It happens to all of us. We get angry, we feel sad, we seem to be neglected, the world seems to be aligned directly against us. Naturally, we feel down.
But how do we lift ourselves back up?
That’s what I’ll talk about today, and I’d like to (humbly) label my solution as rational cleansing. The reason for this is two-fold: rational, because It requires you to maintain an objective hold on your circumstances despite how torrential the emotions inside you are, and cleansing, because it allows you to emerge with a clear mind, devoid of obstacles.
First, calm down. It’s very easy to let the emotions get the better of you, but more often than not, it will result in actions which you will later regret. Take a couple of breaths, and relax. Panicking won’t help you.
Second, forget the past. What’s done is done. Your focus should only be on the future, the part of time that you can change.
Third, consider the options. What can you do now to improve the situation you’re in? Can you make amends (even if partially)?
Lastly, act on the best option. This may be the most feasible one, the one that pleases the most people, or the one that still allows you to fix the problem you had before. If there is nothing you can do to remedy the situation (or, in a more extreme case, if it’s better that you don’t act), then walk away. Any persistent action might come across as interference.
That’s it. I don’t mean to sound arrogant or come off as a preacher, but this method has worked wonders for me ever since I was a little kid and my father instilled a truth in me that I still carry: “Anger solves nothing.” It is from that statement that I have derived my philosophy on rationally dealing with situations and not letting my emotions getting in the way of my decision-making. I hope it may be useful to you as well.
This was actually during sunset a few years back when I was a junior at OSSM. I only had my point-and-shoot at that time, but I still had a chance to capture this magnificent setting. It’s just like in the movies when a beam shoots up into the sky after some cataclysmic event.
A chandelier that I took a picture of when I was at the Daya Houston gala in April 2011.
A chandelier that I took a picture of when I was at the Daya Houston gala in April 2011.
I wrote this poem a couple of years ago, and I thought it appropriate to post given the weather at home. However, it is also a bit of a metaphorical piece for the times when there is unrest within an individual, either from external pressures or internal doubt.
For those who can’t read Bengali, here’s a translation. I hope it is to your liking.
When the clouds above become sorrowful,
Tears begin to fall from their eyes,
Racing through the sky, they hit the ground—“Top, top”
And a layer of dew coalesces on the grass.
Prakriti is no longer able to stay silent,
He brings about his anger upon mankind and unleashes a storm.
The arhythmic sound of evil springs from a dhol,
And lightning cuts the air, sharp as a sword.
When this chaotic symphony finally rests,
That elusive blue sky once again emerges from hiding,
And I will know that the rain has left me,
And I can once again come out and play.
If you find a companion, intelligent, one who associates with you, who leads a good life, lives soberly, overcoming all dangers, walk with him delighted and thoughtful.
If you do not find a companion, intelligent, one who associates with you, who leads a good life, lives soberly, walk alone like a king who has renounced the kingdom he has conquered or like an elephant (roaming at will) in the forest.
It is better to live alone; there is no companionship with a fool. Let a man walk alone with few wishes like an elephant (roaming at will) in the elephant-forest. Let him commit to sin.
Dhammapada, Chapter XXIII: The Elephant (translated by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan)
This is a very interesting take on companionship and one I have often heard from my father. I feel that this doesn’t necessarily call for the discrimination of friendship, but rather to limit your attachment to as few things as possible. This nudges in the direction of non-attachment as a method to achieve the ultimate state nirvana.
When a man can act without desire,
Through practice of yoga;
When his doubts are torn to shreds,
Because he knows Brahman;
When his heart is poised
In the being of the Atman
No binds can bind him.
Still I can see it:
A doubt that lingers
Deep in your heart
Brought forth by delusion
You doubt the truth
Of the living Atman.
Where is your sword
Draw it and slash
Delusion to pieces.
O Son of Bharata:
Take your stand
In Karma Yoga.
Bhagavad-Gita, IV. Renunciation Through Knowledge
This quote is insightful not only from a religious standpoint but also from a clairvoyant ethical one. In order to be at peace and truly cognizant, one must act independently of his earthly lusts or desires (a notion that is emphasized in the preceding section on Karma Yoga). The last two verses in particular strike a chord with me because they command one to eliminate doubt in his mind through contemplation and emerge with a degree of positive certainty about his world view. In a sense, I feel that this dictum is the embodiment of the rational part of Buddhism and, indeed, captures the mother-child relation between Hinduism and Buddhism.
