Are you self-aware

The following is from Bruce Lee’s hand-written essay entitled, The Passionate State of Mind, which I discovered in the Artist of Life by J Little.

To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are. Whether being different results in dissimulation or a real change of heart—it cannot be realized without self-awareness. Yet is is remarkable that the very people who are most self-dissatisfied and crave most for a new identity have the least self-awareness. They have turned away from an unwanted self and hence never had a good look at it. The result is that those most dissatisfied can neither dissimulate nor attain a real change of heart. They are transparent, and their unwanted qualities persist through all attempts at self-dramatization and self-transformation.

~ Bruce Lee

I wish I had read that 20 years ago. But I suspect I wouldn’t have understood it the way I do now. I only understand because of the path I’ve taken through my life.

Bruce Lee was not an Exceptional Philosopher; Please stop quoting, “be water my friend,” as if it’s the ultimate grain of wisdom for the ages. Rather, I suggest that Bruce Lee was an Exceptional Person because he asked questions and he followed those lines of enquiry wherever they led, often inward into his thinking, beliefs and goals.

Are you self-aware enough to ask, “am I satisfied with myself?” and what are you going to do with the answer?


Vital inward loosening

Martial art is not merely the physical act of filling time and space with precision-like movements. Machines can do that, too. As he matures, a martial artist will realize that his kick or punch is really not so much a tool to conquer his opponent, but a tool to explode through his consciousness, his ego, and all mental obstacles. Indeed, the tools are ultimately a means for penetrating the depth of his being so that he will restore the equilibrium of his inner center of gravity. With this vital inward loosening flows his outward expression of his tools. Behind each physical movement of an accomplished martial artist is this wholeness of being, this all-inclusive attitude.

~ Bruce Lee, from Lee’s typed essay entitled “Jeet Kune Do—Toward Personal Liberation,” circa 1971. ( With a hat-tip to the book, “Bruce Lee: Artist of Life” by J Little, 1999, recommended to me by S Foucan. )

Apparently, there’s nothing new under the sun. This sentiment fits perfectly with my concept of what my Art du Déplacement practice is. In some respects my ten-year-ago self is an unrecognizably different person. I’m only able to remember and reconcile who that person was thanks to my journals. There are many threads to the story of that decade. But if I had to point to one thread, I’d point to my practice, and I wouldn’t disagree that “vital inward loosening” is a fitting description.


Explore yourself

A good teacher can never be fixed in a routine. Each moment requires a sensitive mind that is constantly changing and adapting. A teacher must never impose this student to fit his favorite pattern. A good teacher protects his pupils from his own influence. A teacher is never a giver of truth; He is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself. I am not teaching you anything. I just help you to explore yourself.

~ Bruce Lee


Silent flute

I wish neither to possess,
Nor to be possessed.
I no longer covet paradise,
More important, I no longer fear hell.

The medicine for my suffering
I had within me from the very beginning,
But I did not take it.
My ailment came from within myself,
But I did not observe it
Until this moment.

Now I see that I will never find the light
Unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel,
Consuming myself.

~ Bruce Lee

Cord’s closing speech from The Silent Flute.

(hat tip: Martial Artist of Life by J Little.)


The frost

Young man,
Seize every minute
Of your time.

The days fly by;
Ere long you too
Will grow old.

If you believe me not,
See there, in the courtyard,
How the frost
Glitters white and cold and cruel
On the grass that once was green.

Do you not see
That you and I
Are as the branches
Of one tree?

With your rejoicing,
Comes my laughter;
With your sadness
Start my tears.

Could life be otherwise
With you and me?

~ Tzu-yeh, translated by Bruce Lee

(hat tip: Martial Artist of Life by J Little.)

It isn’t clear just how old the original poetry is; How about if I guess a round 1,000 years…

The human condition is clearly something we all have in common. Youth. Senescence. Immaturity. Wisdom. Life is a journey.


The letting go

When our mind is tranquil, there will be an occasional pause to its feverish activities, there will be a letting go, and it is only then in the interval between two thoughts that a flash of UNDERSTANDING—understanding, which is not thought—can take place.

~ Bruce Lee

I’m not sure I’ve experienced the not-thought which is that flash of understanding. I think things are even more simple; Year after year, as I quiet my mind, understand simply expands into the new space.

Regardless, tranquility is key. Pausing is key.


Be water

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

~ Bruce Lee