In the history of martial arts,
Bodhidharma holds a special place. The third son of an Indian king in the 6th century, he left his homeland and journeyed by boat and then on foot, from South India to China. Eventually arriving near the famous Shaolin temple, it is said he sat in meditation facing a wall for nine years. Suitably impressed with his great spiritual power and discipline, the monks at the temple asked him to teach them his methods for gaining enlightenment. He began to teach them the Chan (later Zen) method of seated meditation. The monks at the time, so the legend goes, were learned academicians who spent most of their days translating and commenting upon the ancient texts. Although they had much book knowledge, they had little practical experience with this new form of meditative practice, often falling asleep during protracted sessions of seated meditation considered necessary for gaining enlightenment. To improve the monk’s physical and mental health, Bodhidharma devised and taught them a series of static and moving yoga-like exercises that are now usually called 18 Monks Boxing, the Sinew Change Classic and the Marrow Washing Classic. Although many variations exist, posturally, these ancient exercises show the influence of classical Hatha Yoga and even Kalaripayat (a complex fighting art from ancient India). The monks did indeed eventually grasp Bodhidharma’s transmission of Chan Buddhism and, in time, adapted the postures he had taught them into fighting movements. Thus, this enigmatic and austere monk earned his place in history as not only the 28th Patriarch of Chan Buddhism, but also as the first Patriarch of Zen Buddhism in China and the father of Shaolin Temple Boxing.
Not everyone, of course, accepts these legends. (Debates usually center on when Bodhidharma actually lived, what he actually taught the monks at Shaolin and what historical accounts recounting his life and teachings can be said to be accurate.) Although the historicity of the account given above has been called into question, there is little doubt that the figure of Bodhidharma casts a long shadow in terms of his influence on both Buddhist thought and Shaolin Boxing. Still, less discussed is the monk’s importation and propagation of certain yogic principles and ideas that seem to have been influenced in their character by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the foundational work of Raja Yoga.
Sri Patanjali Maharaj is another figure whose life is shrouded in mystery and legend. Some say he was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu (or Vishnu’s serpent Shesha). Others claim he was the combined progeny of the three principal Vedic deities (Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva). Whatever the instances of his birth may have been or whether he was also the author of a famous treatise on Sanskrit grammar commonly attributed to him, it is clear that Patanjali was a Hindu Vedantist in the Samkhya tradition (Samkhya or Sankhya is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, branch of Indian philosophy with roots stretching back thousands of years). Composed sometime between 200 BC and 200 AD, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras consists of 195 tersely worded aphorisms that describe the workings of the body-mind and lay out a clear, practical and systematic approach to gaining spiritual insight and self-realization. Although Patanjali is often referred to as the “Father of Yoga” it would probably be more accurate to say that he was yoga’s great systemiser, culling many extant treatises and oral transmissions on yoga into a coherent and compelling document that is at once simple in its presentation and profound in its content. It is also clear that Patanjali did far more than collect existing yogic wisdom in his Sutras. He also added his own brilliance and originally as a thinker and a powerful literary stylist to create an enduring poetical work of art that has powerfully influenced succeeding generations of spiritual seekers.
Because yoga, much like Tai Chi Chuan, has been promoted in the West as a health exercise, when most people think of yoga, they think of a series of beneficial physical postures. In fact, the actual word yoga really means “union” and has the connotation in Sanskrit of “yoking together” or “joining.” A “sutra” is literally a thread. Therefore, the “Yoga Sutras” are the sayings or “threads” which lead to union of the individual with the transcendental consciousness. The rishis or ancient Indian sages called this state of union by many names: “God-realization,” “nirvana,” “extinguishing the ego,” “enlightenment,” “realizing the Self,” “transcending the body-mind,” “pure unmediated awareness,” “attaining the non-attainment,” “abandoning doership” and various other expressions. This state involves a profound psychologically transformative alteration of perception (or alteration of the experience of perception) which is beyond words and therefore difficult to describe except through analogy, yet all forms of yoga have this state of consciousness, a profound equanimity of mind, as their ultimate goal.