Flying sidekicks and moonwalking don’t exactly seem to go hand in hand. Yet that’s exactly what I’m going to talk about: my experiences in martial arts and dancing and how they seem to be uncannily intertwined.
I began learning Tang Soo Do, a Korean derivative of Karate, when I was five years old. After learning the basic techniques, we were taught to apply them in two contrasting areas of martial arts: forms and sparring. Forms are a sequence of movements that usually represent an animal or a concept; they form the technical side of the practice and demand crisp, well-defined moves. Sparring, on the other hand, brings to life the variability that is inherent in martial arts and allows a practitioner to demonstrate flair and adaptability. The combination of these two aspects of martial arts brings together two opposite but complementing forces in one person—the concrete rigidity of forms contrasts with the always-changing fluidity of sparring. Forms were the steadfast redwood tree on the shore of a neighboring stream whose ebb and flow seemed to be unpredictable, just like sparring.
I had to quit Tang Soo Do after nine years of training and reaching the rank of 2nd Degree Midnight Blue Belt due to increasing extracurricular pressures and a departure for boarding school. It wasn’t until later that I would realize what had been ingrained in me was not just a physical readiness or a set of moves I could show off to my friends. Learning martial arts taught me a philosophy of accumulation (through inspiration and observation), internalization, and free expression in the vein of self-improvement and inner peace that was unprecedented.
That is, until I started dancing. I was never one to dance in public at the handful of parties and dances I went to in high school. Instead, I used to watch videos of Michael Jackson and try to moonwalk in socks around the hardwood floors of my house. I would put on “Genesis” by Justice and try my hand at popping and krumping. This “closeted dancer” that I had secretly cultivated finally revealed itself during Rice’s orientation week when there was a surprise dance on the first night. I just let go and let my feet do the talking.
That’s when I realized that maybe this is something I could do. As the year progressed, I developed my newfound passion for dancing, expanding on my repertoire (I took a class in popping), persona, and connection with the art. I choreographed (and performed in) dances for both of the shows put on by Rice’s South Asian Society, which allowed me to integrate my culture into this newfound energy. It became a new outlet of expressing myself, and nothing (or no one) would stop me from trying to get better. I would frequently walk down the streets unabashedly flailing my extremities, continually trying to improve my dancing ability. Of course, this attracted many strange looks and the occasional snide comment from my friends, but it didn’t matter to me.
This quest for excellence helped me make the connection that dancing is nothing more than the reincarnation of the principles that define martial arts. Here again I saw the same two forces at work—the technique required to perform (e.g., crisp hits in popping and Bollywood dancing) and the flair and fluidity required to turn an otherwise lifeless exercise routine into an art form. It almost seemed to me as if both practices were manifestations of the same concept. In fact, I realized that this analogy can go one step further to apply to any type of performance.
More explicitly, one must conquer the technical requirements of the performance before introducing artistic creativities to make it something extraordinary. I remember that Master Rex Smith, one of my Tang Soo Do instructors, offered three words on how to improve technique: “line, beauty, speed.” Line represents the acquisition of skill in correct practice, and beauty that of artistic grace. Lastly, speed represents the ability to perform techniques with the aforementioned skill and grace with an added fluidity and aesthetic. To think that such a universal line of thought would have stemmed from an ancient practice such as martial arts is both astounding and heartening.
Ultimately, martial arts and dancing have the same end game: although they do involve performance and showmanship in order to create an appealing act, the objective for a practitioner is to strive to be better and to be at peace with the world around and inside of him. They demand not only flamboyance, but also temperament; a skilled practitioner with these two qualities has truly mastered himself. It is this message that, in my humble opinion, I have gleaned from martial arts and dancing. I hope to execute its command to the fullest.
Many thanks to Vinita Israni for helping me edit this article.
A great Telugu short film called “Shadow.” Excellent concept with a high-thrill chase factor. There’s another great film by the same team called Ontiganta that you should also check out.
Also, it uses a Canon EOS 7D for the videography!