There were many things that were amazing about my Sifu. I learned so very much from him. One of which he never taught me directly… he was simply an embodiment of it.
Sifu loved Kung Fu. That may seem like an unnecessary statement – of course Sifu loved Kung Fu, you’d think. After all, he practiced it diligently for so many years. But this is not just some matter-of-fact thing. Sifu loved Kung Fu for its own sake. When Sifu practiced, he practiced because of that simple enjoyment. There was no “in order to” behind it.
And that was the great insight, lesson, and wisdom he demonstrated.
Often times in our lives we take on something, practice something, or do something “in order to” accomplish, have, possess, or gain something else. We don’t do it just for the pleasure, satisfaction, or pure difference it might make in the world. We do it “in order to” get that other thing.
We train martial arts in order to feel manly or not scared.
We run marathons in order to look sexy and have something impressive to tell others.
We take a job in order to make money*, because we want money in order to feel powerful.
We buy something in order to distract us.
We like a particular band to fit in socially
We seek conflict in order to avoid loneliness.
Sometimes we undertake things because of some perceived flaw in ourselves. Other times, we may not even be aware of the hidden purpose,** the “in order to” remaining hidden from our view. “I like it!” we think. “It’s just what’s needed,” we add. “I have no choice,” we finalize.
While these “in order to”s can be great motivators, pushing us with an intensity and persistence in our pursuit of that goal, they also rob us. Rob us of freedom, rob us of satisfaction, rob us of joy. Rob us of the experience of the moment. And, most ironically (though you can probably guess), they also rob us of our performance. They get in the very way of the thing we’re trying to get. If anything starts to slip, we become frantic. Small or large, any panic will stunt our game.
When we set aside our “in order to”s, new levels of growth and delight are available. When we practice, do, or take on something for its own sake, we free ourselves to play and dance. What we do becomes a self-expression, leaving us energized and fulfilled.
And In that space, we love it.
* As distinct from earning a living.
** Or we don’t want to admit it to ourselves…