Patanjali was extremely liberal in his approach accepting all the various yogas (devotion, action, self-inquiry, etc.) as viable paths to self-realization. Yet, the Raja or “Royal Yoga” (so named because it confers self-mastery on its practitioners) so associated with the Patanjalic philosophy has its most compact explanation in the Samadhi Pada (chapter one, verse two):
Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah (The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga.)
Simply put, the goal of yoga is to still the turbulent mind enough for the yogi to experience the tranquility and bliss that is the true nature of being. Having stated the goal, Sri Patanjali then goes on to explain the ashtanga or “Eight-Limbed” path to accomplishing “nirodhah” (restraint or control) of the mind. It consists of the following:
- yama (abstinence)
- niyama (observance)
- asana (posture)
- pranayama (breath control)
- pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
- dharana (concentration)
- dhyana (meditation)
- samadhi (super-conscious absorption)
Yama and niyama are concerned with the development and cultivation of moral and ethical precepts; Pranayama with stilling the mind and moving energy or prana through the body via the breath. Pratyahara is a prerequisite for dharana. Samadhi is the state whereby the yogi experiences oneness with their true nature freed from the interference imposed by the body-mind. Yet, what is the relationship between asana (posture) and dhyana (meditation)? And what is its role in what would later be come to be known as kung fu in China?
The Interrelation of the Body Mind
From Plato through Descartes, in the West, we are accustomed to positing a dichotomy between the physical body and the mind. For us, it is common to assume that the mind is a manifestation of the spirit or soul. In fact, for many, the idea of “presence” the mind seems to generate, our self-awareness, is what makes us qualitatively different from other creatures. To the ancient rishis, this was not the case. They seemed to have grasped intuitively through intense contemplation that whatever it was we were, it could not be rooted in either the body or the mind. That the body is mutable and perishable is beyond dispute but, to a master of yoga, especially one of the caliber of Bodhidharma or Patanjali, the contents of mind were equally mutable and changeable. Since the spiritual part of us was considered unchanging and eternal, that part could neither be the body nor the mind. The ancients did however discover that the mind was not only capable of observing the physical body, but was just as capable of observing itself and of bringing its own contents into conscious awareness. By cultivating a “witnessing consciousness” (sakshi in Sanskrit) and increasing identification with this particular aspect of awareness via meditation, a meditator eventually comes to see the contents of the mind-stuff (chitta) as fleeting and transitory. Such things as likes, dislikes, emotions, sensations, etc. are all mutable, impermanent and likely to lead to suffering. Although there were many sects of yoga that stressed rejection of the body, there were just as many that saw the body (properly conditioned and purified) as a vehicle for spiritual attainment. It seems clear that both “The Father of Yoga” and “The Father of Shaolin Boxing” had this point of view in common.
“A Steady, Comfortable Posture”
Among the 195 aphorisms of Patanjali that form the basis of Raja Yoga, only two deal specifically with asana or posture. Patanjali defines asana as “a steady, comfortable posture.” Once the yogi has undertaken the cultivation of virtue contained in the yama-niyama (i.e. non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, non-greed, purity, contentment, accepting—but not causing—pain, study of spiritual books and self-surrender) they become fit for undertaking the conditioning of the physical body implied in asana.
Why should the body require physical conditioning merely to sit still? This question is easily answered by a simple experiment. Right now, sit with your back straight in your chair or on the floor, close your eyes and see how long you can remain motionless: no shifting around, no movement of the limbs and no falling asleep. Most people will find this is possible for a few minutes, but soon, most experience pain in the limbs and a numbness and stiffness that comes from lack of proper circulation and flexibility. That is, of course, if they manage to remain awake! This knowledge was well-known in ancient India where Hatha (physical) Yoga and Raja Yoga were seen as complementary disciplines. As Swami Sivananda put it in his treatise on Yoga Asanas, “Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga are necessary counterparts of each other. No one can become a perfect yogi without the knowledge and practices of both. Raja Yoga begins where properly practiced Hatha Yoga ends.”Why is this so? Because if the body has been properly disciplined, as Swami Satchidananda maintained, “The moment we sit down for meditation in such a body, we’ll forget it.”Forgetting the body” in this context means that it is healthy, flexible, free from toxins and strong enough to sit for lengthy periods of time without calling attention to itself—an attention which could distract the meditator from his/her success in making the transient contents of thought transparent to a witnessing consciousness.
