BULLY PROOF ARTICLE: You don’t have to be a victim, not physically, not mentally, not spiritually.

October 13, 2010 by  

2 Timothy 1:7...
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

The power of a bully is the ability to generate fear. Fear stops the flow of spirit, and the victim defeats him or herself. (Original drawing by Sabine Kleftogiannis)

Joyce prepares to block an attack by Sensei Moses McFarland. We must takes steps to overcome fear.

I once saw an article in a Kriya Yoga magazine in India which featured a story on “Fearlessness.” It included a segment on me. An Australian company dedicated to raising human potential also called me “fearless.” However, I have clear memories of the days when bullies terrorized my days and nights in and out of school. I was never safe walking alone, whether to class or going to the store for my mother or father What I had to fear was angry punches to my stomach, blows to my nose or even to my eyes. A jab to the eye sent shock-waves to the brain which exploded into pain and bleary vision. The neighborhood bullies were skilled in causing pain but their was no thought of my being killed by them. I knew most of them by name but that did not stop them from terrorizing me.

One night my father sent me to the store on the other side of the tracks. I lived in the South where the dividing line was not just poetic. For clarification: I lived on the Black side of the tracks. The store was on the other side. I was almost there. I could see the lights in the entrance but I also saw two white teenagers coming toward me. I was 12 and very short for my age. When they passed me one of the boys whirled and grabbed me by the throat, lifting me off my feet. My blood seemed to freeze. Seemingly, in slow motion, the other youth pulled a knife. My heart pounded like the frantic drums of my ancestors. Nothing felt real in this drama. I did not struggle before the moonlit knife. Just at the critical moment, another white teenager appeared, older and taller. “Put him down!,” he commanded. My attackers protested, as they maligned my culture. The older boy was forceful, his voice angry. They let me go. The stranger who came to my aide on a dark street may have saved my life. He surely saved my faith and kept me from being stabbed.

While I do not know how far my assailants would have carried their attack, I do know that at the moment it happened I did nothing to protect myself. I lay helpless, limp in the arms of a possible killer. I do not know if I was afraid but I do know I did not cry out for help or struggle. This was during the time I had learned about the Spartans in History. The teacher told the story about the hungry Spartan youth who grabbed a fox by mistake and put it under his shirt when he heard someone coming. He let it bite through and consume his liver rather than cry out. That story impressed me so much, I vowed never to admit to pain or fear. That night my silence could h ave resulted in deadly a tragedy. I was rescued by the timely, perhaps, divine intervention of another. On my way back home I realized that there were so many things I could have, I should have done. I vowed never to be passive in the face of danger again. Being silent did not mean I had to be passive also. The attack revealed that there were possibilities beneath fear, if I could only tap into them. I also knew that there would not always be the benevolent hand of a stranger to count on in times of trouble. Still, if there was a choice, I would rather be that benevolent stranger than the bully or the victim.

When I hear news reporting the aftermath of bullying today, it saddens me to learn that some children are taking their own lives in a desperate attempt to escape physical or emotional abuse.

I was taught a ditty as a child:

Sticks and stones may break my bones
but words will never hurt me.

The truth is words can and do hurt. They can by-pass the skin and go straight to the heart and soul. Damage is deep... internal. The power of words often lead to an implosion that few people see coming. Anyone who has ever been on the business end of a verbal assault by a powerful individual or a group, knows how such an attack can strip you of dignity, energy and the resolve to go on. A bully is a dangerous person because left unchecked he can alter your steps and push you in a direction you do not want to go. Children are not the only ones to face bullies. We find them at all levels of our life but the bully is only one half of the equation.

When I am teaching Zen Mushin Ryu, my approach to Self Defense at The American Vishwa Dharma Zen Temple (Soul Sword Zendo) or at a seminar, I remind students that the Soul Sword, the sole sword that they need is The Mind. The mind is the most sophisticated tool conceivable but most people have little clue about how to make it their friend, or how to allow it to work for them using its subtle capacities. More often our minds serve everyone else better than ourselves, even though we are unaware it is so. A bully, like a rogue warrior of olde, generates fear using body language and sound waves. The intended victim visualizes his own defeat, feels powerless and gives in to his foe. The bully, in most cases, is allowed to do harm with little or no resistance because the victim is his ally. He helps the bully succeed.

In Soul Sword,” I remind people that we were told when we were growing up that the bigger boy was the stronger boy. He had longer reach, more height and he talked tough, also. When we accepted that formula as law we took it into our sub conscience and made it so.

I had two beliefs that changed my direction. First, I believed in God. Second, I believed in my own mind. I prayed to God to help me learn how to defend myself, and I promised that if he did, I would use that ability to protect others from any bully I encountered on the path of life. Having prayed that prayer. I proceeded to practice, believing God would reveal that secret through the vehicle of my own mind. This bold step was taken before I knew anything about such things as Bushido, Zen, Martial arts, etc. These avenues opened up later. What I did know were the stories of biblical heroes like Sampson, Deborah, Joshua, Gideon and David, whose exploits as warriors of faith fascinated and inspired me. That means of self defense were revealed to me only proved the power of reaching within for answers. A path opened up for me to overcome my fears and find strength I never knew before.

Church,  the Religious experience, can be a gateway to power where there is true faith. If David could bring down Goliath,  the king of bullies, you can bring down the giants in your life. The big guy doesn't have a prayer. Okay, I'm kidding in this case but the possibility is still there for the "little guy" with wisdom.

