Be strong and know your limitless potential
Be confident and remember your uniqueness
Be certain and value your own decisions.
Be tough and remember the warrior within.
Life’s battles are not always in a battlefield.
Fate may have different paths for us to travel.
The peaceful warrior weathers the storms.
Unperturbed, come what may in troubled times.
Knowing wars are not won by brandished swords.
Knowing the power of perseverance and patience.
Knowing the strength in the way of the heart and in the peace of mind.
Knowing the inner calm in the depth of one’s soul.
To honour and value every moment in this now, to bend like a reed.
To respect life, enough to know the stillness in moment.
To acknowledge pain as a passing moment.
To steer intentionally to causes that make a difference.
Remember the way of the peaceful warrior.
Reaching to transcend the way of war.
Raising swords nor words but realizing the truth.
Resonating love not wars, as peace is the way…
Being another storm is never the answer
Being indifferent or just another barrier is never the solution.
In testing the strength of will at bay without succumbing.
In daring to trust beyond fate, is the way of the peaceful warrior!
I had written this poem about life and living more than a year ago before I even got connected with my friend Christoph. But as I started to really understand about him and his work, I sensed a lot of what I had written about following the path of peace and equanimity as a way of life and living, resonates and connects to his chosen path.
There are some people who connect with you and you get the feeling you have known them all along. And sometimes you get this feeling without even meeting them in person ever before.
Christoph my friend from France mentioned he would be travelling to India and we decided to catch up in person. With a comfortable venue and time decided, as we finally met, what struck significantly was how we both spoke at length with an ease and comfort of a trustful knowing that words cannot describe.
It is not often you feel deeply privileged to meet someone so humane and humble like Christoph Eberhard. A man on a mission to spread good energies, a man on the path of promoting peace and well being in the world, through dialogues for change and so much more.
To introduce my friend Christoph here is an absolute pleasure. So after meeting and speaking with each other for hours, I just knew that here is someone whose inspiring reflections must be shared by all who have the good fortune of meeting him. So I proposed the idea of this interview and he graciously accepted.😊
So join along with me in a journey of discovering more in plenitude about this ‘Peaceful Warrior Christoph Eberhard.’
To my readers, especially those who followed my earlier conversational interviews may perhaps know, this is where I share stories straight from the heart of some of my very inspiring friends who I happen to connect with deeply.
In these series of conversations on ‘Life and Living’ I intend to share some real stories and what happens when dreams that take shape through intention, passion and dedication.
A heartfelt dialogue in the interconnects can open doors to new integrations of thought. And that is one of the reasons for doing such interviews. There is always so much learning in the sharing, after all to share is to learn some more…
Savvy : To begin with tell me, how would you like to see yourself… besides being a teacher. Are you more of a discoverer, learner or a traveller?
Christoph: What I would like to become is a true human being. As I like to say: “Life is not a void to be filled. It is a plenitude to be discovered.” Similarly, our humanity is also a plenitude to be discovered. Many traditions see the human being as a pillar spanning all worlds and linking them together. The Chinese for example see the human being as standing between and linking Heaven and Earth.
So, basically, I see myself as a human being amongst fellow human beings. We seem to be beings of dialogue. I became aware little by little that my whole life revolves around four kinds of dialogue: dialogue with others, dialogue with oneself, dialogue with the world and dialogue with “beyond”.
Life is a journey. So, we are all travellers. During that journey, we discover many things. So, we are all discoverers. Our discoveries teach us. So, we are all learners. We share what we discover and what we learn with others. So, we are all teachers.
Savvy: And what brought you to India the first time around? Give a bit of your backstory.
Christoph : I am Austrian. I lived in Austria until I was 10. We then moved to Romania for 4 years. It was at the time Romania was still under the rule of Ceausescu. From there we moved to France when I was fourteen. So, I experienced different European settings, both “free” and “communist” at a young age. I also experienced different ways of living, different languages, different cultures. Being bilingual (German and French) made me wonder very early about how much our perceptions make up our world. We cannot translate everything from one language to another. So, is the world real? Is it dependent on the language through which we approach it? These were questions I started to ask myself a lot when I was around 10 years old. I read a lot of Paul Watzlawick at the time on the socio-psychological construction of reality.
