Honest Self Expression

Honestly expressing yourself…it is very difficult to do. I mean it is easy for me to put on a show and be cocky and be flooded with a cocky feeling and then feel like pretty cool…or I can make all kind of phony things, you see what I mean, blinded by it or I can show you some really fancy movement. But to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself…now that, my friend, is very hard to do. –Bruce Lee

Is it exhausting to express ourselves? It is for me when I try to censor myself.

There are many steps between feeling an emotion and how we express it.

Taking an emotion that changes so constantly and trying to snapshot it with words, colors and/or music is already difficult enough.

Further processing how we feel into a socially acceptable package, and diluting the language to avoid offending others is tiring; and a disrespect to ourselves.

Say what you want and deal with the consequences. The truth will either strengthen meaningful relationships, or weaken superficial ones.

We are not living if we are not polarizing, embarrassing, exciting–anything. Don’t be a living corpse because you stopped expressing honestly.


swerve (from) the negative

One of the earliest and most important things I’ve learned (and often forget) from martial arts is that even if we block the first attack, we’ll still get hit if we don’t move out of the way. This principle is true when dealing with the excessive negativity of others; maybe we’ll be able to counter a few negative comments with some positive ones, but if we don’t make it a point to move on from either the conversation or person, the unrelenting attacks will start to damage us.

The only way someone can make us stand there and take an emotional beating is if we are convinced by guilt to deserve it. No one is truly qualified to be the judge of another person, and are fully responsible for only ourselves. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Redeem yourself if you fucked up, but don’t just submit. Get moving.


Be Like Water

Bruce Lee would’ve been 78 yesterday. So to commemorate his birthday, I wanted to talk about one of his most popular sayings, of being “like water.”

Water can represent so many things: it is ever-present in our ecosystem. It can change shape from solid to liquid to gas. It moves everywhere, through many things, without doing much. It has no form, which then allows it to take the shape of anything.

In Taoism, this malleable form of water is what makes it such a common metaphor for the universe. There are many things in play in the universe – undiscovered energies, planets, stars, etc. And we as humans are also a part of this vast universe. It is no secret that one of humanity’s greatest strengths is the ability to adapt and survive. We’ve developed technology, communication and culture to find various ways to survive over the years — all products of adapting to the changing environment.

I feel that one of the things Bruce Lee talks about while advising us to be like water, is to be malleable so that we can adapt to life and its challenges. If we are complacent and rigid in our life, we take away our greatest strength as humans, and subject ourselves to a life of suffering. But to be formless means that nothing (external) defines you. You define you, nothing else. Then, our ego is minimized and we become capable of living to the capacity of our full potential. We become more aware and more powerful: two things that I would wish for everyone to be.

@itsjayram

Float like a Butterfly

Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athletes of our time, but his opponents extended far beyond the boxing ring. We too can be the champions of the battles we fight each day if we are adaptable and courageous.

Being a black Muslim in the 1970’s produced its own challenges in the forms of racism and Islamophobia. One of the characteristics that made Ali so remarkable was his ability to stand firm in his beliefs, regardless of who was opposing him. If you look up any video today, you’ll see ferocious confidence in his self-expression.

Being unique today requires tremendous courage to challenge the status quo. Heroes are scarce in our generation because most of us have been taught to limit our critical thinking for a paycheck; by fitting into society like a standardized cog in a machine. Ali found courage within himself and became an individual. You can also cultivate this courage for self-expression.

In nature, a butterfly is able to float because it is light, agile and curious. On the other hand, a bumble bee has similar capabilities but different mindset: workers that’ll defend the queen and hive with their sting. Humans however are not restricted to any particular pattern, because self awareness allow us to change our perspective when presented with new information.

When Muhammad Ali’s saying, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” was also a comment on how humans can adapt their nature. We can be light on our feet and observe like a butterfly, but change and strike with purpose like a bee. We are not restricted to nature’s patterns, but to recognize and change them requires self-awareness and that courage deep inside you. Adapt, and you will overcome anything.