7:00 a.m. I take a morning stroll through the Lower East Side/Chinatown. The USA Shaolin Temple has been in this area since it opened in 1994, two years after I came to the States with the first ever Shaolin monastery tour approved by Congress. Our first building on the Bowery had no heat or electricity. Now we have branches in eight countries.


8:00 a.m. I light three incense sticks on the altar to respect Buddha, dharma, and sangha. Chan Buddhism is essential to Shaolin kung fu. One cannot exist without the other.


USA shaolin temple shi yan ming

11:00 a.m. I sharpen my blade, a straight sword, and practice dong ch’an (action meditation) between private lessons. Dong ch’an can be anything—it’s your unique, beautiful expression of your life. There is no single right way to meditate.


12:00 p.m. I prepare for my weekly livestream class at noon with Kirby, a staffmember. I teach online classes as well as in-person classes on Chan Buddhism, kung fu, tai chi, and qigong, which are open to the public.


1:00 p.m. I practice calligraphy in the afternoon. Martial arts take many forms, including how one moves a brush. I learned the art form when my father, a highly skilled calligrapher despite never going to school, was hired by the Chinese government for his talent.


4:00 p.m. I reflect on our precious lifetime on earth. A human’s greatest responsibility is to use this life to help others and understand their suffering, and to push the limits of their own abilities until they reach the level of what seems like myth.

See more of Shifu Shi Yan Ming’s day on Instagram @tricyclemag. Watch Tricycle’s 2013 video profile of Shifu Shi Yan Ming here.

Check out previous installments of “A Day in the Dharma” featuring Roshi Joan Halifax, Vanessa Zuisei Goddard, Mindy NewmanWangmo DixeyJosh KordaSensei Koshin Paley Ellison, the members of the Village Zendo, and six Buddhist teachers in quarantine.

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