After finishing school, I decided to study Law, in order to understand how societies organize themselves. After my Bachelor, I went for a Master in comparative law, focusing on German Law.When I was about to finish my Master in Germany, an opportunity came up to go and study in Delhi, at JNU. Because of my passion for martial arts (I started my martial arts journey with Judo when I was 7), I always wanted to go and spend time in China – so, there was this idea in my mind since a young age that I wanted to travel to Asia. So, I went. I signed up for a M.Phil. programme in International law. The idea was to get a non-Western perspective on globalisation and experience a non-Western culture. Honestly, at that time, I did not know much about India and I was not particularly drawn to it. It was more an opportunity I seized to deepen my exploration of the world we live in, of pluralism and the challenges of intercultural dialogue.
This was in 1994. India had not opened up to the global market then and lots of our discussions in the diverse classes were about: should India open up or not? JNU was also a very interesting place: being an All India University, I had friends from all over India. So many different languages, cultures, religions, communities… Pluralism indeed! My stay and my studies in India increased my awareness of the challenges of intercultural dialogue: I realized how Western international law was… and how Western Indian law was, as a legacy from the British. So, I started wondering: what about all those who are excluded from these “modern, Western” dynamics.
It is in India that I started deepening my knowledge of anthropology and that I consciously started to explore possible ways of bringing together law and anthropology in order to map out more inclusive, more dialogical ways of living together. It is when I came back from India, that I did my Master in legal anthropology in Paris and that I started to work on the question of Human Rights and Intercultural Dialogue which then became Ph.D. topic. My question was: how can we live together in harmony and peace in our contemporary global society where awareness of pluralism is increasing?
Law, Globalisation and Intercultural Dialogue: https://youtu.be/iqaISXlzIxo
Savvy :What did you want to become in your growing years?
Christoph : When people asked me what I wanted to do in my life when I finish my studies, I always answered: Peace. I did not know how it would manifest. But I felt I have to work for peace. To echo what I said at the beginning, I realized that this meant for me: peace and harmony with oneself, others, our environment and beyond. And I should add this: if we kill everyone and everything, we may have peace. But this is a dead peace. And I am not talking only about “outside”. If we kill our emotions, thoughts, dreams etc. we may experience a kind of dull peace. But this is dead. I was always interested in living peace. How to have peace amongst all our diversity, our different points of views, our conflicts etc., internally and externally, individually and collectively? This is why dialogue is so important to me. Peace, harmony and dialogue are intimately connected.
Savvy : Could you share about this journey you are on…What brings you to India now?
Christoph:The journey is a journey of peace and dialogue. It is a journey of sharing, discovering, becoming. From 1995 where I started my work on Human Rights and Intercultural dialogue up to 2013, I mainly expressed this journey in an academic setting as a professor and researcher. I brought together scholars from all over the world and from many different disciplines (law, anthropology, economics, sociology, political science, philosophy etc.) to map out paths for a responsible and dialogical living together in our contemporary era of globalisation. We published a number of collective books and I also wrote my own books. I see them as spaces allowing different sensibilities to unfold. In a certain way, I was lucky that I did not really fit the system. I always found myself in a quite precarious situation as I did not match the existing boxes. I never fit in, but at the same time I had a foot in “the system” as some people saw the relevance of my work and supported me. Private foundations funded my research projects – and I am really very grateful to them for that! The Academic world is very competitive. “Publish or perish!” At the beginning, being enthusiastic about my research projects intending to contribute to a better world, and also needing to establish a legitimate base, I carried out more research, especially on the question of dialogue between different systems of knowledge (like for example modern medicine and traditional medicines). I started to use my free time, to deepen the traditions of knowledge I was interested in. I especially deepened my knowledge of Yoga in India and of the internal martial arts and life nourishing practices in China. I also started sharing them with friends on a regular basis.
I decided to start teaching Yoga, Taiji Quan, Qi Gong and the beautiful arts of Wudang Shan. I decided to let things unfold naturally. One thing I have learned is that anything of value can only happen if the source flows. Let the source flow. If it does, vegetation will start to grow, animals will come, humans will settle, whole civilisations may flourish. Take the water away and nothing can subside. So currently, I have decided to put myself at the disposal of those who want to work with me, while keeping enough time to continue to deepen my practices. I am teaching on a regular basis in the South of France and I am giving some workshops internationally. I have also kept in touch with diverse research institutions and do some work with them. In the long run, a dream would be to open a center where we could share the beautiful and enriching traditions of art and knowledge of our world and make them dialogue!
The last years when I came to India, it was especially in order to deepen my knowledge of Yoga and also to meet different people who are holders of traditional knowledge to learn from them and also to exchange on how they see the challenges of their traditions in the contemporary context. In a certain way, my travels have become pilgrimages. This year, my pilgrimage in India took me from the Himalayas all the way down to Kanyakumari. I met many beautiful people and had many enriching exchanges. I feel blessed to have this opportunity to be able to meet people and to have the time to exchange with them.
