Ten lessons from the bamboo (summary)

(1) Remember: What looks weak is strong
The body of even the largest type of bamboo is not large compared to the other much larger trees in the forest. But the plants endure cold winters and extremely hot summers and are some times the only trees left standing in the aftermath of a storm. Remember the words of a great Jedi Master: “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size do you?” We must be careful not to underestimate others or ourselves based only on old notions of what is weak and what is strong. You do not have to be big and imposing to be strong. You may not be from the biggest company or the product of the most famous school, but like the bamboo, stand tall, believe in your own strengths, and know that you are as strong as you need to be. Remember too that there is strength in the light, in openness and transparency. There is strength in kindness, compassion, and cooperation.
(2) Bend but don’t break.
One of the most impressive things about the bamboo is how it sways with the breeze. This gentle swaying movement is a symbol of humility. The foundation of the bamboo is solid, yet it moves and sways harmoniously with the wind, never fighting against it. In time, even the strongest wind tires itself out, but the bamboo remains standing tall and still. A bend-but-don’t-break or go-with-the-natural-flow attitude is one of the secrets for success whether we’re talking about bamboo trees, answering tough questions in a Q & A session, or just dealing with the everyday vagaries of life.

(3) Be deeply rooted yet flexible
The bamboo is remarkable for its incredible flexibility. This flexibility is made possible in part due to the bamboo’s complex root structure which is said to make the ground around a bamboo forest very stable. Roots are important, yet in an increasingly mobile world many individuals and families do not take the time or effort to establish roots in their own communities.

The challenge, then, for many of us is to remain the mobile, flexible, international travelers and busy professionals that we are while at the same time making the effort and taking the time to become involved and deeply rooted in the local community right outside our door.

(4) Slow down your busy mind
We have far more information available than ever before and most of us live at a very fast pace. Even if most of our work life is on-line, life itself can seem quite hectic, and at times chaotic. Often it is difficult to see the signal through all the noise. In this kind of environment, it seems all the more important to take the time to slow down, to calm your busy mind so that you may see things more clearly.

(5) Be always ready
As the great Aikido master Kensho Furuya says in Kodo: Ancient Ways, “The warrior, like bamboo, is ever ready for action.” In presentation or other professional activities too, through training and practice we can develop in our own way a state of being ever ready. Through study and practice we can at least do our best to be ready for any situation.

(6) Find wisdom in emptiness
It is said that in order to learn, the first step is to empty ourselves of our preconceived notions. One can not fill a cup which is already full. The hollow insides of the bamboo reminds us that we are often too full of ourselves and our own conclusions; we have no space for anything else. In order to receive knowledge and wisdom from both nature and people, we have to be open to that which is new and different. When you empty your mind of your prejudices and pride and fear, you become open to the possibilities.



Ten lessons from the bamboo (summary)