STQI Downtown Toronto School

The Shaolin Virtue of Perseverance

Ancient Shaolin wisdom teaches us to follow 6 key virtues in our lives as a means to achieve peace in our hearts.  In this article we explore the Shaolin Virtue of Perseverance.

What is Perseverance?
The standard dictionary for perseverance means to continue even though it may be difficult.  For example, one may be having a hard time finding a job due to the economy or lack of experience and skills but one perseveres by continuing to search and not giving up.

The Shaolin Virtue of Perseverance extends this meaning to incorporate the idea that one does their best.  This implies judgement and intelligence to determine when enough is enough and to accept that an alternate path is fine.  In the above example, did one explore every avenue to enhance the probability of finding the job?  Did one continue to improve the resume, improve his or her interviewing skills, find more job sources, etc?  If so and still unsuccessful, perhaps a different job should be considered or one needs to enhance their skills and experience in a different way?  The economy might not be in one’s favour or perhaps one is unable to compete with others who have a better resume and experience.

In our Shaolin Kids Kung Fu program, kids are taught the Shaolin Virtue of Perseverance.  During the ‘ma bu’ horse stance, they do not give up and instead hold the stance as long as they can… but still with an exception.  They are taught that it is okay if their thigh muscles are in pain and to continue even if their legs are shaking.  However, if their joints hurt then it is okay to stop and go higher to alleviate some stress.  If our kids are taught to continue ma bu despite joint pain, it could lead to permanent injury.

Applying Perseverance
We often face difficulty in many things we do and aim for, whether going for a promotion, a higher salary, completing a research project, getting healthier, acing a test, and even raising children.    We begin with great determination and when obstacles are in the way this slowly fades into frustration and despair.

Here are 3 key tips for applying perseverance:

1. Prepare yourself: Understand your objectives
You need to understand what you want to work towards and what determines success for you.  Are your objectives realistic?  Will it be difficult and how?  If you persevere and reach your goals, what are the benefits and would they impact others in a negative way?

2. Remind yourself: Don’t lose sight of your objectives
During your journey to success, you will need to regularly remind yourself what your objectives are and assess where you are at now.  What corrective actions can you take to get back on track?  For example, if your goal is be able to do the horse stance for 20 minutes, how long can you last at the moment before your legs give out?  How do you go about planning your training so that you can achieve 20 minutes?

3. Question yourself: Is this still worth pursuing in this manner?
The journey can be very bumpy and you have already faced great obstacles… should you continue or find a different path?  If for example you feel you have tried every avenue to get a job and you keep getting turned down, question why you want that particular job in the first place?  It’s time to revisit the bigger picture of your dreams and see if there is another way to get there.

Peace in the Heart through Perseverance
Peace in the heart is the sustained achievement of no suffering and negative feelings.  As humans we have the capability to feel great suffering which is very uncomfortable.  Naturally we find it important to explore means to happiness.  Shaolin wisdom teaches us that the source of suffering are our own desires and the existence of the self and yet without desire are we still human?

To achieve happiness we must persevere in our search for this idea of peace in the heart.  Can it be attained only through the fulfillment of our desires?  i.e. fame, wealth, love, etc.  Or can it be attained through the determination to minimize our desires?   The answers are not clear.  You must follow your own path of perseverance to find this answer.