I remember one afternoon, when I was 17 years old, I went to see my White Crane master. I was a bit depressed and I had hoped to receive some comfort and sympathy from him. I told him that I was depressed about the fact that there were some White Crane techniques which I could not perform as skillfully as one of my classmates, who was a couple of years younger than me.

My master took a look at me and said, "Little Yang, why do you look around at what others are doing When you plow a field, plow it because you want to plow. You do not plow because others make you plow. You do not plow for others' approval. So why would you look around at others Why would you care If you look around and see that you are ahead of others, you would become proud of yourself and then you would become lazy. If you are behind, you would become depressed and discouraged. Don't look around, simply bow your head, look down and keep plowing. One day, when you feel tired and take a break, you will look around and suddenly you will realize that there is no one around you. You have left them far far behind you. You will see how far you have gone and yes, you can take some pride in that, but then you look ahead and see how far there is still to go (and there will always be more to go). That's when you put your head back down and go back to plowing."

How true this concept is! Often we live under other people's expectations and imagination. We forget what we really feel. We're always concerned about what we think other people are feeling about us, and we forget our true feelings deep in our own hearts. We must be honest with ourselves and true to our own hearts. We must plow for ourselves.

Whenever there is something that we learn quickly and easily, we seldom appreciate it and often we easily quit. However, when we take a great deal of effort and time to accomplish something, we come to appreciate it deeply in our hearts. It becomes something precious to us, something which is truly ours that cannot be taken away. The easy things have no meaning to us. It's "easy come, easy go."

The truth is that my younger classmate lost his patience and quit his practice after only one year of training. On the other hand, I have kept up my practice and research. Once I had determined and firmly decided upon my goal, I simply kept going. I developed my patience and perseverance. Gradually, I learned to conquer myself. My White Crane master always said, "You are your own biggest enemy. If you know how to conquer yourself, you will be able to conquer any difficulties that lay in your path."

Now that I am 54 years old and have experienced much in my life, I offer these concepts to my friends. These concepts have changed my life, built up my confidence, and helped me established a firm foundation for practice and research. Do you continue trying to conquer yourself, especially your laziness and pride Through this self-conquering, you will find the key to enlightenment. The growth of the spirit originates from self understanding and the understanding of life.

Dr. Yang has been involved in Chinese Gongfu since 1961 and has more than thirty years of instructional experience. Dr. Yang has published twenty-four books and twenty-eight videotapes on the martial arts and Qigong. Currently he is president of Yang's Oriental Arts Association, Boston, MA.