Sunday, May 30, 2010

T'ai Chi is really all about floating

At least for me that is the ultimate T'ai Chi experience. I've explored many different aspects of T'ai Chi over my 38 year practice; done standing meditation (like it a lot - great discipline); done the Macro and Micro Cosmic orbits - consciously circulating energy; done loads of Chi Kung exercises for healing and balancing Chi, etc; done push hands; done two-person fighting forms; done the "12 Animal" forms; done LOTS --- AND --- what it all comes down to for me is the delicious, sensual, effortless, expansive, freeing, joyful, melting, ecstatic goose-bump-producing experience of floating while I do the form. Nothing else provides the high, the well-being, the sheer thrill I seek from this marvelous art

NO other exercise even comes close to that experience. I have experienced moments of weightlessness (Roller-coaster and other 'amusement' park rides). T'ai Chi is better. No stomach jarring queasiness, just the light, weightless sensation of floating along - totally connected to the earth and at the same time floating above it - like a kite (One of my favorite T'ai Chi metaphors).

It really feels like flying, with all the freedom and joyful abandon I associate with flight.

NO other exercise is even designed with that primary purpose in mind - effortless motion. The odd, and seemingly contradictory thing about this is that the floating sensation happens most effectively when I am able to become very heavy, when I let everything drop into the earth, when I totally give into gravity; when I learn how to extend energy through that heaviness without disturbing it.

Doesn't that sound esoteric and oh-so mystical - something my teacher, T.T. Liang, might have said to me 30 years ago, leaving me without a clue but mightily impressed with the image. How to extend energy without undue engagement of muscles. It is as simple (but faaaar more profound and subtle in its application) as learning how to engage in regular tasks with less force. How hard do you grip the steering wheel of your car, or hold a pencil, or a toothbrush? Most people do these things with a lot more force than they actually need? Can you do these things with less force?

That's the basic and simple principle that, when you get waaaay more sophisticated about it, leads to floating . The next step after brushing your teeth with less force is to do it with more energy (and even less force). Now you are getting closer to the principle of T'ai Chi: less force + more energy = delicious melting. It also equals healing (without having to consciously direct the Chi - Chi is self-intelligent, it doesn't need you to guide it); it also equals spiritual connection.

Got to keep these things short - cuz I HATE to slog through long blogs too.

Peace and friskiness and thrills to you,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Practice just 1 minute a day

I am serious here!

Just a minute a day makes a huge difference.

The difference is made not by the minute you practice but by the commitment you make to do it. Toooo many people stop learning a new skill, whether it be T'ai Chi or piano, because of the inertia caused by the expectation that they need to practice 20, 30, 60 or more minutes a day in order to get 'good' at it. Inertia is overcome by the low requirement of a minute a day.

Anyone can find a minute in which to work on a new skill. And I promise you WILL progress with just a minute a day as long as you make the commitment to do that minute. You will get much better at T'ai Chi than someone who doesn't practice 20, 30, or 60 minutes a day.

The beautiful thing about making a commitment to do something - as my good friend, yoga teacher Andreas Vetsch expresses it - is that all indecision is removed. You commit to practice and that's an end to it - no questions, no exceptions, no extenuating circumstances, no hesitation, no procrastination --- you don't even have to think about it anymore, you don't even consider not-doing your daily practice -- you just DO IT whether you are tired, sick, bored, or engaged in something else you'd rather be doing.

You make time for it simply because you have MADE THE COMMITMENT. So simple, so beautiful, such a time and procrastination saver.

Of course you are not restricted to One Minute; you can, - and eventually you will find yourself doing so because this is such a rewarding and 'feel-good' an art - go longer than a minute. AND your commitment is fulfilled by that one minute - you have done it - you have some consistency in your life around a practice that will make you healthier, more relaxed, more flexible, and more connected to life. try it. It really works!

As always, I love your reflections back and will answer all inquiries - until they become so numerous that I don't want to answer them all - but for the moment, my abilities are not taxed beyond endurance.

happy practicing!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Passion is the Key to Freedom

If I want to be free all I have to do is love everything that arises. One of my favorite Zen sayings is, “True freedom is not getting what you like, it’s liking what you get.”

Soooooo, even not liking what I get is freedom as long as I passionately ‘Not Like’ what I get. Even being depressed over not being able to live my values is freeing if I can passionately embrace the feeling of depression.

Any judgment of what I am feeling is a choke-hold on the fuel line that makes my motor run. It can all be gas for the tank, juice the battery, if I allow myself to passionately embrace what I am feeling. Bored? Be passionately bored. Worried? Be passionately worried. Hate my job? Passionately hate my job. Stay with it anyway? Passionately stay with it while hating it. Take the power and the control for all my decisions. Don’t blame myself for anything or make myself feel less for any decision or lack of decision I make. If I feel it all passionately, ANY of it can be the key to my Joy and Freedom.

At the same time, don’t make anyone else the cause of my feeling. Thank them all for providing the charge for my battery. Want them out of my life? Passionately want them out of my life.

Hate, disagree with, bored with, angry at – what you are reading? Wonderful! Great energy there for Freedom if you passionately allow yourself that experience. Want to punch somebody in the nose? Great feeling (Don’t have to act on it). Act on it? Great! Get punched back? OW!!!! Wish I hadn’t acted on my impulse? Wonderful feeling – passionately wish I hadn’t acted on my impulse – etc etc etc.

The interesting thing is NOTHING has to change in the way I live my life in order for me to be free. Don’t have to become a Buddhist or a Republican 0r a vegetarian, or learn to meditate, or become brave, or honest, or ‘better,’ or Aaaanything. Just have to allow myself to be passionate about everything that arises, not choke it off, not be embarrassed about it (unless I allow myself to be passionately embarrassed about it), not ….. well, not ….. ummmm, ok, not NOT ANYTHING!!!

Hence the meaning of another of my favorite Zen sayings: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment – chop wood and carry water.”