Archive for February 24th, 2015


Philosophy Tuesday

February 24, 2015


I first came across the term, and perhaps the notion, many moons ago during my first trip to China in 2002. We were in the Wudang mountains, touring the famous Daoist temples there (and learning martial arts), and our tour guide translated the goings on in that peculiar way: “The nobles of old used to come to the mountains to stay for a few years and practice self-cultivation, before returning home to their lives.”

There’s something I really like about the concept and the verbiage of “self-cultivation”.

It implies that self-cultivation is something that you can do; it is not something ingrained or inherent in you. This also means it is not something that you either have or don’t have, it is something you develop and can develop.

And it is something that you can keep on developing…

Like a garden, you plant seeds, and suddenly they appear, and grow.

Like a garden, you cultivate things, and they bloom.

Like a garden, the more you tend to it, the more attention you put into it, the more rewards you reap.

Like a garden, it is an important thing to do, to nourish yourself.

Like a garden, you cultivate it ongoingly, and it is something you can continue to cultivate, and grow, for as long as you live.

Inside those two little words was a stunning amount of possibility and freedom.

Even as arrogant as I was I could not truly fool myself (none of us really can). There were aspects of my character that I recognized could benefit from some self-cultivation. And no matter the “level” I stood at, it was always a matter of cultivating. There were other things available and achievable.

I like to use the term “self-cultivation” to this day to describe the philosophical and meditative arts. It is where I come from and approach things from.  The possibility and freedom still rings as clear to me as the singing gongs of the temples.