“All knowledge ultimately means Self-knowledge.”
For all of his adult life, Bruce Lee was on a journey to understand the truest essence of himself. We remember him as the ultra confident movie star with martial arts mastery but even Bruce Lee was a work in progress.
Bruce shares a moment reflecting on his experience on the 60’s TV show The Green Hornet. It was his first big break in Holly wood and he was just 25 years old. He was a young actor who showed up and did as he was directed without much thought to how he should authentically act in this role. He never asked himself how he could bring his own individuality and specialness to the role. He said that he was essentially a robot in that situation because he didn’t express his true essence.
Like many young people starting their first “real” jobs, Bruce also put his role above his authenticity.
Self-knowledge is not a static idea of “who I am” but it's a forward motion pursuit of understanding your root. It is lifelong pursuit of knowing yourself.
“Know the cause of your ignorance.”
“Instead of establishing rigid rules and separative thoughts, we should look within ourselves to see where our particular problems lie and our cause of ignorance. You see, ultimately all type of knowledge simply means self- knowledge. You must look for truth yourself and directly experience every minute detail for yourself.”
Anytime in your life when you’re mired in confusion, uncertainty, or a recurring upset, you’re holding onto ignorance about something. It's a great place to start examining and learning about yourself. Often it's difficult to look at these upsetting occasions since we’ve spent so much time burying or avoiding them. But if you’re a curious person who wants to improve your relationships and personal happiness, then you have to be willing to examine all the upsets and learn what they have to teach you.
Study yourself in relationship.
“To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person. Relationship is a process of self–revelation. Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself. To be is to be related.”
The true test of who you are is shown in the real relationships in your life. These days there are so many ways to isolate yourself with technology, but who do you actually interact with daily and weekly, and what is the quality of those relationships?
Examine how you interact with these people in your life, and how these interactions reflect on you? If you have a great relationship with someone, what about you is reflected? Or if you're vexed by someone, what about you is coming to light from these interactions? We are getting input from our interactions and relationships all the time.
“True mastery transcends any particular art. It stems from mastery of oneself – the ability, developed through self-discipline, to be calm, fully aware, and completely in tune with oneself and the surroundings. Then and only then, can a person know himself.”
Bruce’s true art was mastery of the self, and when you see him in the movies or interviews, he’s bringing authenticity, energy, and calm. His unique energy still emanates through his art, film and writings--which is why we are still talking about him today.
“Freedom lies in understanding yourself from moment to moment.”
Why is there freedom in understanding yourself? When you are comfortable in your own skin, centered, grounded, and totally in touch, you’re free because you no longer have to manufacture anything. You’re free from the anxiety of playing a role.
“When you’re faced with looking at your own life with awakened eyes, you will have increased a bit in the knowledge of yourself (in other words, your mental and physical abilities will become clear to you), and knowledge of anything outside of yourself is only superficial and very shallow. To put is another way, self-knowledge has a liberating quality.”
Self-knowledge is liberating because you understand your physical and mental abilities, and can determine intuitively what you like or dislike. Often society offers programs or formulas for you to follow for supposed success, but this discounts that we are all uniquely individuals and not everything works for everyone. Self-knowledge saves you from being a robot.
“Esteem by others or self-esteem, which is better? To value things or value yourself, which is better? To have more or to have less, which is worse? The more you have the more you have to lose. The more you value things, the less you value yourself. The more you depend upon others for esteem, the less you are self-sufficient.”
Freedom is the ultimate result of pursuing self-knowledge.
“My life it seems is a life of self-examination: a self-peeling of myself, bit by bit, day by day. More and more it’s becoming simple to me as a human being, more and more I search myself, and more and more the questions become listed. And more and more I see clearly. It is not a question of developing what has already been developed but of recovering what has been left behind. Though this has been with us, in us, all the time and has never been lost or distorted except for our misguided manipulation of it.”
“The sage attends to the inner self and not to the outward appearance.”
The more that Bruce Lee went inside, the more outwardly visible his essence became. The deeper you know your inner essence, the more you come into harmony with nature and everything around you.
“I must accept myself by going with and not against my nature.”
“Growth is getting through role playing and filling in the holes in the personality to make the person whole and complete again.”
It’s important to make sure that your self-knowledge exercise does not turn into just feeding your own ego. This is why it is important to check-in with how your relationships are in your life. If everyone is wrong and you’re the only “right” one, then you need to reexamine yourself.
What is your personal level of happiness and satisfaction? How truly happy are you in every moment? Do you feel free? Do you have peace of mind? These are good questions to ask yourself to uncover the real truth about where you are on your journey to self-knowledge.
Look at your relationships, check them out, what is the quality? Can you sustain them? Or do you cycle through them? Look at your friendships, love relationships, coworkers, neighbors, and casual relationships and how you would rate the relationship and your satisfaction. Where are your areas of confusion? Where are you feeling lost or upset? Look at them objectively and ask what your ignorance is there. Tackle it a little bit at a time, one subject at a time. Make a list of strengths and weaknesses—both are great teachers.
If you’d like to share how you’re doing with this action item you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Awesome Asians and Hapas)
Miwa Matreyek is an animator, director, designer, and performer living and working in Los Angeles. She is an interdisciplinary artist and she got her degree in experimental animation from CalArts. Miwa is an animator who creates films and then performs along with the animation. She has screens set up where she has one screen in the front where the film is projected onto and she’s behind it doing real-time shadow-play interacting with her animations as a shadow silhouette. She premiered her work “Myth and Infrastructure” at the TED Conference in Oxford. Miwa has won many awards including the Princess Grace Special Project Grant. She is a co-founder and collaborator of the multi-media theater company Cloud Eye Control. Miwa, we think you’re doing amazing work in the world and we think you’re awesome!
This week our #BruceLeeMoment comes from Aleisha from Melbourne, Australia:
“Hello Shannon and Sharon My name is Aleisha, I am a 36 and from Melbourne Australia.
I just want to thank you both for spreading the amazing philosophy of Bruce. I look forward to your podcast each week and use it as part of my spiritual journey. I am currently in recovery from addiction issues that have plagued me throughout my life. This peaked 4 1/2 years when I lost my mother to a short battle with cancer. I was her caretaker 24:7 til her death in 2012. 3 months after her death my 14 year old goddaughter committed to suicide due to bullying at school. My life turned upside down and I fell into a deep downward spiral of addiction, anxiety and depression and truly hit rock bottom. I made some truly bad choices in my life and it came to a head March last year when I put myself into rehab. One of the thing I have learnt is "We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity" I had been struggling to find this power and constantly was putting myself down for my past actions. But after discovering your podcast I am slowly learning to be kinder to myself and that I can't change what has been done, only change my actions today to make for a better future. Not only are your voices so soothing and relaxing the knowledge being said has truly opened my mind!
I know I can only live my life 1 day at a time and this recovery will be forever but I just wanted to thank you for being apart of my recovery.
Please know that you are spreading such wonderful energy even all the way down here in Australia!
All the best, keep spreading the word! Aleisha”