Adversity Opens Doorways to Enlightenment

by Edmund Celis, April 7, 2016.
Girl kicking colors within
Photo and art by Edmund Celis.

My head jerked backward, and I dropped to the floor ... SLAM!

I lifted my head up and grimaced in pain as I tried to breathe through my nose. Bringing my hand to where the pain emanated, I felt that my front teeth were no longer there. I got up and went straight to the bathroom while my teacher and the others searched for my missing teeth. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I was in disbelief at how my teeth were gone as pain resonated from my mouth. I then lifted my superior lip and shockingly,

my teeth were jammed up into my gums.

I called my father reluctantly, and when he heard what had happened I could hear a pause of disbelief. He said he would be on his way but I was driven by one of the assistant instructors instead to the nearest hospital. When we arrived at the hospital, there was no doctor on site to handle the surgery but luckily, we received a phone call from a friend, who was a dentist. The dentist was surprisingly one of the students from the same dojang (gym), and when he saw me he joked,

"Wow, wouldn't expect to see you getting injured...thought it would be the other way around."

After he and another dentist finished suturing my teeth into place, I looked at my blood-filled, disfigured mouth and smiled. They told me that the prognosis for saving both teeth was ten percent because the bone was badly impacted.

For some reason, I did not feel so depressed leaving the dental office. I actually remember being a little lighthearted and energetic, knowing that I was alive. I even saw my sparring partner and

felt no ill-will toward him at all.

However, as I was accompanied by my family, I could feel the silence of disbelief and resentment. I did not want my family to sue the school or anyone because I had so much respect for the gym and the people there.

Before the injury happened, I remember feeling uneasy about going. However, I forced myself to go as I remembered the readings in Bruce Lee's Tao of Jeet Kune Do, and I said to myself,

"Don't let fear stop you from doing anything."

So despite the butterflies in my stomach, I summoned the courage to go anyway. I also have a strong memory of me taking off my rosary before I changed into my sparring gear and doing the sign of the cross. When I recall that memory now, it always brings me a sense of peace and acceptance knowing that there is an

unexplainable reason for everything.

During my two-month recovery, I mostly ate soup and rice through a straw positioned uncomfortably at the side of my mouth. For a good week, I would have to spit out a mouthful of blood and reinsert a new tissue in my mouth. At this stage of healing, I learned how to be humble and patient.

It forced me to live more consciously, aware of each movement,

especially when I had to eat. Also, a few days after surgery, my gums started to throb excruciatingly, tempting me to take Vicodin, but I refused and chose to endure instead. The physical pain actually helped me be aware of my body more, from my breathing to the feeling of my gums. I was aware of myself more than ever before.

Unfortunately, this incident happened a week before the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, so I also had to go to school with no front teeth. However, I remember

not being afraid of any judgment

from others and I actually showed some classmates how my teeth were missing. I accepted my new appearance and embraced it. Deep within, I knew myself to be more than how I looked.

I was simply grateful that I was alive.

Although I didn't train anymore at the martial arts gym, I had a newfound energy to become better at martial arts. Once I was fully recovered, I would train so much. I remember thinking that

maybe I wasn't good enough,

so I needed to train harder. Some days, I would exercise for more than 8 hours, practicing the drills I learned as well as new techniques that I created. A typical workout would be 200 leg-lifts while lying down in a single-set and 20 pull-up sets on my pull-up bar that attached to my bedroom door. I even asked my dad to build me a punching bag stand in the backyard, in which, he made a 15-foot swing-set that anchored both a swing and punching bag! Sometimes, I would overexercise and get sick, but I found some satisfaction from pushing my body to the limits.

I read the

Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee and Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now

during my recovery. I applied their teachings to my daily life. At the time, Bruce Lee was my idol, especially since he also suffered a serious injury that led him to create his book. I approached life with a new perspective that helped me study diligently in high school to aspire to become a doctor.

