Groundhog Day: Did you see your shadow?

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In Act One of Shakespeare’s Richard III , the future king says “Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this son of York…” It is a statement of celebration, difficulty has turned a corner. On Feb 2, 2009 in Pennysylvania, the grand groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow. The tradition tells us this means six more weeks of winter. This is the harshest season in the cycle. It may have a feeling of stagnation, coldness, isolation – with no imminent sign of spring.

Set in cold and snowy Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, we almost all know the film Groundhog Day has a hidden message. An egotistical weatherman trapped in time relives the same day for years until he is liberated by his own awareness. It is an endless winter, a time of seeing his shadow. This is an allegory of our spiritual journey.

We may see something of ourselves in the Groundhog Day protaganist Phil Connors. Inside of us are the moments of self loathing or self absorption. We are the grandiose or the world weary. This is a time to take a good look — do you see your shadow? Where are you in your martial art practice? In your life? Our path is one of process, flow, progress. The story of the warrior always has at its core the apprentice finding his way along the road to mastery. It is learning from mistakes, preparation, practice, meditation, growth. For us at TanDao, the orientation is always the martial way, though the philosophy applies to anything you endeavor. It is the cycle of the Evolving Martial Artist: the warrior, the scholar and the monk. In the first stage, there is youthful arrogance, egocentric attitudes, a stumbling yet flexible growth. Second, a time for refinement and responsibility as focus shifts away from the self. Last, awareness beyond the self — compassion, as knowledge flows into serenity and wisdom. The total integration is the soul of the quiet master.

There is salvation. And redemption. If you are mired on your path, work to break the loop. Like Phil, in Groundhog Day, learn to practice for the joy of practice and the love of the journey. When you look, may you find no shadow there – as your long winter makes its way into the sun.

Toni Josephson


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