Three Great Things: Shannon Lee

Bruce Lee’s daughter, and one of the executive producers of the Lee-inspired show Warrior, shares three things that have made her life richer.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To celebrate the second season of Cinemax’s Warrior, the action-drama series based on an original concept and treatment by Bruce Lee, Shannon Lee – Lee’s daughter and one of the show’s executive producers – shared some of the things that are most meaningful to her. — N.D.

I’ve been meditating very diligently for the past five or six years, and I have an innate ability to be still. I like to be quiet. When I was a child, I was quite sick. I had to have eye surgery and for a period of time when I was a toddler, I had bandages on my eyes, so I couldn’t see. I then lost a lot of my hearing for a period of time, so from a very young age I had a sense of being cocooned within my own skin. It gave me an ability to be with myself and create a sense of inner safety that I wish I could give to everyone.

I love what I call “deep space-time travel,” or the inner journeys I experience through meditation. It’s an opportunity to let my self move in the universe, to experience the great vastness of space. I get to travel backward to other points in my life and view them from different perspectives. I get to have insights and ideas pop up, and I am really taken by the notion of playing in the fields of space time and not being bound by form. Through meditation, I’ve had wild experiences that I can’t explain, like being let loose in my own sci-fi fantasy film. It’s a multi-sensory experience, so there are times when I feel sensations in my body that I can’t put words to. I don’t know what they are, but I can feel the cells in my body tingling or vibrating, or energy moving in or out of my body. I’ve experienced colors, and profound sensations of peacefulness and joy. And as strange as this may sound to some people, it is deeply enjoyable.

I have at times felt huge amounts of relief through meditation; our brains get so cluttered. Just like my father said, “Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water,” the experience of meditation creates space. In that space, I get to experience such deep relief, where my frustration and mental clutter all of a sudden goes away.

Spiritual Literature
I love to read novels and to watch movies and TV shows, but I have a special affection and affinity for spiritual writings that speak to me. There’s nothing quite like having your soul spoken to directly. I’ve just written my first book, Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee, about my father’s philosophy, which was an attempt to impart this same sensation to someone else. My father’s writings have had a big impact on me, as have books such as The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. Those are books that I continue to draw wisdom from. When I can go back, again and again, and there’s still more to learn, it’s very meaningful.

Even though The Four Agreements is a simple book that many people have read, it’s so powerful, especially the sections on not taking anything personally and not making assumptions about others. The book was huge for me, especially as I read it in my late 20s. It was a time when I was busily beating myself up and sitting in judgment and being critical and wanting to be right, and wanting to be seen and valued without actually trying to see or value myself. The truth is, nobody knows what anybody else is going through and nobody knows the complicated stew of things that drives a human being, things that they themselves don’t see or know. I think that continues to be something to hold on to, especially now, during these divisive times.

Laughter is so valuable to me; at times, it has been a defense mechanism, but more so a medicine for me. As serious as I may sound sometimes, there is nothing better for me than to laugh out loud multiple times a day, to make silly faces, talk in crazy voices, do ridiculous dances, trade sarcastic barbs with my teenage daughter, and embarrass her lovingly whenever I can.

For the longest time, people would say to me, “Oh my God, you have the funniest laugh,” and I wouldn’t know what they were talking about, because when we’re laughing we’re not caught up in ourselves, we’re caught up in the laughter. My laugh has become a part of me, like a signature. At times, I choose to laugh when things are crazy and I feel out of control or don’t know what to do.

I think it’s extremely important for us to keep our spirits up right now, even if that seems impossible because of what’s happening in the world. We have to be present to where we are and what we feel, and we have to keep our spirits up, because otherwise we let ourselves be crushed. Sometimes when I’m talking to people who are upset or struggling with grief, I try to subtly shift the energy toward laughter, to something more joyful, because there’s nothing better than that to lift the spirits.

Shannon Lee is the CEO and Owner of the Bruce Lee Family Companies. Shannon’s mission is to provide access for people to Bruce Lee’s philosophy through education and entertainment. In addition to being the daughter of Bruce Lee, Shannon is the Executive Producer of Cinemax’s Warrior, based on her father’s writings, as well as a singer, actor, producer, speaker, writer, and mother. Her first book, Be Water, My Friend, was published this October. The book explores the philosophies that defined her father’s worldview and looks at how martial arts are a perfect metaphor for personal growth. Shannon also chairs the Bruce Lee Foundation, a 501c3 charity that serves young people by introducing them to martial arts, philosophy, self-discovery, and harmonious living.