The Sinew Change and 18 Monks Boxing sets attributed to Bodhidharma confer strength and flexibility on the body. The Marrow Washing set raises levels of internal bodily energy (kundalini shakti) and strengthens and elongates the spine, thereby tonifying the nervous system. Although methods of physical conditioning were also well-known in China prior to the appearance of Bodhidharma, it is in this uniquely yogic approach that Bodhidharma’s contribution to Shaolin Temple Boxing shows itself to be a profound step towards achieving what the old Tai Chi proverb encapsulates also as the goal of Tai Chi Chuan: “the health of a lumberjack, the pliability of a child and the peace of mind of a sage.” Although Shaolin Boxing, Tai Chi and Hatha Yoga are distinct vehicles in and of themselves for achieving higher states of consciousness if practiced with the proper intention, they can also be, as Bodhidharma recognized, invaluable conditioning tools for formal seated meditation.
The Conquering of the Self
Shaolin Boxing then and Pantajali’s Yoga share a common ideational structure. Although kung fu as practiced at Shaolin Temple continued to evolve into the complex and the deadly science of fighting we understand it to be today, this art was and is still profoundly shaped by the ethical precepts codified in the yama-niyama of the Sutras and the on-going re-shaping of perception that is Chan Buddhism, thus giving even further credence to the old Chinese axiom that states: “Kung fu begins with the conquering of the opponent and ends with the conquering of the self.”
Nagamine Shoshin was born in Naha City, Okinawa, on July 15, 1907, the same year that Anko Itosu formulated the five Pinan kata for inclusion in the Okinawan high school physical education curriculum. One of the interpretations of the term Pinan (pronounced Heian in Japanese) is “peace.” Ninety years later, Nagamine sensei stood before a packed audience at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii, and gave a memorable speech entitled “KarateDo and World Peace,” the complete text of which accompanies this article.
The founder of the MatsubayashiRyu branch of Shorinryu, hanshi tenth dan, Nagamine sensei’s accomplishments in the field of budo are far too lengthy to list and many have been previously addressed in other books and articles (see the bibliography at the end). Briefly, he began his karate training at the age of 17 with Chojin Kuba, who lived in the same neighborhood. Two years later, he traveled to Shuri to study under Shimabuku Taro, who soon referred him to the youthful Arakaki Ankichi (who studied under Gusukuma Shimpan, Hanashiro Chomo, Chibana Choshin and Kyan Chotoku). During his years as a policeman at the Kadena Police Station (1931-1935), Nagamine studied directly under Kyan (who was a disciple of Matsumura Sokon of Shuri, among others). While studying at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Academy in 1936, he received instruction under the renowned kumite (sparring) expert, Motobu Choki (who studied under Matsumora Kosaku of Tomari). In addition to karate, Nagamine also practiced judo and kendo, achieving dan rankings in both arts.
Nagamine established his first karate dojo in 1943 in Tomari, calling it the Tomari Ken Yu Kai. Kyan Chotoku attended the opening ceremony for the small dojo and performed the kata Passai and some bojutsu. The dojo was destroyed during the war, however, and it was not until 1948 that Nagamine built a temporary replacement in Makishi.
About that trying period, he wrote:
After the war, the young people were driven to despair; their sense of morality had vanished and juvenile delinquency soared. To instill an undying faith in the hearts and minds of promising youth seemed imperative, and I felt there was a real need for a karate dojo in which young people could train their bodies and build indomitable spirits.
-The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do
Finally, in January of 1953, he built a permanent dojo in Naha, calling it the Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate Kodokan. The name Matsubayashi-Ryu was adopted in honor of the two great teachers of Kyan Chotoku and Motobu Choki: Matsumura Sokon and Matsumora Kosaku, respectively. Nagamine’s dojo remains at the same location to this day.
Matsubayashi-Ryu is one of the major forms of Shorin-ryu. The title Matsubayashi (“pine forest”) and Shorin (Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese Shaolin) can be traced to the Shaolin (meaning “little forest”) Temple in China, which was said to be located in a pine (matsu-) grove.
