I love lotus flowers and being among them. Lotuses are symbols of purity as well as being beautiful. Google states, "The Lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. Its characteristics are a perfect analogy for the human condition: even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the Lotus produces the most beautiful flower."
Photos courtesy of my friend Becky Duchon, who gave me the gift of a spectacular afternoon among the waterlilies. Tai chi was inspired by observing the patterns, rhythms and beauty of nature.
I have to admit that sometimes when I listen to negative things, I can perceive the world as a negative place, which is not the whole truth. If I turn my attention to the present moment, I realize that all is okay. Tai chi and qigong helps me to put my attention on the present moment. Where we put our energy and focus does matter.
I was raised to work hard, make each moment productive and set the bars high in life. What I experienced from this mental or "monkey mind" approach to life was stress, exhaustion, weakened immune system and unhappiness. I had to learn a new approach to living.
As an instructor who holds classes in the park, the weather can often be unpredictable and challenging due to extreme conditions. I sought guidance from my Gung Fu friend Mark who has years of martial arts experience. Mark shared his teacher's advice which is as follows: "Climb a mountain on a windy day. Play sword on a full moon night. Read a book on a rainy night. Never play Taiji on a windy, cold day. Why? Because of the negative effect on the Oi. The wind is introducing too much air or pressure to the lungs. Also not to play internal arts in extreme heat due to the heat that is generated from Taiji. It is better to remain idle. You must play within the rules of nature! Too cold, bad. Too hot, the same."
Tai chi and Qigong focus on breath and movement. Breath and movement are life sustaining. When we become more aware of our breath and movement we can cultivate a greater sense of well-being. Slowing down our breath and movements can calm our minds, our nerves and center us more in the present moment.
Movement is important for good health. From my personal understanding if an area is blocked, whether it is structurally or energetically blocked, that area can become stagnant. This inhibits blood, Qi and bodily fluids from circulating properly. This poor circulation whether it is in the spinal column or elsewhere can lead to issues such as calcium build up, plague in the vessels, or other blockages in the body. That is why it is very necessary to make sure that our bodies are not blocked energetically or structurally. Then we can feel better.
The catch 22 is that we don’t want to move or can’t move if the movements cause pain. For this reason it is important to find a competent healer to support your body to heal. During personal injuries I continue to do my tai chi and qigong because the breath and movements are slow and gentle. Practice time allows me time to check in with my body and see how my healing is progressing. Breath, movement and your chosen healing modality all work together in the healing process.
Through breath and movement we unite in celebration of our tai chi and qigong practices. On this day we come together to share our different qigong postures, styles and forms, which there are many. Each of us has our own personal experience with Qi or life energy. In Daoist philosophy humans are the connection between heaven and earth. When we gather and share we can collectively strengthen our connection to heaven and earth.
I recently heard Pam Grout, the author of The Course of Miracles Experiment, ask, “What would a being of light do today?” She was referring to each of us as beings of light or energy bodies. What would you do if you saw yourself as a being of light and not just your physical body? How would you flow through your day? Tai chi and Qigong is all about energy and flowing through life in an effortless way.
I have been so conditioned to hit the floor running and to pack in as much as I can possibly do in one day with great effort. On the other hand if I saw myself as a being of light, I would approach my day in a very different way. I might start off by taking a deep breath of fresh morning air, give thanks for another day, kiss my loved ones good morning and anticipate the excitement and joys of a new day. My inner being would want to radiate self-love as well as love to others. I would see practicing tai chi and qigong more as an act of self-love rather than as a discipline. I would smile inside. What would you do as a being of light?
If we all could see ourselves as expansive beings of light and love, we could collectively transform how we approach life as a whole. On an energetic level we might elevate our mundane to the sacred and feel the interconnectedness of self to all of life. During this time of hardship, it’s worth trying this shift in perspective to see if it helps us to let go of our fears and struggles. In letting go, we are ready to embrace the gifts that continuously flow our way.
YEAR OF THE METAL OX
Last year was the Year of the Rat. According to the Chinese lunar calendar every 60 years is known as Geng Zi or a year of catastrophes, which 2020 was. Hopefully the next 60 years will be more peaceful and prosperous. If you are personally interested in the mystical way, research the 10 Zen Ox Herding pictures on YouTube.
It was exactly one year ago on this date, February 6th, that I wrote my first blog for this website. I had no idea the twists and turns that were in store for 2020. In the midst of continuous upheaval there was the adventure waiting with its possibilities. It was an adventure full of questions. At times all the grasping for answers became exhausting. I completely forgot that I was to” live the questions” as Rainer Maria Rilke suggested in the following segment of his poem :
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
As I look back, I see the many steps I journeyed to the ground where I now stand. I no longer want to ask the questions. I just want to be calm from within and live. I know that my tai chi practice can help with this.
My monkey mind has been very active lately, leaving me feeling exhausted energetically. I had to admit that fear was at the core of all my anxiety. Once I got clarity, I could calm my mind and body. Then I could breathe more peacefully. My mind is my strongest opponent, but it can also be my friend. I must constantly be in tune to what my monkey mind is doing.
The drama that entangled my monkey mind was a desire to understand what was happening in my daily life, in our country and on a global scale. The fear appeared when I couldn’t be certain of what is to be. Then I remembered this quote from C. Joybell C., “The day I understood everything, was the day I stopped trying to figure everything out. The day I knew peace was the day I let everything go.” In tai chi, this would be a practice in yielding to whatever comes with softness and flexibility, yet remaining rooted like a tree in a storm. Then I can really know my true center.
I am filled with wonder, gratitude and awe for the journeys we travel and for the teachers we meet along the way.