Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | November 11, 2009

The Role of Adversaries

I’ve written before about adversity, and how in tai chi and in taoism, we are encouraged to learn the lesson in the adversity. This notion holds true in Catholicism, buddhism, you name it. We cannot have a life free of adversity, so we view it as a life lesson.

The same holds true for adversaries. What are they doing in our lives? Are they just there to f with us and make our lives miserable? Actually, in some instances, that might actually be the case. But we can also look to see what the lesson is in these confrontations, what can we learn from our interraction with these people. I will badly quote Mike Murdock again, as he says, the difference between seasons is the enemy we are willing to confront. When we are ready to move forward in the spiritual life, God will send us an adversary. He says David would have remained a shepherd boy if he had not had Goliath as his adversary.

So, make a list of the people in your life that you have had adversarial relationships with. What was the confrontation about, was it a door to a new season, were you able to confront the adversity involved and come to terms with it? Did you actually grow as a result of the experience? How long did it take.

I think sometimes we become mired in an adversarial relationship because we haven’t learned the lesson inherent in it. We have to go through it in order to “graduate” to the next level. I also think sometimes we can interpret an enemy in our lives who is acting as an obstacle or blocking our way, as actually being a good thing, because maybe they are actually keeping us from doing something stupid or going down the wrong path. We don’t realize it because we don’t understand it, or we’re too wrapped up in our own ego desires. Or maybe we need to become more courageous, or become more understanding, or grow a set of you know whats, or some other lesson in the offing.

I feel somewhat fortunate in that my list of mentors, friends, and teachers is much longer than my list of former enemies and adversaries. But there are great lessons in my list of adversaries for me.

Related to this, I would say, in practicing a martial art like tai chi, the masters became great by fighting some very formidable enemies. You learn in that relationship big time. While I do not wish to encounter enemies on a physical level, we can spar and have friendly adversarial relationships to develop those skills. I contemplated recently that it was interesting that I’ve been practicing a martial art for nine years now and the universe has not sent me an adversary to actually fight! My conclusion is that while I place great importance on the martial aspects of tai chi chuan, I suppose my role is more of a contemplative, spiritual nature, and as a teacher(what a both proud and humbling moment to be called sifu without requiring it). The other conclusion I came to was that maybe I’m not ready for a physical encounter yet and the universe is waiting for me to get a little bit better at what I do!


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