Eighteen kata are practiced in Matsubayashi-Ryu: (1) Fukyugata Ichi (developed by Nagamine in 1940); (2) Fukyugata Ni (developed by Miyagi Chojun in 1940); (3) Pinan Shodan (all the Pinan kata were developed by Itosu Anko); (4) Pinan Nidan; (5) Pinan Sandan; (6) Pinan Yondan; (7) Pinan Godan; (8) Naihanchi Shodan; (9) Naihanchi Nidan; (10) Naihanchi Sandan; (11) Ananku; (12) Wankan; (13) Rohai; (14) Wanshu; (15) Passai; (16) Gojushiho; (17) Chinto; and (18) Kusanku.
Nagamine has striven to maintain the kata in their original forms. Modifications for tournaments or other reasons are not tolerated. In addition, seven yakusoku kumite (“prearranged paired”) forms are taught.
In 1976, Nagamine’s Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do was published by Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc. It presents photographs of the individual movements of all the kata and yakusoku kumite forms, a history of the art, as well as a detailed glossary of terms. Reprinted over 20 times, the book has become a classic and remains in constant demand. In the near future, Tuttle will publish another of Nagamine’s works, an English translation of Okinawan Karate/Tegumi Masters. Noted karate historian, Patrick McCarthy, and his wife did the translation of the Japanese text.
Nagamine is the head of the World Matsubayashi-Ryu (Shorin-Ryu) Karate-Do Association, which is headquartered in Naha City, Okinawa. Over the years, he estimates that well over 10,000 students have trained in the various branches of his organization throughout the world.
Kenzan Nagamine Rokoji And Zen
There is another side to Nagamine Shoshin, one that few people, until now, may have been aware of. Over 30 years ago, he incorporated the practice of zazen (Zen meditation) with his karate training. In his autobiographical article entitled Encounter With “Ti” or “Karate,” Nagamine writes:
From time to time, I had a vague feeling of anxiety in tackling with karate and my way of living. Just then, I had a chance to read Gorin-no-sho (Book of Five Wheels) written by Miyamoto Musashi, in 1963, and was much moved. Already I had read through a book titled Teshhukoji-no-shinmenboku (“Buddhist layman and master swordsman, [Yamaoka] Teshhu’s true self”). Luckily, I was given a hint in going ahead of my way as a karateman through the reading. The two were unrivaled swordsmen in all ages, had common in intelligence, bravery and physical power, embraced the Buddhist faith so as to have an unbending spirit, practiced Zen meditation for art of war, and devoted whole heart to the spiritual problems.
These pioneers of martial arts opened my eyes to reorient my physically-bent karate to the togetherness of Fists and Zen. So I was resolved to adopt Zen meditation as part of Karate practice ever since.
From that time, each of the classes at Nagamine’s dojo has begun with 15 minutes of zazen. Students are not required to participate but are always welcomed to do so. In The Essence of Karate-Do, Nagamine further writes:
All of the spiritual aspects of karate-do and the ways in which it can bring one to self-realization cannot be fully described. I have pursued the study of karate in an attempt to bring karate and Zen together as one. That has been a life-long effort, and one that can never be fully realized by any one person. My pursuit of karate has brought me a limited understanding of the way to self-realization, however, and I hope to be able to share my experience with others throughout the world.
About 40 years ago, Nagamine met Omori Sogen rotaishi, founder of the Chozen-ji/International Zen Dojo and the Institute for Zen Studies. A noted master of iaido (swordsmanship) and shodo (calligraphy), Omori taught the unity of Zen and budo, with an emphasis on shugyo: the attainment of true spiritual realization through deep body-mind training. Chozen-ji is particularly known for the incorporation of budo in its training regimen.
In a first for a Rinzai Zen sect, the daihonzan (headquarters temple) for Chozen-ji was established outside of Japan, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Upon the death of Omori Sogen in 1994, Archbishop Tanouye Tenshin rotaishi became the head of Chozen-ji, and 84th Dharma Successor of Rinzai Zen of the Chozen-ji sect. Tanouye continued the relationship that Omori Sogen had begun with Nagamine. In April of 1996, Nagamine accepted a lifetime appointment as a member of the Board of Advisers of the Institute for Zen Studies, the mission of which is to make Zen more accessible to the modern world. The other members of the board are Tanouye and Mr. Trevor Leggett, Britain’s first ninth dan in judo and fifth dan in shogi (Japanese chess). Subsequently, Nagamine was invited by Tanouye to meet with him in Hawaii.
