At that very moment my funk lifted. I can't explain it for the life of me, and in fact haven't really tried. It's not like what she said was auspicious new knowledge that I haven't heard before. I know that. I knew that then. In any case, I had a Satori moment and haven't looked back. What I think happened was it reminded me of my own unique path, a path that was as different from hers as hers was from the monks she had just sat with. But at the same time, we had a lot of commonality in that our way is Budo, Wushu; the way of the warrior. Again, I knew that but something about the moment, all the elements in my life coming together at just the right time so that when she said it, I was ready to remember and engage.
Upon reflection the most important aspect of that epiphany is not that my path is martial or not, or that I know and/or practice this, that, or the other thing. Those aspects are complimentary. What is crucial is the immediate realization that my path was mine and it was and is, unique. In fact, not long after that training session I made some moves and changes that have made a tremendous difference to me in so many ways. Maybe the time was right, or maybe I felt I was free to do whatever suited me, to follow my inner voice and not that of some tradition.
So, this is where it gets tricky. Tradition, and traditional paths are a great way to break out of mundane existence and get to know oneself and exceed the limitations placed on us by families, culture, and ourselves. However, tradition and organized anything have built-in limitations for those who follow. That is without exception. All groups eventually aim for normalizing. They eventually would like everyone in the group to think, act, and believe in the same way. This is where I start to have problems because these trends--which are in all groups to some degree without exception--limit creativity and self-growth.
The statement "our way is not like theirs" is crucial here, because there is no "our way". So of course it "isn't like theirs." In the odd and beautiful way that humans act socially, if we are bold enough to follow our own inner voice and not that of others around us, we begin to find that we have something in common with everyone. By not looking for exclusivity in small groups we find commonality with the largest group of all--everyone.
In his ground-breaking book, The Dao of Jeet Kun Do, Bruce Lee advised finding the best of different systems and utilizing them in your own unique system. While Lee is specifically talking about martial arts in this context, it applies to spirituality as well. Again, traditional paths are great. It can be a good thing to become a disciple in a traditional school of martial arts, spiritual practice, or some other artistic endeavor. But don't be afraid to leave the temple every now and then. And don't be afraid to utilize what you learn outside the temple gates. If your teacher tells you that his/her way is the best way, the only way, or that other ways are wrong, I suggest you turn around and run as fast as you can.
Every person is unique, no two are alike. The way we live should be just as unique. Find your way and make sure it isn't like theirs.