Once upon a time, in 1990, a beautiful superhero product seller followup to the amazing Batman movie released on my ten year old eyes. It was called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT). It was firstly a comic book, which I now love but did not know of at the time. It came into full frontal focus with the cartoon series starting in 1987. Figurines and any other products aside, the Turtles cartoon presented many an opportunity for myself and many other kids to identify with a Ninja Turtle. Everyone had their favorite, and suddenly Ninjutsu was the new Karate following 1984’s Karate Kid. Of course, the cartoon had almost zero violence unless you count throwing pizza on robot Foot Clan ninjas. But somehow, it was the coolest thing. Because of this, nothing prepared us for the live action movie. It was life changing.
Flash forward to now…
The What This Is About
A little bit into the movie, Raphael, the Wolverine character of the four turtles, is running after the hockey masked vigilante Casey Jones following their first movie scene together. Of course the Turtles don’t wear shoes so he is running barefoot. I instantly analyze his running form. I tried my hardest to theorize, based on running form, if the actor playing him had on shoes underneath the costume or not. It was hard to tell. Even if he did, he had pretty good form taking in all considerations like a GIANT MUSCULAR TURTLE SUIT. The funny thing to me is that I still analyzed this autopilot like.
Does this count as an example of barefoot running? Maybe. Maybe enough to spearhead this post into being written. But it isn’t enough to be a main subject. I didn’t try barefoot running due to the Ninja Turtles as a child. What I did do, though, was try and meditate because of them. Specifically, Leonardo.
For those of you unfamiliar, the basic starting point of the TMNT is shown here:
Now understand, even before this movie, and many times since, the Turtles have many a variation on origin. But this is basically it, give or take.
The movie starts as expected: April O’Neil, a New York news reporter, walks outside into a robbery on her news trailer and as she tries to fight off the burgulars, we hear something swooshing through the air, hitting the bulb in the light post, and crash it is pitch black. Following a lot of noise, sounds of grunting and punching, the lights come back on and all of the thugs are tied up or knocked out. We see a manhole cover cracked open with some eyes peering out. It seems one of the turtles, Raphael, forgot to grab his weapon, a sai, before they escaped being seen. He watches April as she sees this weapon and puts it in her purse.
From this point on we have plot. Raphael pulls this movie forward with his frustration at losing his weapon. His frustration leads him to make some risky choices in attempting to get it back but again I would suggest watching this movie as I will be leaving anymore details scarce.
To get to our meditation destination example, Raphael gets into a one versus 100 fight with the Foot Clan and loses pretty badly. Once rescued, the Turtles flee with April and Casey Jones to April’s old family farm house. Once Raphael wakes from his got beat down coma, we find Leonardo meditating in the forest. And this is the scene that truly triggered me.
See, in recent times I have started meditating more but in thought I cannot remember what influenced me to ever start in the first place. I don’t even remember when I started exactly. Did I just hear about it from friends? Did I read about it? Did I even have a starting point? So I started to really dig.
I don’t know if an answer means anything, but I am curious. I’m attempting to start writing a book after all. And because of that, over the past few years I have been trying to figure out what influenced me on different paths I have chosen to take across my life story. Many times I have felt some of the most seemingly innocent things may have had more influence than I would have normally thought. Especially these days as I hear talk and debates on how much anything and everything can influence the youth aka our children.
Well, I gotta tell you, even before Yoda instructing Luke enough for me to try to feel the force around me, watching TMNT tonight and seeing Leonardo in a forest meditating by a tree; watching his hands go into Jnana Mudra position, I suddenly went into a flashback myself.
Flash backward to 1990…
My First Meditation
Do ten year olds know how to meditate? I don’t know. I know I had no instruction. I know that aspects of the Karate Kid influenced me. I know Kickboxer and Bloodsport definitely influenced me as well on meditation though I did not see these latter two until after TMNT (even though they came out before). I know each influenced me regarding katas.
For those that do not know what a kata is, think of any of those movies you have seen where the peeps do choreographed movements, especially with their hands. Not like in dance videos, but not so dissimilar, either. They almost seem to be pretending to fight someone not there, Casper perhaps. A lot of times it is as a physical meditation, too, similar to Tai Chi, like in Bloodsport (splits not included though I tried, and failed always).
Yeah, I was a martial arts junkie in single digits, and I wanted to be these guys, all of them. And since they all seemed to meditate, well, I guess I had to in order to become a splits wielding, crane kicking, um turtle. Again, before the Force. A funny side note: I find it very interesting each movie mentioned above had an older teacher training a student. What influence did that have? Thoughts for another time and or blog.
Anyways, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Meditation
I remember wanting to be like Leonardo. He was the leader. He had to make the calls. He had two katanas and man, two swords is awesome! Plus, he wore blue and that was my favorite color. So, wanting to be with him meant imitating him. And in this scene of the movie, he was meditating.
I wanted to meditate and see what magical things could happen. I remember often times sitting and focusing on my breath, in indian style, palms up, thumb and index finger touching, doing my best to see myself as this big green mutant. I would listen intently. I remember thinking it felt similar to prayer only I wasn’t asking for anything from anyone or thing. Just sitting, pretending, barefoot, sometimes in my ninja pajamas.
Of course, this activity did not last at all in the long run. I could only try to be a Ninja Turtle for so long until the next cool thing took my attention. Who knows what that was but I was cemented as a Turtles fan for life either way.
Flash forward to now…again…
I actually just finished the most recent cartoon series, which I royally loved. I don’t know if it influenced me in my getting older age, but I did learn one thing specifically: as a child I wanted to be Leonardo, as a teenager and young adult I preferred Raphael, yet as an older adult now, I can only say I love Michelangelo and strive to pull my inner Mikey out every day. But all of this is for another blog, another day.
Did the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie start me on my meditation path? Well, maybe. Hell, maybe I’m still trying to be Leonardo! I will meditate on that. Now, if only I had started running barefoot back then too…