Well, we’re back! Hard to believe how fast it came and went, but indeed, another Winter Retreat is behind us. These weekends are always special and this one was no exception. It was great to reconnect with old students and teachers and meet new people as well. If you missed this one, then I’m really sorry for you. Mark your calendars NOW for next year’s retreat January 2nd-5th, 2014!
Even though it didn’t come up formally in the curriculum of this year’s retreat, throughout the weekend I was reminded of and inspired by Master Pearson’s often-quoted lecture “There are No Secrets” (I’m sure there is a rendition of it here on our blog…perhaps someone can comment with with link?!). Whenever I have the opportunity to “re-learn” martial arts material, I try to take this lecture to heart. Far from being boring, these opportunities invite to layers of learning. What for example, are the new layers to this topic that I might have missed the first time I was exposed to it? What are the secrets that the instructor throws in, almost begging his students to ask about them, that I didn’t see last time. Instead of sitting there and saying “yeah, yeah, I’ve learned this before…I know what this is all about,” I try to focus on this elusive second layer of secrets.
I don’t mean to get all rabbinic on you, but I can’t help it when my worlds overlap like this. We have a teaching in Judaism that incorporates this idea. The mystics say that every teaching, every lesson, every explanation has 4 layers. The first is pehsat: the simple meaning. The second is remez: hints. The third is drash: interpretation, and the fourth is sod: secret. Together, they form the word Pardes, which means an orchard – and in this context, the word and the image has very mystical connotations. Essentially it means that each time you learn something formally, you are entering the orchard. The first time you go in, you may only see the the trunks of the trees, but it doesn’t mean that the leaves and the fruit and the bugs crawling on the leaves of the fruit, aren’t also there – you’re just not capable of seeing them yet. The same is true when it comes to martial arts…there are no secrets right?! It just feels like there are until we’re trained enough to see the entire truth. In addition, because the traditions we practice are so ancient and so old, and because so many have come before us, what might seem like a secret to us has actually been discovered and uncovered and rediscovered and re-uncovered thousands of times by thousands of other students before us. There is a frustration in this – especially when we have yet to uncover what we’re looking for, but also a comfort…there are no secrets, only things which we have yet to find.
I am currently re-reading a book on Kabballah (Jewish Mysticism) that I read many years ago. I’m looking for something specific in the book but I couldn’t find it during a first or second page flip so I thought I’d just re-read the entire thing. Ironically, the day I got home from the retreat, with this idea of “no secrets” fresh on my mind, I picked up the book and came across the following paragraph from its introduction…
“Sometimes even religions (you could substitute here “Martial Arts” or “techniques” or “traditions”) become ossified. The holy encounters that they carry seem hopelessly encrusted by centuries of mindless repetition. But we must nevertheless never forget that spiritual light cannot be extinguished. Only buried. And that for this reason, every spiritual discovery is but a rediscovery. Nothing in this book is new. It has all been told before…” (Honey from the Rock by Lawrence Kushner).
So anyway, this post is not to fulfill a requirement…just a thought that I wanted to share and to formally announce our return from the retreat.