That meeting took place on December 11, 1996, at the Daihonzan, nestled high up in the lush Kalihi Valley. During the course of a brief conversation, which had been opened to a few of Nagamine’s traveling companions and students, Nagamine’s realization through his dedication to Ken Zen Ichinyo (Karate and Zen in Oneness) was affirmed by Tanouye. At that time, Nagamine received his inka (“mind stamp”; a kind of seal of approval) and was given the Zen name of Kenzan Nagamine. Kenzan literally translates as “Fist Mountain” but in Nagamine Sensei’s context means “Karate Mountain.” According to Chozen-ji, Nagamine is the first karate teacher to receive an inka in the Rinzai Zen tradition.
Later in the week, Matsubayashi-Ryu students practiced their kata at the Okinawa Center of Hawaii, under the watchful eyes of Nagamine and his good friend Ishikawa Seitoku, who is in his seventies and holds the rank of hanshi, ninth dan, in Kobayashi-ryu. Nagamine patiently corrected many of our movements. I personally will never forget his correction of my hand placement for a particular kamae (position) used several times in the kata Naihanchi Shodan. Through a translator, he said that the fists should be placed together like a clam. I did not understand immediately and he, along with other sensei, began to clap their fists together like clams!
The Jikoen Temple Presentation
A few days later (December 15, 1996), a major presentation was held in honor of Nagamine sensei by his Matsubayashi-Ryu students in Hawaii (and three from New York) at the Jikoen Temple in Kalihi, Honolulu. Almost 400 guests (including many prominent karate sensei from other organizations in Hawaii) were treated to performances of all 18 of the Matsubayashi-Ryu kata, the seven yakusoku kumite forms, as well as sai, bo and nunchaku kata. Nagamine was accompanied from Okinawa by Ishikawa Seitoku who performed the kata Passai, Ikehara Noriaki (sixth dan) who performed the kata Kusanku and a bo kata, and Kuniyoshi Shinyu (fourth dan) who performed the kata Chinto.
The hosts for the presentation were Zenko Heshiki (kyoshi, seventh dan); who performed the kata Chinto, a sai kata and yakusoku kumite with his student, Pablo Cervini, and William H. Rabacal (renshi, sixth dan); who performed the kata Wanshu. The New York yudansha, Max Crevani and Fred Wallace, performed the kata Passai.
Despite his advanced age and grueling travel and public appearance schedule, Nagamine delighted the audience by performing one of his favorite kata, Wankan, and two Okinawan dances, Karate-Do Sanka and Kanayo Bushi. He also took part in a kachashi (free-for-all) dance at the end of the presentation, after which children from Rabacal sensei’s Aiea dojo draped him with flower lei that nearly went over the top of his head! His physical conditioning was, and continues to be, truly amazing. I was especially impressed by his fluidity and ease of motion during the Okinawan dances he performed, both at the Jikoen and rehearsals at the Okinawa Center of Hawaii. Most of us can only hope to be that agile and energetic when we reach 60, let alone 90!
The Jikoen presentation truly showcased the Okinawan culture. Dances were also performed by two well-known Okinawan dance teachers. Alfred Kina performed Kagiyadefu Bushi and Hatuma Bushi, while Cheryl Y. Nakasone of the Jimpukai Kin Ryosho Ryukyu Kenkyusho USA performed Manzai. The Afuso-Ryu Gensei Kai Hawaii Chapter Grant Murata Studio under Grant “Sanda” Murata provided live accompaniment for all the dancers using classical Okinawan instruments (sanshin, koto and taiko). There was also a taiko (drum) performance by the Ryukyu Kobudo Taiko, Hawaii Shinbu under Calvin Nakama, and a koto performance by the children of Miyashiro Soho Kai, under instructor Bonnie Miyashiro.
Karate-Do and World Peace
The next night, Nagamine was the guest of honor at a formal dinner sponsored by the Institute of Zen Studies at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel. With numerous political and community dignitaries in attendance, Nagamine, wearing the traditional Japanese formal attire of haori and hakama, rose and delivered a memorable speech entitled Karate-Do and World Peace. The complete English translation of the speech follows this article.
