Saturday, September 23, 2006

Iron Wrapped In Silk


PART II of THE MASTER

Recently I was speaking with someone about the dual nature of the cat's paw while my nearly year old kitten Jubei-kun sat in front of me. I explained first that in gong fu the practitioner learns that blocking the punching fist is unskillful, for the fist moves very fast. If the practitioner makes a block at the very slow moving elbow, the block is much easier. With the cat, the claw is very sharp and can easily cut through human skin. The reflexes of the cat are even sharper and combine with the paw to form a viscious weapon. I stuck out my hand and pulled it back quickly, playing a game of reflexes with Jubei-kun. After a few tries, the young feline succeeded in catching my hand with a claw and quickly attached the claws from the other front paw. At that point he pulled both front paws inward, bit playfully, and then attacked with the rear claws to finish off my hand. If my hand had been prey, my hand would have been finished.
There is another side to the cat's paw. As we began the reflex game again, I flipped my hand over Jubei-kun's paw, to the top side. Here there is no danger. The cat claw is designed to move forward and grab, but can do little about an object directly behind it. This is where my intended lesson surprised even me. Just seconds before Jubei-kun had been playing roughly, attacking like a true predator. As I flipped my hand over his paw and began to stroke the soft fur on the other side, in an instant, his eyes closed, his muscles relaxed, and he began to purr.
To experiment, I again touched the claw side and the war began again. Just as quickly I touched the soft side and again, Jubei-kun was relaxed and purring.
Not every example I give goes so well, it not only worked for the situation, but gave me further insight into what I was attempting to explain.
Though we don't have claws, we humans also have this dual nature. When someone touches our claws, we attack. When someone touches our soft side, we tend to reply gently, though not usually to the extreme of my kitten. When two individuals, or two groups, or two countries, face off over time, heated exchanges may occur to a point in which both sides are convinced that each action, retaliation, or comment is a response to an action from the other. This will be the response from both sides.
How often do speak to others with words that may contain only gentle meaning, but clearly go to the cat's claw? When we get an excited response, we can reply that our comments were not harmful. We can look deeply and find the true intent. Many times, suffering incurred at work or in another environment is displaced on our friend or spouse. We carry our suffering like two buckets of waters on a bamboo pole until we can find someone else to dump it on. Not to feel like those who made us suffer, we play mind games and tricks, giving kind words with a hidden poison. When we reach the point where both sides feel that each action is a response to the other's attack, the situation is truly dire.
Mindfulness is the most powerful solution. When we approach others attempted to reach the other side of the paw, we will often reach a side of them we have not seen. Of course, some will not show this side, but that is not our concern. We do not want to live our lives biting our own tail, eating away until we get too far along. We can end this cycle of foolishness with mindful living. Retaliation is not our business. We live our lives on the soft side of the cat's paw.

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