I applied the discipline I learned through martial arts to my day-to-day life.

From respect for others to improving my knowledge, I tried to be the best I could in every situation. I challenged myself always with the philosophy of "take the harder route because you will learn more."

Photo by Edmund Celis. My high school transcript.

UCLA instructor shirt
Photo by Edmund Celis. I was an assistant instructor for Jeet Kune Do at UCLA from 2011-2012.

I also became more religious. Every Sunday, I attended church with my parents and really tried to listen to what the pastors would say. Growing up Catholic,

I began to understand the spiritual teachings of life.

Every night, I would pray the Our Father, Hail Mary and Rosary. However, I also was not close-minded to other teachings, such as Buddhism and other beliefs. With the influence of my cousin, I also began exploring other practices too, such as meditation. The connection between all religions and practices was becoming more clear to me. Also, with the negative histories of some religions, I did not want to associate with any one belief system anymore, but rather practice being a good person by simply treating others with respect.

Returning back to adversity,

when we encounter difficult times in our lives, we have an opportunity to awaken to our true being.

Just recently, my apartment had a fire that was started by management workers, I experienced a difficult breakup in a relationship, decided to drop out of school and then to finish it off, I also fractured my collarbone in a motorcycle accident.

Broken clavicle
Photo by Edmund Celis.

Video made by Edmund Celis. Advice on how to care for a clavicle fracture.

Sometimes, our life situations can be overwhelming and everything seems to just fall apart. Life doesn't make sense anymore. However, at the same time, a space opens up in your life for all the things that were lost. You begin to awaken to what is essential in life. You realize that

no matter what happens in your life, your true being is unaffected.

As you notice your thoughts clearing, all you are left with is the most essential aspect of your being, your consciousness. This process is enlightenment. You let go of all that is not important to your being, and you embrace the very moment that you are living, that is, you are being conscious.

When we experience a "bad" situation, in which we lose a loved one or suffer a debilitating injury, we may observe that there is a

deep sense of peace

that may follow the event, such as during the recovery phase. What happens is that we return to the moment and heighten our awareness of ourselves, as well as our surroundings. During this period, we learn to

accept the moment as it is

and we surrender to life because that is all we can do, for we cannot change the past or fix our injury immediately. All we can do is to be one with life, just the way it is. If we resist and deny the moment, we put ourselves through more unnecessary pain. This psychological pain is food for our ego. It may try to sabotage our peace with negative thinking but if we learn to accept and live in the moment,

all fears that arise from our thoughts are gone.

The negative thoughts and emotions that accompanied my

separation from a loved one was definitely one of the most difficult

experiences I've gone through, even more than losing my front teeth. However, when I suffered my broken collarbone, I was forced into rest, which helped me just forget about everything that was bothering me in my mind and return to my body because it was so painful. By just

being one with my pain,

I returned to the silence and peace of my inner nature and let go of my thoughts, just as I did when I experienced my mouth injury.

We can discover our true strength beyond the struggles of our life situations when we

accept the unknown and surrender to what life is.

Losing something we thought was so important to life, we realize that the essence of everything is beyond what we see, so nothing is truly ever lost. What is lost, is your thoughts, or ego. You can now breathe easier and are fully aware of your presence.

This form that our body takes right now will eventually pass too,

as will all other objects in this world. However, what will always remain is the Source in which all things come from. This is our true nature, which connects all that is. Adversity forces us into the moment and reconnects us to who we really are beyond anything that happens in the world. So,

next time you face a challenging situation, know that it is a test for your spiritual ascension.

And some last piece of advice, wear a mouthguard when playing sports, especially Tae Kwon Do!

Girl kicking colors out
Photo and art by Edmund Celis.

Here is an audio of the article as well.

To elaborate on being conscious, I suggest reading my article "Being Yourself is the First Step". Please also take a look at my post about my past experiences that have shaped my philosophy: "A Spiritual Journey".

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