Chozen-ji/International Zen Dojo of Okinawa
Before leaving Hawaii, it was agreed that Nagamine would open a branch of the Chozen-ji at his Naha City dojo. The formal dedication of the Chozen-ji/International Zen Dojo of Okinawa took place in March, 1997. The event marked the first time that a Rinzai Zen daihonzan located outside of Japan opened a branch in Japan. Dogen Hosokawa roshi, Abbot of Chozen-ji, traveled to Okinawa accompanied by Art Koga, president of the Institute of Zen Studies, along with other teachers and students of Zen and Matsubayashi-Ryu. A wooden Chozen-ji placard now proudly hangs outside of Nagamine sensei’s dojo.
Ken Zen Ichinyo (Karate and Zen in Oneness)
Long after most people would have retired, Nagamine continues to blaze new trails in his pursuit of, and dedication to, the paths of Karate-do and Zen as embodied by the maxim “Ken Zen Ichinyo.” He teaches us, through his own example, that there is infinitely more to Karate-do than the mere form of kata or the various techniques of kumite. Karate-do is not simply an art of self-defense-it is a way for self-realization.
From the very beginning of my training all the way to the current days I can remember sweeping, dusting, mopping and cleaning the dojo. It was ingrained into Karate as much as any punch, kick or Kata are. The tradition of Soji, cleaning the dojo, is very important in terms of proper character development.
In the years I have been teaching I have actually had adult students refuse to clean because they don’t feel they need to. I have had parents of kids complain because they don’t think their child should have to. Both the adults and the parents are very wrong in this matter. The parents that complain want us to teach their kids to keep their rooms clean and take pride in what they do yet we can’t have them clean the dojo? What better lesson to teach those than to clean the dojo! The adults that rush out trying to avoid it get mad when they are told it is their turn to clean so they do a crappy job just to get it done yet they are in Karate to learn patience, discipline and respect…all three traits thrown to the wind when they have to clean.
Cleaning the dojo is every student’s responsibility.
I always say:
Clean the dojo, clean youself.
Clean the dojo, have a clean mind.
If your dojo is clean, your home and office should be clean too.
If you are too good to clean, then you are too good for our dojo.
The Sensei should lead by example. If he does not help clean the dojo, he is missing his own training.
If you clean the dojo but do not help clean at home, you should quit Karate.
They way you are in the dojo should reflect the way you are outside the dojo.
Cleanliness should also apply to your gi and body.
Your fingernails and toenails should also be clean and neatly trimmed. Jewelry should not be worn in the dojo.
Shoshin: The Beginner’s Mind
There is a concept in Zen Buddhism known as shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind.” Shoshin refers to the idea of letting go of your preconceptions and having an attitude of openness when studying a subject.
When you are a true beginner, your mind is empty and open. You’re willing to learn and consider all pieces of information, like a child discovering something for the first time. As you develop knowledge and expertise, however, your mind naturally becomes more closed. You tend to think, “I already know how to do this” and you become less open to new information.
There is a danger that comes with expertise. We tend to block the information that disagrees with what we learned previously and yield to the information that confirms our current approach. We think we are learning, but in reality we are steamrolling through information and conversations, waiting until we hear something that matches up with our current philosophy or previous experience, and cherry-picking information to justify our current behaviors and beliefs. Most people don’t want new information, they want validating information.
The problem is that when you are an expert you actually need to pay more attention, not less. Why? Because when you are already familiar with 98 percent of the information on a topic, you need to listen very carefully to pick up on the remaining 2 percent.
As adults our prior knowledge blocks us from seeing things anew. To quote zen master Shunryo Suzuki, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
How to Rediscover Your Beginner’s Mind
Here are a few practical ways to rediscover your beginner’s mind and embrace the concept of shoshin.
Let go of the need to add value. Many people, especially high achievers, have an overwhelming need to provide value to the people around them. On the surface, this sounds like a great thing. But in practice, it can handicap your success because you never have a conversation where you just shut up and listen. If you’re constantly adding value (“You should try this…” or “Let me share something that worked well for me…”) then you kill the ownership that other people feel about their ideas. At the same time, it’s impossible for you to listen to someone else when you’re talking. So, step one is to let go of the need to always contribute. Step back every now and then and just observe and listen