Most everyone who comes into the school is looking to cultivate a fulcrum point for the teeter-totter of their life, a place where Yin and Yang smooth out into one continuous flow. For we who stay with practice over time it becomes essential, and is no longer something we do as much as it is a place we settle into. For newer people this process may seem daunting. And yet cultivating a practice is like cultivating a garden. It takes time and is actually ok to allow the process evolve in its own time. Does a flower judge itself by its seed?
If there was one piece of advice I could give anyone seeking to start a practice, it would be this: start small. Keep your goals small. If we are thirsty we drink a glass of water, we don't look for a pool to siphon off, dying of thirst in the meantime! A small goal is a worthy goal. For example, choose one movement or one movement element and repeat it nine times, a couple times a day. While the tea water heats, while the laundry spins. This is how skill and discipline are built but more importantly this is how to access what we want from our practice: that "place" inside ourselves. I was reading a blog by our student Peg on her reflections of being a writer. In it she refers to Micro Habits or Tiny Habits. The video she linked is great! It focuses on writing but it is really about establishing a practice over time through gradually building on Tiny Habits. This is exactly how to develop a Taijiquan or Qigong practice. Watch the short video here.
The truth is we all have that centered place within us, it is not something to go out and get, it is something to look for and find. The Yin/Yang yo-yo of life will never go away. It may arc in different geometric patterns, it may have different seasons, it may hum faster or slower, but dynamic change is the nature of life. Understanding this essential truth is a great challenge, as is understanding our life is not about changing this truth, but instead finding a steady place of refuge and balance within it. Discovering this haven and that you actually already have it with in you can be a great relief and a great joy. If you have a practice, steady on. If you have fallen off, you know what to do. If you don’t have one yet, start small but start now. You will really appreciate the fruits of your intention when you do.
Along the way a surge of happiness permeated my being. We all know this feeling, it is that moment where bliss and gratitude sweep over us, unplanned and unexpected. It fills our body and the present moment entirely, leaving no space for anything else. I found myself briefly asking, “Where did that come from?” And just as quickly laughed when I heard myself answer, “look around!” I continued around the lake along the northern curve where the sun’s rays abated. I began to think about suffering – mine, this world’s, and how ironic it is that we have free access to so much beauty and joy and yet we choose such darkness. The big questions began to come along the shadowed, contemplative path, and with them the knowing that I can’t answer them, not really.
Its been a rugged, confusing year for our social collective and despite our best efforts not to, I do think most of us think quite a bit about the current state of affairs within which we are embroiled. As an intentionally cultivated optimist, there are times when even I have had a very difficult time keeping my head above water in these storms. It appears to me there is some ancient script at work that is projecting a very poorly constructed movie on the big screen of our day-to-day life. The actors have less and less skill yet are shouting their dialogue more and more loudly. It is increasingly challenging to find refuge, to skillfully turn our attention away from it all and inward to our innate beauty, to look beyond it all and into the healing presence of a day like this. As I continued around the shady bend, it got a little colder but I still felt fine, relieved that even in the midst of it all I could still truly enjoy this moment. I thought I have never been more grateful for my practice as I have been this year - not for any increase in outward skill but more for the well-practiced skill of being able to simply breathe and shift my attention away from all the noise.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about forgiveness. A few weeks ago I found myself caught in an old script of mine, replaying a very old movie. There was quite a bit of suffering involved for myself and the other actors. I wondered, how to just stop the reel? Certainly I had been trying different approaches for many, many years, yet here I was, back in the same scene. It occurred to me as I was suffering that the situation really had nothing to do with the present moment but was instead embroiled in this old script. Unexpectedly, as surprising as the feeling of bliss in my walk, I recognized there was really only one way to stop the replay. Forgive. Forgive the scriptwriters, the show runners and myself for keeping the movie playing. And to ask those unwittingly brought into my show to forgive me too. To my delight it was much less uncomfortable than I had feared – this forgiving and asking for forgiveness. To my delight the reel of that old movie just flipped a bit and stopped. The script lost its power, I was liberated into the loving present moment.
My walk returned me to the sunny part of the path. I was delighted to notice the happy feelings were still there, even amidst this descent into darker thoughts. How marvelous bliss is, to be such a huge container. My attention was shifting to the next part of my day but I did take just a bit more time to contemplate forgiveness. Could it be one of the keys to big peace from big suffering? Could it be the way to crumple the scripts where corruption, money, power, land, religion, winning and loosing have too large a role? Though I don’t know the answer to these big questions, I believe I have found a key to some of the small ones.
A few months ago one of my long time students, Miriam, passed a way. I spent a lot of time with her in her last weeks, even up to a few days before her death. It was so clear to me she was at peace. I imagined she had said everything to everyone she wanted too. She was at the threshold; there was no more past, no future ahead; just this intimate moment. This was Miriam’s favorite prayer at the end:
I love you
I thank you
I forgive you
Please forgive me
It's a new year! I wish for us all practice that gives us the power to breathe deeply, and the strength to turn our attention inward. I wish for us to, in the midst of the dark, remain inspired to keep our eyes open to the healing beauty in each day. I wish us all robust friendships, stout health and deep wells of joy. I wish us lovely walks around the park. I wish us courage to crumple those scripts that no longer serve us. I wish us all to forgive and be forgiven. I wish us all liberation from suffering.
May Peace Prevail on Earth.