At some point one evening during the 2016 Iowa seminar, in Levi’s basement, a discussion occurred regarding the front kua and a particular orientation of it during a particular move. A statement was made about this requirement, followed by crickets chirping. Sensing that the moment was dying, I decided to wade in and stake my claim; to place myself at risk and bleed, hopefully. “I can do that! I can totally do that!” I crowed. It had been John Dahms, one of Master Chen’s senior disciples, who had stated the requirement. He said, “ok show me”. I sprang up and did something, as best I could, and his response was quick and direct – “You’re not doing it”. As deflated as possible I said “ok” and sat back down (I will come back to this). The discussion continued with some new indications and some new material, revitalised (with the help of my blood, I imagined). That moment still resonates with me many months later as I continue to work on the requirements laid out by John for that move on that evening.
The truth is I lied. I knew I couldn’t do it when I offered myself up, but I also knew something else: if I felt psychologically prepared during the teachable moment I would not really be listening. Somehow I had to create a situation inside of myself where I would be truly receptive, and I knew from Master Chen that two useful qualities in this respect were a. obvious failure (“Invest in Loss”) and b. confusion (“I don’t know”). Even if I simulated these by artificially elevating myself and then coming crashing down in front of everyone it would be better than being ‘very competent’ during the learning process or even not offering myself up at all. The emotional risk is necessary – in other words, I must be ready to put myself aside, no matter how bad it feels so that I can have a chance at real learning, which is always in an unknown and uncomfortable place.
I invested in loss, and in doing so, with John’s careful and attentive instruction, I invested in myself.