Monday, September 12, 2011

The Forest of Spirits

So much of my blog lately has focused on my physical training, yet as the title of this blog implies, training in the martial arts is never a purely physical process. Martial arts requires training of both the mind and the body, as well as the discovery, understanding, and cultivation of the link between the two. Those of you that either began reading this blog in the beginning or have actually bothered to go back and read my older posts will remember the post I wrote about the process of finding my totem animal.

The forest I envisioned when I made that discovery is really another realm. Here dwell the spirit guides, ancient teachers for those brave enough to walk the path to find them. Sensei has been teaching me to use the Forest of Spirits as a mental resting place, and now it is somewhere I go every night just before I fall asleep.

Just because my totem animal is a bear does not mean I learn only from "my kind" so to speak. Each of the animal clans in the forest have valuable lessons to impart. I will become a well rounded and well taught individual if I heed them all. Obviously if I learned from a different animal each night, I would learn a ton, but there is a difference between simple learning and true internalization of a concept. So as a result, I've been working closely with three animals right now.

Grizzly Bear: This is almost a "duh". While Sensei does sometimes come with me to the forest and teach me there, the majority of the lessons from the grizzly clan are taught by Great Bear. Great Bear has been the head of the group of grizzlies in the Forest of Spirits for what seems like eternity to him. While he can get a bit strict, he is that way because his lessons are almost always about survival skills.

Owl: Just as is depicted in folk tales, Owl is very wise. Owl teaches me patience and wisdom, showing me how to analyze a situation from many different points of view. She recently became mother to several nestlings, one of which watches over me when I go out into the forest alone.

Otter: Otter doesn't teach lessons so much as allow me a respite from them. He embodies the childlike piece of us all, the part that feels emotions deeply. However, unless I've been threatened I rarely see Otter upset or angry. Instead, he embodies innocence, cleverness, mischieviousness and joy. It is Otter who teaches me to appreciate the simple things in life, and trade my fear for open curiosity.

There are others I have learned from but my time to study at length with them has not yet arrived. And for those readers who are wondering, when I am in the forest I take the form my spirit embodies. I am a small, chocolate brown bear cub, like a miniature version of Sensei's spirit form, though his bears the scars of a warrior.

And if I learn my lessons well, I know one day I'll grow big and strong like Sensei.


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