If you think of yourself or teach your child to think of him or herself as a victim they will always give their power to The Others. Their minds will remain split, with the bully of the moment controlling the strongest part. A double mind is weak and unstable, a point Jesus Christ made in his teachings. Using the vehicle of Zen Mushin Ryu, I teach, the outcome of the conflict depends on you alone. The will of the attacker has nothing to do with it. This may seem hard to accept on the intellectual level. However, it is a demonstrable fact, something I have shown to be so in many venues around the world. To awaken this ability one does not need the stamina of an athlete nor a body sculpted in a gym. When mind and spirit can work together in the body something extraordinary will occur. This is not so much a Religious statement as one about higher reality. Human beings readily admit to Body/Mind but so many of us have a problem with the other part of the triangle, the spirit. Spirit is there. Left in the dormant state, it can not provide its unique input in our lives.

Spirit is not something to be analyzed. It is to be realized. It is there that wisdom resides, the primal wisdom of The Universe which we pick up from time to time through so many channels. Our genius lies there, not only to bring forth great art, and great discoveries but to also serve a more ordinary need in times of trouble. It can defend us. It is just this truth that fueled Shaolin Kung Fu and the Zen awakened Samurai of Kamakura era of Japan. Spirit is the motive power when the state of No-Mind is attained.

Kitabu Roshi doing Ki-Asana at the American Vishwa Dharma Zen Temple/Soul Sword Zendo. Mushin/No-Mind kanji is visible.

In a practical sense. If a child should not be taught to embrace fear but to be mindful of his or her environment, including the vulnerability of the body. This will produce heightened sensitivities. Keen awareness will steer the child away from dangerous situations and inspire appropriate responses where needed. Our spiritual nature understands the totality of what we face. It takes in everything concerned. It is capable of spontaneous reaction but we must overcome double-mindedness to permit it to act freely, unimpeded by second thoughts.

My ability to rise above fear and fulfill my vow did not happen in a vacuum. Like David who said, “Blessed be The Lord my strength who teacheth my fingers to fight and my hands to make war,” I had an Ocean of wisdom to access and I believed I could. I did let go, to drop into the abyss without feeling there was help. In the innocence of my child mind I accepted that God was there with me. With that spirit I was able to let go and sink into Mushin... into No-Mind. It was then that I discovered that there was instinctive wisdom, prajna paramita, in Sanskrit, which could and did guide me, even pass the threat of bullies.

I received revelations about my plight and what needed to be done. First, I approached my problem on the conscious level. I read books that inspired courage. I adopted a different mental attitude on the conscious level. The deeper transformations would be self-actualizing, and they came in a series of changes underscored by action, not thought. In short order, the bullies who plagued me could no longer defeat me. Reflecting on the day I faced an old, feared bully for the last time I see that what defeated him was not any great skill on my part but that I responded to his attack instantly and without reflection. My moments were so fast and precise he had no chance to block. One blow and he fell to the ground crying. He was about sixteen, at the time. I helped him to his feet. The monster was slain within and there was no more threat outside. I no longer was slowed by worry about what the other person would do to me. None of those thoughts were there. There was action and response. That was all. The bullies of my past became like an old dream and no new bullies could ever surface.

When I was older and living in New York, the DeKalb Chaplains tried to take control of my freedom. What happened then became a Bed-Stuy legion. You can read about it in Soul Sword:The Way and Mind of a Zen Warrior. What matters is that something real happens when we look within for solutions. A bully is an external force, don't internalize that person and they will have no power, nor sense that they have power over you. The fear they try to generate will turn back on them. I was having a cup of tea as I read the New York Times in Nathan's, a well-known New York eating emporium. A man approached my table with two women. There were three seats vacant. “You have to get up from this table,” he said. I turned to see a robust man who looked like he played football.

“As soon as I finish my tea you can have the table,” I answered.

“You are going to leave now,” he replied.

“Sit down before you have a cardiac arrest,” I said, then turned back to the Times and my tea. The man sat down.

“Since we are all sitting here together we might as well introduce ourselves,” he said, and so ended the threat.

When the man came to my table I was deeply focused on the article I was reading. I loved reading. The only thing on my mind when he interrupted me was getting back to the paper. The words and the tone which conveyed them came out of nowhere but the effect was immediate. I had no plan. My actions were completely without thought (munen). However, my degree of relaxation in the midst of a possible threat rested on my faith in that Divine connection which linked through my Unconscious. I felt safe no matter what the other person had in mind.

When we seek validation from others to prove our worth we give them the sword to cut us down. Learning to love ourselves as off-springs of God and Universe is a way of generating self-acceptance as a matter of course. We are each, one of a kind. We do not need someone else to tell us we are worthy to be alive We are alive. If we give ourselves over to life that vibrancy will attract admiration as a matter or course but more important the joy of living arises from within us. Our own life is the reason for being. There will always be people who use words as a weapon of destruction, just as there are those who use might to do harm.

We can defeat the power of negative words with positive silence (samadhi), thus finding a refuge within ourselves from a passing storm. When it comes to external forces we have the inherent right to defend our life and well-being. Give yourselves permission to do that and the means to do so will come. You may be surprised how simple preserving your well-being can be when you give up preoccupation with finesse, artistry and technique and meditate only on the basis act of surviving. We do not have to give tic for tac. We do not have to become a bully to stop a bully, just as we do not have to become evil to stop the malevolent. There is a way. When you seek the well-being of others, not just yourself, God and Universe are on your side. The vital question is this...are you on your side? If your child is being bullied teach that child to believe in him or herself. Let them know that if the bully cannot break through their positive mental field they will feel inadequate and fear to attack. We will take this subject up again.

I recommend that you buy my books:The Secret of Freedom, which approaches the subject as a novel, and Soul Sword:The Way and Mind of a Zen Warrior. Both books will take you deeper into this subject of facing and defeating “dragons” in life without bloodshed.

Click the "Store" link to order or visit your local bookstore.


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