Savvy :You have gone on to seek and imbibe the learning of the east, have you always been attracted to the wisdom of the east so to say?
Christoph : The East is where the sun rises. Where the light starts shining. In that sense, yes, I was always attracted to the wisdom of the East. But it is not so much the geographical East, than this spiritual East I have been attracted to. Geographically, I also seem to have a connection with Asia. All together, I spent a few years living in India! And I also spent a few years living in China. And lots of the time spent there was devoted to practice and deepen some of their spiritual paths. But I am also deeply appreciative of my European traditions, the “spiritual” ones as well as the “secular” ones.
Savvy : Certainly! Spirituality may seem elusive and yet its presence is boundless in the path of awareness of every now. What were your challenges along the way?
Christoph: It is not easy to walk a path which is not a mainstream one. I wanted to work for peace. This put me into quite precarious situations. I was the top student in all the Masters I did – and they were from top world universities and I wrote my theses with the world leading experts in the respective fields. On paper, I was the best. And initially, I felt some sense of entitlement: as the best, you should be given a scholarship, you should be selected for a job… But this is not what happens when you honestly try to follow a path that does not really fit in… although it may make people dream of better tomorrows. So you learn humility. You learn to open up your eyes to all the other people around you who also have amazing things to share, but for whom nobody cares. At some point, because you have to keep on fighting all of the time, you start to feel like a hero who is sacrificing himself for the world. While your friends start to get established, start a family, move into a nice house, climb their career ladder, you are still “going nowhere”. You are a loser. So, your ego plays this trick and tells you: you are a hero! You are working for everybody, for the good of all! To let go of this is a big lesson of humility. No, you are not special. No, your mission is not to save the world. Be human. Try to live a humane life. Your struggles are not different from that of any one of us, even if you like to coat them in sweet illusions of helping the world.
Being more humble and more simple also allows to be “less full of oneself”. So, we start to be able to give more space to those we encounter. We start to fill our lives less. And we start to discover its plenitude more and more. It is a beautiful journey. But at some point, as Robert Vachon from the Intercultural Institute of Montreal, a great friend and a big inspiration for me, used to say: “it is crucifying but liberating.”
Life is beautiful. Suffering we have to go through can teach us to become aware of its beauty, to listen, to open up.
Savvy: Yes indeed! And now with so much achieved in such a short span of time what are your goals now?
Christoph :Wuwei: action in non-action, letting that which has to manifest manifest naturally.
The Dream Within: https://youtu.be/7Gcs0teb8X0
Savvy: To the uninitiated healing movement practices sound abstract and difficult to comprehend what do you say to that? And how accepting is the western world to it today? Have you had to work at diluting and channelling the learning for the Western World especially who have no background of this at all?
Christoph: If you talk about Qi Gong / Taiji Quan / Yoga, I would say: Practice! Taste! There is not much use in talking a lot about these things. Practice and see what happens. Taste and experience. And then draw conclusions if you want or just enjoy the journey. There is a Taoist saying: “Empty your head and fill your belly!” This means: Stop thinking and nourish your energy, which initially can be gathered in the lower dantien, an energy center situated at the level of the belly. As long as we are agitated, energy cannot gather. We have to become still.
How accepting is the Western world of that? These practices have been around for quite a while now. Many people know about them and are in one way or another exposed to them. They have also become very fashionable. I think Yoga is currently the biggest wellness / fitness industry… and the Chinese arts are catching up. In the process, they get commodified, institutionalized. They get turned into sports, into therapies…
On an individual level, there is no particular problem to share those arts with people who are interested in them. On a more global level there is more politics involved because it is about the access to the health / wellness / fitness market. On the medical side, there is still a predominance of Western medicine, but non-Western medicines are increasingly gaining recognition.
Maybe I should clarify, that Qi Gong, the art to master energy, encompasses different orientations. Qi Gong for life nourishing: keeping yourself healthy and increasing your vitality. Qi Gong for healing: mastering energy for healing oneself or others. Qi Gong for martial arts: building up one’s power for martial arts. Qi Gong for spiritual practice: building up the necessary energy for the internal journey. My focus and interest has essentially been on the two last ones. Health was more of a side effect for me, not a reason why I practiced it. It is only now, because of what people need, that I start to deepen the specific health aspects more. So, my answers are obviously different from the ones a practitioner of TCM, traditional Chinese medicine, would give.
