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Each new hurdle is an opportunity to practice taijiquan battle

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The challenges — often of the very unexpected variety — come in many forms from judges, prosecutors, opposing witnesses and others. Some judges whose rulings are among the fairest will sometimes bark at me or my client. Too many prosecutors are so full of their position or so blinded by their heavy workload that they lose sight of their obligation to place doing justice above winning, and to independently assess the evidence and witnesses. Some police officers interrupt nastily when I am trying to negotiate with a prosecutor or to speak with an opposing civilian witness.

At my best, I view those challenges with powerful equanimity as I work to neutralize each one of them, and even to turn them to my advantage.

I take to heart what Master Kan told Grasshopper in Kung Fu,even though the program was a fictional show: “Perceive the way of nature and no force of man can harm you. Do not meet a wave head on: avoid it. You do not have to stop force: it is easier to redirect it. Learn more ways to preserve rather than destroy. Avoid rather than check. Check rather than hurt. Hurt rather than maim. Maim rather than kill. For all life is precious nor can any be replaced.”

In other words, the greatest wrestlers wrestle compassionately, where the compassion strengthens rather than weakens them. I do my best to apply the t’ai chi principles of non-anger, non-tension, and powerful softness on the road to harmonizing potentially and actually imbalanced situations, and to listen to and hear what I never would hear otherwise. I am here to harmonize imbalanced situations for my clients and myself; if a minor adjustment is needed to do so, that is great, but if I must unsheathe and skillfully, ethically and lawfully thrust my proverbial sword to harmonize the situation, I will do so.

A client of mine told me that he is so opposed to violence that he would not even be willing to study t’ai chi, which, as an essential component to advancing in t’ai chi requires sparring with opponents. T’ai chi is a martial art, after all. I have never been a pacifist, although I prefer to err on the side of pacifism. None of such erring will ever keep me away from t’ai chi sparring in its literal and figurative senses.

Thanks to such an advanced human as Robert Thurman — a former monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which shows that current and former monks can find a role for violence when needed to harmonize situations — who acknowledges that we need to carry bows and arrows in case we need them, but with compassion: “The psychology of Love Your Enemies does not just mean ‘Come and trample on us, come kill me, my enemy, oh, yes, I want you to shoot me or something.’ It means I want you to be happy. I’m gonna be happy no matter what… On that basis, I might take your weapon away… I try not to kill you, but I might be forced to do something forceful.”

On top of my November 16 thoughts on using my heart and mind to engage with and conquer outside forces, I add the following:

– External challenges can be viewed as barriers, or welcomed as opportunities to develop and measure my progress on the path of becoming a better advocate.

– Dharma teacher Bill Mofitt — who in 1987 left his Esquire chief editor position to focus on his inner development — has a similar approach: “Experiencing a difficulty as a moment of dharma sets you free from your suffering.”.

– My high school trigonometry teacher was a whiz at simplifying otherwise complex mathematical problems to their simplest parts. She loved trigonometry, math, and teaching tremendously, and on top of that was able to communicate the material without needing any more complexity than needed. She neither oversimplified nor undersimplified. Often, solving external challenges is a matter of adjustments that are small or simpler than first expected.