For our end of year episode we asked our listeners to submit questions they wanted us to answer or advice they wished they could receive from Bruce Lee. We had many, many questions submitted and we noticed that many dealt with finding motivation when you’re stuck. People were feeling stuck and unmotivated in a range of topics from their work and jobs, to dealing with injuries and feeling isolated.
From listener Anthony:
“I’ve had an empty feeling in me for as long as I can remember. It’s not what I would call depression, more like an unmotivated feeling. Like a “nothing really matters” feeling. It’s been with me since early years (I’m 20 now) and I’ve had problems feeling any belonging. Bruce has written about this type of thing. How loneliness is an opportunity to find yourself. I was wondering, were there any rituals Bruce would find himself doing when things were rough?. For example, when he was struggling to land genuine movie roles that weren’t discriminatory to him in his early years. Best wishes from Ireland.”
Shannon shares that she knows this sort of low-grade depression well, and remembers feeling this way during her childhood. She remembers her mom telling her that when things wouldn’t work out for Bruce, at first he would be really angry and frustrated. Then, he would get really quiet and give himself some space and time to contemplate and “go in.”
For many of us, the problem with feeling stuck is that we do not want to feel stuck and we want to fix it right away. We feel judgment if we cannot fix it immediately and be rid of it. This is a natural reaction, but it prevents us from really experiencing what the “stuckness” is and looking at it. Instead we push it away and we beat ourselves up when it comes back. If you allow yourself to be with that feeling, it has information for you. When you allow yourself to feel the feelings fully, it can help it pass through.
The first step: be gentle and kind with yourself. Let go of the judgment you have about what you’re feeling and don’t beat yourself up or push the feeling away. Just say, “Ok, this is where I am right now.”
The second step: feel your feelings. When Bruce would become quiet he would sit with the problem, allow himself to feel it, and investigate it. Some of Bruce’s greatest philosophical realizations and writings came from these times of hardship.
The third step: take action. After sitting with your feelings and investigating, you have to take a step towards action. Do not skip the first two steps and go right to the action item because then you are trying to fix the problem before knowing what the problem is. For some it works to come up with an aggressive action plan, but for others we do not know what action to take at all. The actions you can take can be small, and they should not be viewed as a fight you have to make to overcome your problem. These action steps should be towards your wellness and wholeness, and that bring you joy. What works for someone else might not work for you, so you have to customize and personalize your action steps for yourself.
Affirmations and journaling can be actions that you can take. Affirmations are statements you read aloud everyday, which are meaningful to you that you want to make a part of your life. Then it becomes a part of your everyday thoughts and you’re planting a seed in you mind that will grow.
If you're having a difficult time thinking of anything that brings you joy, remember the things that brought you joy as a kid. Or remember the last time that you felt joyful. When you're depressed it can feel impossible to think of anything that makes you happy, which is why you might have to go way back to think of a thing that brings you joy.
Doing these small actions will not immediately solve your problems or how you feel, but they create space for you to start to energize and heal. Creating this space helps you tackle the next bigger action steps to address your larger problem.
Bruce Lee had tools to help him such as to be quiet, to meditate, to write, to move his body, to laugh and tell jokes. Find out what your tools might be. Bruce’s lesson is that YOU are the medicine and you have to participate in your own healing. You have to be willing to engage in your own wellness and healing.
“The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, but I did not observe it until this moment. Now I see I will never find the light unless, like a candle, I am my own fuel.” For more listen to Episode "#12 The Medicine For My Suffering”
“Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.” Listen to Episode "#18 The Individual Over Any Established System”
When we are talking about our own healing and unsticking of ourselves, you are the most important thing. Take the focus off of “I have to be well so that I can participate in this other thing.” You have to treat yourself as the most important thing in your life. We often put ourselves last in the wake of our obligations to our family, job, and friends. The truth is all those people might need you to do things, but without you as a whole, functioning human being, they are not going to get those things or a very partial version.
Healing from Injury
Another place that a lot of listeners were stuck was with injury. From our listener Saverio:
“I have been struggling for months with an knee injury. And I am really desperate because I cannot achieve my dream to become a powerlifter (weightlifter). The main problem is that I am too focused with myself, I used too much as well. Now I am planning for my comeback. What would Bruce Lee for suggest me? I hope you can give me few words of wisdom Thanks a lot. Bless you Saverio”
We dedicated Episode 11 “Walk On” to discussing a famous quote of Bruce Lee’s “Walk on.” which came from when he suffered a terrible back injury. (Listen to “#11 Walk On” here)
When it comes to pain and injury it can be really challenging because there are some catastrophic injuries that you may never recover from. When it comes to healing from injury, it depends on you. It depends on you understanding your injury from every possible angle and it depends on your mindset. It could be that it is not an injury that is 100% recoverable from, but it is going to send you in a direction in your life that will be a fulfilling direction for you.
