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The Dao of Kung Fu Panda

By Vincent Cooper

Kung Fu Panda is a great movie with a lot to recommend it, to adults too. Throughout the movie are some great, Eastern-inspired quotes that give the adult viewer a lot to think about. Here I cover a few of my favorites.

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today?
Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present."

A great quote (and catchy too!) Tomorrow is over and finished with. Whatever happened, happened. Whatever didn't happen, didn't happen. Spending time and energy in the present fretting over things that are now history is a waste of your resources.

Tomorrow is a mystery. We don't know what tomorrow will bring. Your life could change dramatically in the next 24 hours...or perhaps tomorrow will be much the same as today. Whatever plans you may make, the future is out of your direct control.

But today? Today is a gift. It is yours to have here and now. Right now you have control over your thoughts and your feelings. It may not always seem that way, but it's true. You do. That was the great 'secret' discovered by Viktor Frankl in the hell of Auschwitz. You, and only you, have the power to assign meaning to your present circumstances and condition. And therein lies the chance for change and an opportunity for growth. Decide today what meaning you want to attach to events in your life. Do not allow yourself to be subjugated to alien meanings imposed on your from those around you. This is your present for yourself.

"There are no accidents."

Master Wugui (Oogway) is the fountain of wisdom in Kung Fu Panda and this is a great quote from him that hints at the underlying oneness of existence. There are no accidents... only events. What we see before us is the mind-bogglingly complex, but nevertheless real, interactions between particles that are invisible to all but the most powerful microscopes. These particles may cause apparent accidents to happen, but that is an illusion, as Master Wugui points out. It is us, our ego-driven selves, branding an event an accident that obscures the greater truth of unity from our perception. The Universe knows what it is doing. It is in control; perfect and beautiful in its harmony.

"There are no secret ingredients."

This is my favorite quote of the movie. There are no secret ingredients. You don't need any 'secrets'. The 'secret', if that is what it is, is to harmonize with your true nature and maintain that harmony throughout your life. You are enough; you have everything that you need to live your life. You just need to be very sure that it is indeed your life that you are living and not someone else's. Another one of my favorite quotes comes from Jung:

"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your
own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens."

Where are you looking for your truth: inside or outside? The people around you are living their lives and following their truth. "My truth is not your truth", as Bruce Lee said. Don't confuse the truth of other people with your own truth. Exert yourself in finding your own path and follow it with your heart. There are no secret ingredients. Everything you need to be you - to 'make' you - is inside you already.

"One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it."

A lot of the first half of the movie is about the characters - including Po, the Kung Fu Panda himself, accepting that the overweight bear is indeed the Dragon Warrior. It is his destiny but only Master Wugui can see that.

You are who you are. Discover who you are and love yourself for who you are. Respect yourself for who you are. Banish influences that will ask you to do anything other than fulfill your own unique destiny. Taking your life off on a tangent may bring achievement, success, accomplishment and so on but how do you feel five minutes later? If reaching those goals has been contrary to your nature you will know it straight away. Despite the successes you will be left with an empty, hollow feeling, wondering why everyone was making such a fuss about this latest thing you have done. Now, you can see right through it and see it for what it is: an illusion. Sooner or later, you will be forced to take a long, hard look at yourself once again and consider the direction your life is heading in. Take a moment now and consider if your heart is telling you that your current path is your destiny. If not, you will save yourself a lot of time and effort to recalibrate your guidance system and head back in the direction you know deep inside you should be going in.

"Let go of the illusion of control."

Another great one from Master Wugui. This refers to both internal and external control. Externally, Master Wugui is talking about overcoming the idea that you can control things outside yourself. The seed from a peach will grow into a peach tree. It is its nature. It can't fight it and it doesn't try. You may not want a peach tree; you may prefer apples. But you won't get an apple tree from a peach seed. An attempt to control the nature of peach seed is delusion.

Internally, the quote again reminds us that we can't ultimately control our true nature. Trying to do so is a temporary illusion, but one that can potentially cause tremendous damage to yourself if you are not careful. Do not reign in your true nature. Find it and harmonize with it. It is your friend, not your enemy.

Vincent Cooper works as a coach, drawing on his vast experience and understanding of Asian spiritualism and martial arts to create a unique approach to self-growth and spiritual insight.
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