In our morning training classes, we do a lot of “body” work. We physically work out, we sweat. We also have “mind” work outs as well. One of these classes involved Great Grandmaster showing us some plants in her garden. At first glance, it appears that the garden is full of dead trees, cut back to stems. For someone like myself that didn’t spend much time in nature prior to meeting Great Grandmaster, seeing something like this for the first time was quite unusual. On this day, I wasn’t too perplexed however, only because I knew that those dead trees were really rose bushes that had been pruned back for the winter season.
However, when I first saw this many years ago, it seemed like cruel and unusual punishment for the rose trees to be cut back like that to mere sticks – what did they do other than to beautifully bloom and to emit a gorgeous fragrance? This was a very important learning lesson that I would have never realized without Great Grandmaster teaching this to us.
Rose bushes, like many other plants, need to be pruned so that they can grow bigger and stronger. Kind of a backwards concept at first. If I want my bank account to grow larger, I’m not going to take out all the money and spend it. If I want my hair to grow long, I am not going to chop it all off. But with plants, and with people, it is different. The rose bushes get trimmed way back so that all the big strong branches can grow even stronger. The smaller branches are cut away, so that the growth focus is directed to the stronger branches. Great Grandmaster used this as a way to talk about how people need to be pruned too. No, we don’t need to have our arms and legs cut off, but we do need to have our weaknesses cut off. For example, take a person that is overweight, yet has a weakness for chocolate cake. The person knows they need to lose weight for health reasons, but can’t stop eating cake. That cake, in this example, is a weakness that is hindering the person from being healthy. That weakness needs to be trimmed away so that the person can change.
At our school, Jung SuWon, some of the younger students tell stories about how many hours per day they spend playing video games. One student, a teenager, said he spent at least 8 hours per day playing video games. When he told this to Great Grandmaster, she didn’t scold him or tell him how wrong he was to spend so much time doing that. No. Instead, she asked him what he would tell his own son if his son spent that much time playing video games. His reply was that he wouldn’t let his son do that. Then she asked him why not. He said that it wasn’t good for his eyes, it wasted time, it didn’t help with school. After he said that, he paused and then had a sheepish grin on his face when he realized that those same ideals that he held for his future son, should also apply to him. He came to his own conclusion, rather than being told what he was doing was wrong. This example has a huge impact on our younger students, because they get to participate in the solution, they get to realize for themselves what is going on. Then, they are more interested in participating in the change that they realize needs to happen. From this discussion, the student learned on his own what he needed to prune from his life.
Back to the dead garden – Even though the rose bushes looked forlorn and bare, a closer inspection showed that new growth was already starting. Fresh new leaves were growing from branches that looked like they’d never produce another flower ever!
Great Grandmaster then showed us several rose bushes that had not yet been pruned. This really cemented the reason why we need to prune, and why our actions must be aligned with our goals (Body and Mind as One). The rose bushes had both old growth and new growth. There were dried up leaves next to new buds. It looked like the rose bush was confused – it seemed to not know whether it should go dormant and drop its leaves or keep sprouting new growth. Great Grandmaster picked some of the newly grown flowers and they weren’t so healthy. They didn’t give off a nice fragrance either. Great Grandmaster said that the bush was conflicted and didn’t know what it should do. Two different messages were being displayed by the roses: One, it is winter time, so it is time to be dormant. Two, it can still produce new flowers, so new growth was occurring. We could clearly see that both situations couldn’t work to support a healthy tree. The “body” of the rose tree needed to match the “mind”. The “body” was the tree and the “mind” in this case was the environment.
After those trees were pruned, I went to see what effect the pruning had and sure enough, the bare branches were giving life to new sprouts.