The Flying Monk

In class this week, Master Ricardo told the students the story of the Flying Monk at the Shaolin Monastery. He reminded them that the Shaolin Monastery is a Buddhist temple in China. The monks who live there are “fighting monks,” which means that when they are not studying the Buddhist teachings or doing the chores around the monastery, they are training in martial arts. Much like we do here, they learn kicks and punches and throws and weapons. And unlike other stories kids hear about fairytales and superheroes, the Shaolin temple is a real place, and the fighting monks still train there even to this day.

Now, many of the stories about Shaolin take the form of legends, because the temple is over 1000 years old. But presumably the legends are all based on real people, who lived hundreds of years ago, and did extraordinary things that have been passed down over generations.

There was one monk, a long time ago, who had amazing jumping power. It seemed that nothing was too high for him to jump over it, and no distance was too far for him to jump across it. That’s why they called him the Flying Monk.

They asked the monk how he was able to do such incredible jumps. And he explained that when he was a young boy, and he first came to the monastery to train as a monk, his master gave him a task. Outside the monastery there was an empty dirt field with nothing in it. The only thing in the whole field was one tiny blade of grass. As part of the young monk’s training, his master told him that every morning he needed to go out to the field and jump over the blade of grass ten times. Well, over the years it turned out that the blade of grass was actually the sprout of a tree. As the boy got bigger and stronger, the tree also got bigger. But his job was the same: every day he jumped over it ten times. And by the time the sprout grew into a big full-sized tree, the monk could jump over it because he had been doing those jumps for years since he was a small boy.

And that’s how the Flying Monk came to be able to do the amazing jumps. But the point is that he started off small. Ten jumps over a blade of grass isn’t that much. But the tree was growing, and as the tree grew, the boy needed to jump higher. And trees don’t grow quickly; they grow slowly over many years. So the strength of the monk’s jumping ability was built up slowly and consistently over all that time.

For the students in class, the moral of the story is that no matter what you are struggling with (for some it may be the pushups; for some it is flexibility or balance; it could be anything), with just a little bit of work every day, you can achieve amazing things. But it has to be consistent. You can’t quit and give up, or you’ll never be able to do it. If the monk had quit jumping over the sprout for a couple months, while the tree continued to grow, he probably wouldn’t have been able to jump over it anymore when he tried again.

But that little bit of work, done every single day bit by bit, adds up. If you keep working, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, eventually you will achieve your goals.

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