The forests that surround the village there in Nara, Japan are filled with beautiful bamboo trees. InJapan, the symbolism of the bamboo plant runs deep and wide and offers practical lessons forlife and for work. I summarized the lessons below with presentation and learning in mind, but asyou read these seven lessons from bamboo, try think of practical implications for your own work.
Lesson 1 : Bend but dont break. Be flexible yet firmly rootedThe bamboo sway with even the slightest breeze. This gentle swaying movement with the wind isa symbol of humility. Their bodies are hard and firm and yet sway gently in the breeze while theirtrunks stay rooted firmly in the ground below. Their foundation is solid even though they moveand sway harmoniously with the wind, never fighting against it.
In time, even the strongest wind tires itself out,but the bamboo remains standing tall and still.A bend-but-dont-break or go-with-the-natural-flow attitude is one of the secrets forsuccess whether were talking about bambootrees, answering tough questions in a Q&Asession, or just dealing with the everydayvagaries of life.
Lesson 2 : What looks weak is strongThe body of a single bamboo tree is not large by any means, but the plants endure cold winters andextremely hot summers and are sometimes the only trees left standing in the aftermath of a typhoon.They may not reach the heights of the other trees, but they are strong and stand tall in extremeweather. Bamboo is not as fragile as it may appear, not by a long shot.
Remember that we must becareful not to underestimateothers or ourselves based onlyon old notions of what is weakand what is strong. You may notbe from the biggest companyor the product of the most famousschool, but like the bamboo,stand tall, believe in your ownstrengths, and know that you areas strong as you need to be.
Lesson 3 : Be always readyUnlike other types of wood which take a good deal of processing and finishing, bamboo needslittle of that. As the great Aikido master Kensho Furuya says in Kodo: Ancient Ways, "The warrior,like bamboo, is ever ready for action." In presentation or other professional activities too, throughtraining and practice, we can develop in our own way a state of being ever ready.
Lesson 4 : Unleash your power to spring backBamboo is a symbol of good luck and one of the symbols of the New Year celebrations in Japan.The important image of snow-covered bamboo represents the ability to spring back afterexperiencing adversity. The bamboo endured the heavy burden of the snow, but in the end it hadto power to spring back as if to say "I will not be defeated."
In winter the heavy snow bends thebamboo back and back until oneday the snow becomes tooheavy, begins to fall, and thebamboo snaps back up tallagain, brushing aside all the snow.
Lesson 5 : Find wisdom in emptinessThe hollow insides of the bamboo reminds us that we are often too full of ourselves and our ownconclusions; we have no space for anything else. In order to receive knowledge and wisdomfrom both nature and people, we have to be open to that which is new and different. When youempty your mind of your prejudices and pride and fear, you become open to the possibilities.
It is said that in order tolearn, the first step is toempty ourselves of ourpreconceived notions.One can not fill a cupwhich is already full.
Lesson 6 : Commit to (continuous) growthBamboo trees are among the fastest-growing plants in the world. Yet even with a commitment tocontinuous learning and improvement, our growth — like the growth of the bamboo — can bequite remarkable when we look back at what or where we used to be. We may not notice ourown improvement. How fast or how slow is not our main concern, only that were moving forward.
The bamboo grows fastest around the rainy season. You too may have "seasons" where growthaccelerates, but is slower at other times. Yet with sustained effort, you are always growing. Do notbe discouraged by what you perceive as your lack of growth or improvement. If you have notgiven up, then you are growing, you just may not see it until much later.
Lesson 7 : Express usefulness through simplicityWe often complicate the simple to impress and we fail to simplify the complex out of fear thatothers may know what we know. If we could lose our fear, perhaps we could be more creativeand find simpler solutions to even complex problems that ultimately provide the greatestusefulness for our audiences, customers, patients, or students.
Aikido master Kensho Furuya saysthat "The bamboo in its simplicityexpresses its usefulness. Man shoulddo the same."