Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Stars, Monks and Grown Men in Bee Suits

Crab Nebula - NASA
How does that fit together? Well, I had a whirlwind weekend in terms of entertainment. Fulfilling another of my New Year’s Resolutions – this year, I am on a roll, it seems – I visited a show at our local planetarium and loved it! Seeing 5000 stars projected on a dark dome makes you feel like you could just reach up and touch them. Over lit cities, you can usually just spy between 1000 and 2000 of the brighter stars, but the farther away you get from man-made light sources the more you actually discover of the universe. The greatest experience I ever had stargazing was on Fraser Island in Australia. We were lying on blankets on the beach, the sea was rushing in our ears and a halo of stars twinkled above our heads. The feeling was magical! It felt as if the universe was just flowing by our fingertips. 

China Daily
Floating back from the outer reaches of our galaxy, I became a witness of impossible feats by Shaolin Monks. Beyond their amazing flexibility, discipline and technique, I saw a ten-year-old walk a staircase of knives with two bails of water on his shoulders, without pain. Through sheer concentration a hard qi gong master threw a sowing needle through a pane of glass to pop a balloon. The needle had to be thrown with all his might at a perfect 90° angle. It was amazing! The secret of the Shaolin monks: Inner peace transformed into physical strength. Even today their knowledge is passed down in an oral fashion from master to shamin (pupil). The life of a monk of the Songshan monastery follows the rules of austerity and discipline. From two hours before dawn until the sun breaks the horizon the monks meditate, followed by climbing the 800 steps carved into the Songshan only to return back to the foot of the mountain on all fours with their head facing down. They are allowed two meals a day, the last taken at midday and sleep without any heating in all seasons. Ten hours a day, they hone their kung fu and meditation skills before the cycle starts anew the next morning. An intriguing and amazing way of life, far removed from western ideas of success and achievement.  

Humbled by the awe-inspiring show of talent by the monks my weekend ended on a humorous note, as I watched two grown men in bee suits buzzing around the stage of our town hall. The Blues Brothers – The West End show was in town. For two hours Jake and Elwood Blues delivered a blues and soul review where body gags, sarcasm and comic relief added to the eclectic mix of songs. It was a blast!

What about your weekend adventures?

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