Is there a need for diluting the teachings in the West? I feel there is no specific problem about East or West or North or South. At the beginning, everybody is a beginner. Every journey starts with the first step. And every teaching situation is a meeting between somebody who wants to learn something and somebody who can teach. The Taoist approach is to make oneself available. You are not here to promote what you are or what you do. If people are interested, you share. That’s all. There is no place for trying to convince people or for proving your point. You are interested? Look there is this gate! You want to enter? Enter! You will have to enter by yourself. You are the one who makes the journey.
Then of course, you have people of various backgrounds – so, you try to speak their language, so that they can understand you, at least as much as is necessary to be able to work on the level they are on. The beauty is that you have practices. I have shared certain things with friends who did not speak a common language with me, where I just knew a few common words. But you can show. The person can experience. So, you can learn. I myself only speak very basic Chinese and often I was in situations in China where there was nobody around speaking anything else – so, I also learned a lot just by observing and practicing. Theory is interesting. It also has its usefulness. But the important thing is to practice and to taste your practice. One of my masters said: “Taste every movement like a good cup of tea.” First, enjoy! And then, taste! Taste! And so, little by little you start to taste yourself and you start to come to know yourself a bit more.
The essence is simple: relax, align, be aware.
Taiji and Yoga Philosophy: https://youtu.be/vUEV0HhXfSU
Savvy: Speaking of when one begins the journey to internalize the wisdom of healing movements what kind of changes can happen to oneself.
Chrisroph: It depends where you start from and how much you practice. Many things happen on many levels. The most important thing is the development of a gentle awareness of yourself and little by little of others, your surroundings and beyond. Some people realize that they breathe – something they never experienced before consciously. They become aware of the quality of their breath, of how it changes. They start discovering their bodies, emotions, mind more. They start to become aware of their tensions and start to experience the possibility to relax. I have started martial arts quite early, when I was seven. So, somehow they were always part of my life. When I was thirty, I went to the North of China for a year to practice internal martial arts. I practiced a lot every day. That was the only thing I had to do. I spent hours and hours every day sitting, standing, moving in slow motion… breathing, being aware. There was also more dynamic training involved. There you witness more dramatic changes. Your body becomes healthier, your energy level rises and your mind becomes stiller and clearer. Your experience depends a lot on what you look for and how deeply you get involved. If you can only practice one hour a week, your experience will be different. What is common, is that you will taste being more aware, open, relaxed, centered, aligned. And this will have effects on the rest of your life. Some people start with one practice. Little by little, it affects their whole life and they change their life style: how they sleep, eat, work, interact with others, nature… and themselves!
Savvy: Could you in brief discuss the effect Qi gong have beyond the physical body — on the emotions, the mind and the spirit?
Christoph : In the arts of Wudang Shan that I practice, the path is quite straight forward. First, you have to gather vitality, jing. Jing has to be refined into a more subtle energy, Qi. Qi has to be further refined into mind, Shen. Mind has to be opened up. It has to open up to Wuji, that which is beyond, the fundamental openness, the non manifest. At this point, one becomes one with the Dao, one with everything. And then of course the Dao will manifest in our mind which will manifest in our energy which will manifest in our vitality which will manifest in how we are outwardly.
Another way of looking at it is that you gradually open up and relax into being. First, you open up on the physical level, then on the emotional, mental and spiritual levels. Finally you open up at the cosmic level and beyond. All levels are interlinked. By opening up more and more, you also center and align yourself more and more. You discover your unity. Harmony sets in gradually. When everything is harmonized, it can be said that you are fundamentally healthy. In Taoist terms, you become an immortal. In India, you would say you become a Buddha or a jivanmukhta, an enlightened being.
Wudang Taiji Quan: https://youtu.be/rRisuOJU_HI
Savvy: How relevant has Qigong and Tai chi training been personally to you in your intercultural beliefs and how can everyone benefit? How do you use / apply this wisdom in the challenges of life and living?
Christoph: Learn to taste. Learn to relax. Learn to be aware. Learn to be aligned. Learn to remain open. Beliefs are things we do not know. So, we accept certain things on faith… a lot actually! By learning to taste, we learn to experiment and to get firsthand experience of life. We live in the world of forms. Forms are limited. The wise man points at the moon. The fool looks at the finger. Starting to see the moon, gives us a better understanding of what the finger is about. The whole of creation is a big finger pointing to what is beyond. So, both these aspects are there. Once you start to get a little taste of what is beyond form, you gain a new perspective on forms. You see their relevance but you are less imprisoned by them. This helps to understand different points of view. It allows to “stand under” different horizons of intelligibility without losing one’s center, one’s alignment. It also helps to go through the existential crises of life without closing up completely. You become aware that being deeply shaken is part of Life’s manifestation. It teaches you to become more humble, more simple, more open and at the same time more aligned.
