WHEN YOU HIT A ROCKY PATCH, BASED ON GAO-ZI-ZHANG (告子章) BY MENCIUS (孟子)
Maggie H is a Global Explorer and Wellness Advocate from Hong Kong. Among many spiritual endeavors, Maggie practices and leads Qigong meditation to help people around the world find their inner balance. Find out more about this and other Eastern Philosophy & Meditation practices every Monday on the ICBRKR blog.
Before God entrusts a man with a ponderous task, He shall distress his mind, tire his limbs, famish his body, deprive him of his possessions, and frustrate his endeavors, so as to strengthen his resolve, fortify his mettle, and enhance his powers.
故天將降大任於是人也, 必先苦其心志, 勞其筋骨, 餓其體膚, 空乏其身, 行拂亂其所爲, 所以動心忍性, 曾益其所不能 。
This well-known passage is from Gao-Zi-Zhang by Mencius, the Second Sage of Confucianism. It talks about adversity and hardship, and it is what Deng Xiaoping—the creator of Modern China, famous for his doggedness—learnt by heart and recited every day while he and his family were in political exile.
In the old days, this passage saved many exiled scholars' and politicians' lives. Most people died during exile due to the harsh environment and hopelessness. Back then, the chances of returning were next to nothing, as exile would continue for as long as the same person stayed in power, which could be longer than a person’s lifetime. This passage must have been the faint light at the end of an indefinite tunnel, and the few who did return all achieved something significant thereafter.
In Korea, they typically raise two crops in a year. The first crop of rice is harvested right before the Mid-Autumn Festival, followed by the second crop of barley, sown around mid-October and grown over the winter season. The barley seeds start to sprout in the harsh Korean winter on the frozen, hard land, and around the Lunar New Year, when the barley plants begin to grow stems, farmers go out to the field to 'tread barley plants' as a folk game.
The purpose of this activity is to promote the healthy growth of the barley plants by deliberately damaging their leaves. This helps the roots grow deeper, stops the leaves from overgrowing, and stimulates tillering. In addition, the concentration of cytosol in scarred leaves increases, making them more resistant to the cold weather.
In the 19th century, Gang Il-Sun, the founder of Jeungsanism (The Tao of Jeungsan), mentioned the above passage in their bible, Dojeon, as the essence of Mencius.
He added that people always correct themselves after making mistakes, put more effort after they are stopped by the mind and caught by the thoughts, and realize their errors only after they are shown on their face and spoken through their mouth... We stay safe in fears; settling for comfort will lead us to death.
Adversity and hardship are unavoidable and necessary in order for us to grow and accomplish more things. If you’re hitting a rocky patch right now, don’t be fearful or worried: you must be going through a 'treading barley plants' period.
Another helpful way to process this treading period is by mindfully correcting and adjusting ourselves little by little, every day.
That is the Tao of living.
Maggie H is a Life Cartographer, Eastern philosopher, Qigong master, Buddhist and Taoist meditator, Feng Shui practitioner, and researcher of Buddhist scriptures. She lives in Hong Kong, and regularly travels to both India and South Korea to further her spiritual growth and development. Her lifelong motto is: "benefit to all humankind."