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"Our tigers and dragons are slippery, tricky, illusory, and somehow of our own making."


Raymond Teague is the author of Reel Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
Inspire, Explore and Empower
, from Unity House. 

He is an award-winning
journalist, an editor of spiritual publications, a popular New Thought
speaker, and a lifelong movie buff. 

His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above.

  Raymond Teague, 
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(2000, 119 minutes, PG-13, subtitles)

To physical appearances, the world is indeed filled with crouching tigers and hidden dragons.

From a spiritual/martial arts perspective, however, these "evils" and troubles aren't the reality they seem. Our tigers and dragons are slippery, tricky, illusory, and somehow of our own making.

"All of it is simply a state of mind," says legendary martial arts warrior Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) in the recently released Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Most things are nothing, he says -- including himself and the stolen Green Destiny sword whose retrieval occupies much of this spectacular action epic directed by Ang Lee.

We tend to attack our challenging tigers and lurking dragons with anger, fear, and hatred. There is another method, though -- one that requires us to call upon the power within, a power of peace and stillness at our spiritual core.

"Only by letting go can we truly possess what is real," says the wise Li Mu Bai.

Though the movie on its surface seems to be about regaining the sword and confronting long-standing enmities, in actuality it is about finding that point of inward power and poise that propels us out of our illusions and self-imposed boundaries.

The awe-inspiring scenes of martial arts warriors bouncing off the tops of watery pools and dueling from the swaying treetops represent a command of physicality and matter that comes from harnessing inward power. True, the warriors also use physical means in combating physical challenges, but the weapons are extensions of selves propelled by inner centeredness.

This understanding is at the heart of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a beautiful film with gravity-defying fight scenes -- yet a depressing film if we don't go beyond the visual stunts. Like the characters in the film, we must realize that we are more than flesh and blood.

"Now give yourself up and find yourself again," Li Mu Bai says.

In the midst of crouching tigers and hidden dragons, there are caring teachers and divine messengers. It's up to us to be aware of these.

The movie pits a young woman, Jen (Zhang Ziyi) as the adversary of Li Mu Bai and his love interest, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). Jen's abilities are amazing, but she hasn't learned to direct her inner power and poise in the spiritual way that produces true peace and love.

Li Mu Bai repeatedly asks to be Jen's teacher. How she eventually comes to terms with Li Mu Bai's unwanted offers and grows in spiritual understanding is seen in the film's stunning ending, which plays off a story told in the movie with the moral, "If you believe, it will happen. A faithful heart makes wishes come true."

The film is somewhat of a graduate-level course in that it assumes the viewer is already aware of the inner-directed principles of martial arts. Lee's movie explains little but shows much.

Martial arts expert and teacher Gary Simmons, author of the book The I of the Storm, speaks of the sense of wholeness -- wholeness of mind, body, and spirit -- that martial arts practitioners command: "Wholeness is not outside of you nor is it separate from you. It is the essence of your true nature and spiritual identity. And because wholeness is the foundation of your being, nothing can oppose you."

Not even crouching tigers and hidden dragons. 

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