to see what lay beneath.


Honesty is very difficult when it comes to investigating ourselves. You are not as young as you were. Age will win. We are all dying. No one really knows what happens afterwards so live with it NOW. Fear of death is primal and likely one of the most lied about things in our own selves during introspection. Holding on to a legend or myth about something happening after we die is magical thinking and not the truth of right now. RIGHT NOW, you don’t know. Deal with it. This is a short time you have on the planet and it is the only currency that really matters at all. What are you going to spend it on? Is your use of your time moving towards your true self or running away from it? The existential crisis is always begging to be looked at, but we turn away constantly to avoid the despair that tends to follow it. It is only one lie we like to keep as well… What are your others?


Martial Arts training is just one path to test and discover our selves. There are so many of these paths throughout humanity all leading up the same mountain towards who we really are. Not one of them is less difficult than the other unless you are simply going through the motions instead of digging into the actual work. Want to deal with fear? Go spar. Spar with someone who scares you and see if you are really not afraid of pain, injury, or death. Are you the person bringing out your dangerous self for another person to deal with? Deal with the fact that this is part of you. You are predatory. You are just a person and are capable of terrible things like other people throughout history. How do you feel about that? It is more than alright to realize you are dangerous, that there is a demon of anger, vengeance, and so on within. Pretending it does not exist is lying and it will just keep rattling its cage louder and louder unless you can bury it deep enough to never find it, or your true self, ever again. Demons need to be taken for a walk now and then, exercise them and they will rest more easily when placed back in their abode. Realize that when you do, you are dangerous, there is a monster within you just like everyone else and that is okay. As a martial artist, this gives you the CHOICE to be kind, passive, and pacifist. Instead of being doomed to it out of fear of your own self.


Your training must take on a deeper meaning and introspection if you ever expect to find yourself or gain any real skill in your art. Meditate and look at yourself. Ask yourself the questions you really don’t want to try and answer and ponder them. Don’t believe you are aging? Don’t worry, soon enough those things that were easy as a teenager will become borderline impossible. Do not lament for your youth, however, enjoy your newfound station in life and society. Enjoy your wisdom and knowledge that come from experience and introspection. As the saying goes “Old age and treachery will always defeat youth and skill.” Be treacherous, understand what that means in order to understand its place in the world and be in control of yourself within it. Martially learning to cheat in combat is a huge step to understanding why we even label it as ‘cheating’. Push your boundaries.


Back from my Summer Tour teaching and happy to be back in Canada.

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