Savvy : Could you mention a bit on Internal and External Qi Gong.
Christoph : Qi Gong is basically part of Nei Gong, internal work. But then, as we mentioned before: all levels are interconnected. Energy is wonderful. But you have to have an adequate structure where it can circulate. So, there is a range of practices. Some emphasize more external aspects, strengthening and loosening up your body. Some emphasize more the energy work. Some little by little enter more the mind aspect of the work. Meditation and internal alchemy, practices of spiritual transmutation of what we are also part of the path. Think of the path of Ashtanga Yoga, the Eight Limbs Path of Yoga laid out by Patanjali: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi. Qi Gong can be equated to Pranayama. It occupies the same place in the Taoist system as pranayama does in the Yoga system. At one level, it is the bridge from the external to the internal work. As long as there is no conscious use of energy involved, one cannot really speak of Qi Gong – maybe of preparatory practices to Qi Gong. Once energy is there, everything can become a Qi Gong. And little by little, everything may become a meditation.
Tao. Chinese Path to Harmony and Health: https://youtu.be/xGftY69yQD0
Savvy What is your message to the world in this moment?
Christoph : Relax!…Which does not mean collapse! It means: Open up! Be aligned! Be aware!
Savvy: On a lighter note… Do you watch films and if so which are your favourite Martial Art films, I like a lot of them especially Ip man.
Christoph : I like movies and I do like martial arts movies. I also liked the Ip Man trilogy. When I was young, I especially enjoyed Jackie Chan movies – the traditional ones. I loved how he made his whole environment dance: he used not only his hands feet and weapons, but vases, benches, tables etc… Later in his action movies, the dance was expanded to helicopters, cars, boats, roller skates and what not! In each movie, he would come up with something new. And there was no computer animation then. They really did their stunts. In the old movies, I especially enjoyed the training sequences. They inspired me for my own training. With some friends, we also tried to pick up some moves we saw in his movies – they became little challenges for us: would we be able to do it? I also liked the positive vibe about his characters: usually a nice guy, getting himself into trouble without really looking for it. I thought a lot about why I liked his movies so much. For me they symbolize the cosmic dance. Action in every direction. And at the center? Jackie Chan, the open space. The humor in his fight scenes gives a spacious quality to his choreographies. You see life unfolding. You see his creativity manifesting in the middle of all this action to get him out of his predicament. I also like Jet Li a lot. But his choreographies are more like perfectly executed partitions of classical music. It is a different beauty. On a deep level I prefer Jackie Chan’s. Drunken Master was one of my favourite Jackie Chan movies. The first movie I saw of Jackie Chan was The Young Master – so it has a special relevance for me. A beautiful and very meaningful martial arts movie for me is Hero with Jet Li. There are many aspects in this movie. For me, it is especially a movie that captures the spirit of the sword. I saw it when I learned my first sword forms in China. The movie is beautiful. It shares many layers of depth of martial arts and of their philosophy and the visuals convey the purity and sharpness of the sword.
Savvy: Finally what should I have asked and didn’t?
Christoph : We already talked too much! “He who speaks does not know. He who knows does not speak.”
Silence and Dialogue: https://youtu.be/gyvBhuGr5uY
Yes indeed! And these very words say it all about this inspiring man and his path. Do join me as I wish him good luck in all his future endeavours towards world peace and well being.
Savvy Raj & Christoph Eberhard
@ Raasta Cafe Pune India
For more information on Christoph do visit his You Tube Channel Dialogues for Change
About the Author:
Ms Savvy Raj is a Dance Educator and Corporate Wellness Trainer she conducts workshop in Social Dances, Holistic Well Being as well as Personal Effectiveness. She is a Member of the International Dance Council UNESCO the official world wide organization for all forms of dance. As She is a certified adult trainer who uses the creative medium of dance towards bringing empathetic consciousness in her students. Using International Social dance forms and a variety of improvisational techniques as well as creative movement exercises she brings forth the human connect in it all. Working towards the development of an individual through dance applications and nurturing in the learners an enthusiasm to see and live life lovingly.
Savvy is also Certified Graphologist who pursues this as a hobby in her spare time along with a passion for writing, painting, poetry, drawing, sketching and designing.
It is often the steps we choose to take consistently that makes the dream a reality.
And the choice rests with us.