When it comes to injury, you have to be prepared to have the most open mind that you can have. When Bruce Lee injured his back, he was told by the doctors that he would not do martial arts again and may never walk normally again. For Bruce in that instance, he felt his body very carefully and cautiously. He felt all of the pain, where it was, what it was. Bruce went through a period of depression, he got very quiet with it, then he decided he was not going to just take that as the answer and decided to investigate for himself whether or not that was true. He felt all of the pain and went out and got books on biomechanics, kinesiology, yoga, diet, nutrition, and back pain; all of which we have now in the archive. Bruce had to be open to any possibility and started very carefully to devise a plan for himself. He was very methodical, testing what happens if he stretches this or moves that, but at the same time he RESTED. Bruce understood very well the power of rest (always got 8 hours of sleep a night) but even as he rested he would read and write and do the things that he could still do with the injury. In this way, Bruce worked himself back into better shape than he was even before his injury, but he always had a little back pain. He had extensive ritual of warming up before exercising, and took care of his health. If we have a health challenge, then we have to take care of ourselves.
Something that can keep us down when we are dealing with injury is focusing on the inability to achieve this other dream, such as becoming a powerlifter. When Bruce was working on his healing, he did not focus on becoming a martial arts superstar. Instead of fixating on the fact that he might not be able to do martial arts again, Bruce became curious about his body and healing it. He was present in his healing.
There is power in being present and staying with the now, instead of projecting into the future or looking back to a past that is gone. When we can stay present with where we are right now, then the only problems we have are the ones we are facing right now. If you have an injury, it might be an ever-present issue, but deal with the problem that you are facing right now rather than what you might not be able to do in the future. You can come back to your dreams for your future, but it does not help you to be obsessed with what you might not be able to do.
Another area that our listeners wrote to us about was time management in our hectic lives. From listener Rawand:
“Thank you for posting so much on this awesome podcast. So far this is my 1st and only podcast that I listen to, so thank you I have gotten many enjoyable hours from listening! I do have a question regarding Bruce Lee. What was his Philosophy regarding time management. I mean he did so many things, being a father, designing jewelry, acting, training daily etc etc. I'm interested in his outlook regarding time, and how he divided it between family, work, recreational activities, as I am currently struggling with time, there are too many activities I enjoy but I can't do all of them, due to studies and part-time work, maybe Bruce wisdom can help me out. Kind Regards, Rawand”
“Be Water, My Friend.” All of the things that Bruce was doing were in service to expressing who he was as a human being and being in the flow of that expression.
You never have to put so much pressure on yourself to get every single thing done, you just have to flow in every moment. What we tend to do in our modern lives is that we let things pile on and do not create boundaries. Many of us say, “yes” to everything because we have the fear of missing out or we are a pleaser. We get overloaded because we are not creating a clear boundary and protecting our space and time.
If you want to go deep into how Bruce Lee spent his days, check out episode “#28 A Day in the Life of Bruce Lee”
If you look at “A Day in the Life” you can see Bruce Lee’s clear priorities. When we say flow, we mean flow with purpose and meaning. For Bruce, it was all about the expression of him and making time for what held meaning in his life. If your heart is at the center of all that you do, you create boundaries that allow you to flow, and you imbue your actions with purpose, then everything that you are doing will be meaningful to you and you can do it all.
What Bruce was doing was finding harmony with mind, body, and spirit. These days, most of us make decisions with only our mind. This can get us in trouble because we are always thinking. Create some harmony between your mind, body, and spirit. Bruce always got 8 hours of sleep, and made that a priority. Because this was a priority, it helped structure his day. If you know what your priority is, then it will help you organize you day.
If you know where your heart is, it is easy to say yes, it is easy to say no, it is easier to decide where to spend your time. An easy tool if you are having trouble deciding where to spend your time, is to put your hand on your heart and think for a minute on the thing that is being offered to you. For Sharon, if it is not a “hell yes,” then it is a no. Sometimes your mind will say, “Yes, do that!” but your body will be saying, “No please don’t” and that is something that you can physically feel. Or the opposite is true, and your mind says, “No you can’t do that,” but your body says, “Yes, I can!”
With all of this, it is important to remember to have fun. Joy and laughter were a huge part of Bruce Lee’s life. (Listen to our episode “#14 Joy & Laughter” here) Joy and laughter are such a good fuel and give you energy, so it is important to remember to include that in your day. Connect to something that brings you joy.
Stuck in your Job
Another place where our listeners found themselves stuck was with their jobs and careers.
