Although the practical, aesthetic, and spiritual significance of bamboo is deeply embedded in Japanese culture, the lessons we can learn from this seemingly simple plant, can be translated into every culture and spiritual belief. Nature is always speaking to us and we can learn a great deal if we only improve our ability to hear with our eyes and see with our ears. Following, you'll find a synopsis of the Dharma Frog's lesson on bamboo. I found them inspiring! Hope you do, too.
Ten Lessons that Bamboo Can Teach Us:
1. Remember, what looks weak is strong. The body of even the largest bamboo is small compared to the much larger trees in the forest. But bamboo can endure very cold winters and extremely hot summers. Often, they are the only "trees" left standing in the aftermath of a strong storm. Bamboo teachs us that size does not matter.
2. Bend but don't break. One of the most impressive things about the bamboo is its flexibility; it sways in the wind. This gently swaying serves as a symbol of humility. The foundation of the bamboo is solid, yet it moves harmoniously with the wind...never fighting against it. Even the strongest wind will, eventually, tire itself out but the bamboo remains, standing tall and still. A bend-but-don't break attitude is one of the secrets for successful and happy living.
3. Be strongly rooted yet flexible. Bamboo is remarkably flexible. This flexibility is due, in lage part, to the bamboo's complex root structure which is said to make the ground around it very stable; not only for the bamboo but for all of the trees and plants in the forest. Roots are important, not only for the simple bamboo, but for frogs and humans, as well. It is difficult today, with our busy world and information over-load, to stay connected to what is important, but without the firm base of a good root, or support system (family,friends, and community), no one wil stay strong for long.
4. Slow down your busy mind. Life can be chaotic, often making it difficult "to see the signal for the noise." Living in this kind of environment, day-after-day, can wear us down. We need to step back and calm ourselves; to steady ourselves from the blustry world around us. Like the bamboo, in a calm environment, we can thrive and grow strong.
5. Be always ready. The great Aikido master, Kensho Furuya, tells us, "The warrior, like bamboo, is ever ready for action." Through practice and training we can develop, in our own way, a state of being ever ready. For some, it's reading uplifting passages. For others, it's prayer or meditation. By strengthening our innerselves, we learn we are capable of taking on any and all challenges that life may bring our way....just like the bamboo.
6. Find wisdom in emptiness. Dharma teaches that in order to learn, the first step is to empty ourselves of our preconceived notions. "One cannot fill a cup that is already full," he says. The hollow insides of the bamboo remind us that we are all-too-often full of ourselves and our own conconclusions. We have no space left to learn anything else! To receive knowledge from nature, people (or frogs) we must be open to that which is new and different. Dharma tells us that when we empty our minds of our prejudices, pride, and fear...we can be open to a whole new world of possibilities.
7. Smile, laugh, and play. The Chinese character for smile or laugh is 笑う. At the top of this character are two small symbols for bamboo (竹). It is said that bamboo has a strong connection with laughter. Perhaps this is because the sound bamboo leaves make in wind is reminescent of laughter. Too, bamboo has a connection with playfulness. It it often used to make traditional Japanese kites; bamboo is strong, durable, and lightweight...perfect for flying high in the breeze. The Japanese and the Chinese know instinctively that laughing, smiling, and playing are good for the mind, body, and soul. Now, modern science is giving us factual evidence that "Laughter truly is the best medicine."
8. Commit yourself to growth and renewal. Bamboo are among the world's fastest growing plants.And bamboo are plentiful. They can be found in many different places and climates. We, too, are like bamboo and capable of amazing growth...no matter who we are or where we live. How fast we grow is not what's important. What matters is the fact that we keep moving forward.
9. Express usefulness through simplicity. Kensho Furuya, the Aikido master says, "Bamboo in its simplicity epresses it usefulness. Man (and frog) should do the same." According to the Dharma Frog, we all spend too much time trying to show how smart we are in order to convince others that we are worthy of their praise and attention. Often, we complicate the simple to impress, and we fail to simplify the complex out of fear. If we could lose our fear, we could find better, simplier solutions to even our most complex problems.
10. Unleash your power to spring back. One of the most important images of bamboo is where it's covered with a heavy blanket of snow. Why is this image so powerful? Because, as Dharma explains, it represents our ability to spring back after adversity. In winter, the bamboo is laden with heavy snow. It bows to the ground yet doesn't break. But as soon as the spring thaw begins to melt away the snow, the bamboo bounces back; it stands, once again, straight, tall, and proud...as if to say, "I will not be defeated."
I always...well almost always...look forward to Dharma's weekly lesson. But today's seemed even more special. His basic message is simple and to the point: Bend but don't breakand face adversity knowing you can (and will) pull through it. Bamboo is enduring. And, as it turns out, so are we.