Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Where Am I?

Last Saturday, I arrived at the Liuhebafa class twenty minutes early, hoping to join the Tai Chi class for the run though of the form. They are close to the end of semester, so I was hoping to get my practice in for the day plus spot any points where I had started to go astray while practicing alone. When I got into the gym, over twenty faces were pointed in my direction! Bob had reversed the orientation of the class! Instead of everyone pointing to the back wall, they were all pointing to the front wall. Front was back, and back was front. That also meant that all the movements that we had practiced for a decade facing the water fountain now had to be done facing the benches and chairs. I jumped into a spot in the front, right corner of the group, which was now the back, left corner of the group. They were already in the middle of the form, so I had to not only figure out which movements came next, but I also had to figure out where we all were in space. This was not easy. I found that I did better forgetting the gym entirely and instead imagining where I would be if I was practicing the form in my living room at home.

After finishing the form, a little voice in my head thought, “Bob is mean.” It was a small, whiny voice that wished I had gotten to the class earlier so that I could have been a trifle more prepared. My second thought was that we should have been doing this a long time ago. Everyone seemed uncomfortable. Everyone seemed to have spots where they were confused. We had all depended upon the visual cues in the gym. The cues were great for initially learning the form, but after awhile we really didn’t need them. They sometimes contributed to us sleepwalking through practice. Well, I definitely woke up for this practice.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Future

I found The Victoria Vanishing on the seven day shelves at our library. Christopher Fowler is a new author for me. One of his characters echoes some of my feelings about the future.
When I was young I fantasized about the future….Now that I’m living it, I find it all a bit tatty. I was expecting us to be on other planets by now. I wanted genetic transformations and orbiting cities instead of Internet porn and small improvements in personal stereos.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Words of Comfort

My cousin, Gary Ward, passed away on Wednesday after a seven month battle with Multiple Myeloma. I found this beautiful poem to help comfort those who are struggling with the loss of loved ones this week.

A long time I have lived with you
And now we must be going
Separately to be together.
Perhaps I shall be the star
To guide your uncertain wings
So that you have direction in the night.
Perhaps I shall be the fire
To separate your thoughts
So that you do not give up.
Perhaps I shall be the rain
To open up the earth
So that your seed may fall.
Perhaps I shall be the snow
To let your blossoms sleep
So that you may bloom in spring.
Perhaps I shall be the stream
To play a song on the rock
So that you are not alone.
Perhaps I shall be a new mountain
So that you always have a home.

Nancy Wood in Earth Prayers

Monday, March 16, 2009

Irish Blessing

For every petal on the shamrock,

May these three blessings come your way:

God grant you love health and happiness

Today and every day.

This blessing is from the Irish Culture and Customs website. Last week at the end of the church service, I handed out shamrocks with love, health, and happiness on the back of the three leaves.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Monkey Mind

A few days ago I was trying to do a short mediation before practicing Tai Chi for the day. My mind would not focus. It wasn’t all over the place. It just kept on wandering back to things I had done earlier in the day. While I certainly could have practiced the form like that, I would not have benefited as much as I would have were my mind more focused. I was reminded of the term monkey mind. My mind was like a monkey that kept on picking up objects as he walked to his destination, annoying but not too harmful.

Monkey mind isn’t always so benign. I am reminded of the chimpanzee in the news a few weeks ago who tore off a woman’s face. Obsessing about bad things can cause depression, anxiety, heart disease, and even cancer. Thoughts of jealousy can lead to domestic violence, as we too often see in the news. Run away fear by consumers is leading to worsening economic problems in the United States.

The solution for monkey mind begins with awareness. Is the way we are thinking contributing to our health and happiness? If not, we need to ask ourselves what we want to be thinking?” So often I have no intention as I go about my day. In the case of my daily Tai Chi practice, my intention has slowly changed over the years and even from day to day. At first I just wanted to practice what we learned in class. Lately, I want to focus in on one particular principle, such as having my body in alignment. Some days what I want is to use the practice to get grounded after having an upsetting experience. In another example, today when I walked to the mailbox I wanted to be thinking about my love for the people to whom I was sending St. Patrick’s Day as well as about using the walk to keep my body healthy. I found that my posture improved by focusing my mind, and I am sure I looked a lot more friendly.

We can use the visual reminder of monkey mind to change our behavior and to be a little bit happier from day to day.