From listener Tara:
“Struggling between staying at a job that is somewhat fulfilling and where I am helping people or moving across the country for a job with better benefits doing something else and a much better quality of life outside of work. I don't really have time to have much of a life outside of work right now... I guess it comes down to being of service to others or taking better care of myself long term.”
Our answer to that is: take care of yourself long-term. You can have more opportunity to be of service if you take care of yourself. People often compartmentalize their career before all else instead of taking care of themselves and think that they will take care of themselves later. There is no later, this is your life right now. You need to live and enjoy yourself right now.
You have characterized your job as “somewhat fulfilling” where you’re helping people, but people need help everywhere. If being of service is important to you then know that no matter where you are, there are opportunities to help people.
We have all had the feeling of being dissatisfied in our current job. Then, the answer becomes “I just need to get out of this job and then everything will be better.” That is not always the case. Sometimes we have to do a lot of internal work and really investigate what is it about this situation that is making us unhappy. Since we spend so much time at work it can be easy to project that our job is what is making us unhappy. Examine and ask if it is really your job or your boss and is there a way you can shift your own experience without needing to escape?
It may very well be your job or your boss, but this is a great opportunity for learning. Before you decide to leave ask what specifically you do not like about your job and/or boss so that when you move on you can look for what you do want out of your next job. Take that learning with you and choose a different experience. You have to identify the problem so that you can move through it.
“All knowledge ultimately means self knowledge.”
Our listeners also wrote to us about letting go.
From listener Noel: “Letting go. I know your father has advice on letting go of the past. But it's hard. Bruce should have been the start of Kung Fu the series and wasn't, even though it was his idea. That must have hurt on so many levels. Yet he moved on. How can you let go of the past, especially when those you thought were on your side (friends or even family members) turned out not to be? How can you really move on? Thanks Sincerely Noel”
If you are really centered and grounded in yourself, it is a lot easier to move through these situations. When you know your root you always have faith in yourself, you know the process that you’re in and you’re going to continue on your process no matter who gets in your way.
It is really important to separate “Your Stuff” from “Other People’s Stuff.” Just because someone does not support you and your process, does not mean that you have to take that personally. That lack of support stems from their fear and their inability to see you the way that you are. To live in harmony requires letting others be.
Assume that everyone is doing the best they can in the moment. Even when someone is behaving terribly, in the moment that is all they are capable of. Understanding that frees you up from wishing that person was a different way and that you cannot rush that person’s spiritual development along.
If you really want to release yourself from past grudges, you have to practice forgiveness. Then you can release the anger and the person. Having forgiveness is having compassion for that person. The longer you hold onto the anger, the longer you are wasting energy on being angry. You could be using that energy to move yourself ahead instead and empower yourself.
Bruce Lee could have been hurt forever by being passed over to star in Kung Fu, but it would not have done him any good to wallow in something that was not going to happen. There are all moments where we all want to sit and wallow, which is ok to allow yourself to feel those feelings, but you cannot stay there. You have to take those small actions towards healing, joy, and moving forward.
We had a lot of listeners write to us on a range of topics from mentioning grief (listen to episode #12 The Medicine For My Suffering) to finding their purpose (listen to episode “#30 Purpose”) to dealing with defeat (listen to episode “#68 Defeat is a State of Mind”). We have a lot of wonderful episodes where we discuss all these topics.
In every question we answered we talked about being gentle with yourself, letting go of judging yourself harshly for how you feel. We talked about feeling your feelings, investigating your feelings. Taking a small step toward your joy, harvesting your own energy toward creating your own healing. All of this has to do with the idea of knowing yourself well, investigating and researching who you are and your experience, and creating a customized solution for you based on your heart, your own process, your own wellness, and what creates joy for you in life.
Stay in the present, try not to jump into the past or to project too far into the future. Be with where you are right now. Remember that your mind is a fertile garden (Listen to Episode “#46 The Mind is Fertile Garden”) and that it will grow the seeds that you plant in it. Try to maintain an outlook of positivity and joy as much as possible. Anything you affirm to yourself with your thoughts will continue to grow in your garden.
It is the end of the year, you have a little bit of time and this is the moment to reflect. Instead of replaying old past wrongs or hurts, remember your innocence, remember the time when you were carefree and doing something that made your heart burst. As the year winds down, with a few days off during the holidays, it is a time to allow yourself to be gentle and kind with yourself.
Thank you so much for joining us and being with us this year. Thank you for participating fully in the podcast, for emailing us and sharing your stories. Thank you for listening and we will see you in 2018!
Thank you, Shannon & Sharon
The Bruce Lee Podcast is now on Nerdist.com.