How is it that a martial artist who trains in deadly fighting arts can also be a peaceful person who advocates for peace
and non-violence? There are probably as many answers as there are martial artists. When this issue was brought up in class
one day, we had a great discussion.
Here's another angle, developed by Joseph Laycock, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner who teaches at-risk kids in a big-city
high school. In his This I Believe essay (http://thisibelieve.org/essay/18333/
), he says that in the current school climate, "students need a teacher who is still willing to fight. When I work the heavy
bag until I feel faint,... I am cultivating the strength of will necessary to make a difference." Read or listen to his inspiring
What Makes Practice, Practice? I hope you find inspiration from this lyrical and revealing piece written by my friend Kim
Ivy. It is at http://embracethemoon.typepad.com/100_days_of_practice/2008/03/what-makes-prac.html and was written as part
of her One Hundred Days of Practice program that begins around the Lunar New Year. While there, you can learn more about the
program and read more of her insights. Kim owns and runs Embrace the Moon Taijiquan and Qigong in Seattle (www.embracethemoon.com).
My mind has been immersed in the issues of life and death in the past few months, much of which relates to the practice of
qigong, taiji, and martial arts. My elderly and declining mother had been living with me for the last few years and I've been
privileged to witness the passing of her life into death. Combine that with a common perception that there is something spiritual
about qigong, taiji, and martial arts (which I don’t really understand and have been trying to figure out) and there
is lots to think about!
I've been reading many things, including A Year to Live by Stephen Levine. Below are a few things he says that relates
to when I often say in class: to feel what is going on in the body, don't think; make it happen in the body without telling
it with the mind; and that when we first start to learn this stuff, we need to analyze the parts to get them to do the right
thing but ultimately we want to feel the whole working together. When we start to "get" this in some small way,
we can become more aware and more present in our bodies and in each moment, which can open us up to greater things.
"When we look into the contents of consciousness by which we define ourselves, we find that nothing lasts very long.
... Life lasts only a moment. Then another moment arises and dissolves into the flow. We live our life from instant to instant
never knowing what the next unfolding will provide. ... We realize that every experience of our lifetime has been impermanent,
except one. ... This underlying sense of being is as present as we are, and does not change from birth to death. It is the
constant hum of being in our ever-changing cells. When we look directly at this sense of suchness, when we enter it, when
we sit quietly within it, we discover that it is endless. ...
Don't try to name it... It is pure awareness before consciousness begins to stir. It is the space between thoughts. ...
It is the formlessness upon which form depends, the deathless which dies again and again just to prove it never dies.
Anything that can die, will. That which cannot, won't. Find out for yourself how to take the teaching from each of these
aspects of being and how to integrate the whole into a heart that cares and serves. That which is impermanent attracts compassion.
That which is not provides wisdom."
When practicing Taiji, Liangong, or other Qigong (especially when preparing to move (in Liangong, the introductory music
before each Series, and when the body is relaxed and the qi flows):
"Explore the body you sit in. Observe the scintillating field of sensation we call the body. Notice sensation's wordless
quality. Its sense of simply being humming throughout the body.
Go within sensation to that subtle presence by which the sensation is known... Settle into that sense of being, of aliveness
vibrating in each cell... Let awareness sink into itself. Know what knows...
Don't ask the mind, which always limits itself with definitions, ask the heart, which cannot name it but always is it...
Since birth there has been only one experience that has never changed: the experience of simply being. Not being this
or that. Just being... Consciousness depends on the presence of awareness, but awareness depends on nothing, it simply is.
... Watch with your true eyes the appearance of an essential wisdom and a compassion so great that no one you love will ever
die alone again. And neither will you."
For the New Year
Deafened by the voice of desire,
you are unaware
the Beloved lives in the core of your heart.
Stop the noise and
you will hear His voice in the silence.
This piece below was written by my friend Jan who teaches Taiji in B.C. (For those of you who've experienced the Guanqifa
qigong exercise, it is her CD that I use.) I love how she describes things, including this example of internal vs. external.
Taiji is Qigong at a high level. Liangong is Qigong at a beginning level, so there is lots for Liangong practitioners to learn
from Taiji! For more of Jan's writings, visit http://www.janparkerarts.com/index.php?main_menu_id=1&content_id=1218
Taking Chances (6/13/07)
She walked into the room with a bit of a strut and said, "ok, I'll give this qigong a chance." I smiled and
said gently back, "the qigong, will give you a chance."
I've been described as a compassionate smart ass. I don't mind, as long as the compassion part is there. My smart remarks
come out of my mouth before I know it, and I trust you know, they come with love. Simple and honest communication is how
I prefer to hear things and so in turn, I tend to say what I mean and mean what I say. There have been enough times in my
life where things were not explained or where no one said anything or they spoke around the obvious. Today, I tell you what
I see. It keeps me sane, and I count on my teachers and students to do the same.
One of my favourite lessons from Sam was at a four day push hands seminar in Ontario. Sam was correcting a student there,
and you must know, I hear and listen to every correction and assume it is for me, whether he is speaking to me or not. He
said to this student, "you need to stop judging every move." At first the student was a bit put off, and seeing
this, Sam came back with, "give this instruction the same weight, you would if I had said drop your shoulders."
We study an art where harmonizing the inside and the outside is the goal. So, for some reason when we get corrections
on the outside, we take them just fine. Instructions like drop your shoulder, put your foot here, adjust your hips, turn your
waist - we take them because they are expected in a Tai Chi lesson.
Like the looking at the vastness of the ocean, when we correct from the outsider's view, there is something missing, the
unseen part. We are only looking at the surface not the depth of it all. This practice goes deep and the internal part --
that is the hard part for a teacher to see and work with. We can only work with what is shown to us, but good teachers, look
deeper, they see more and must risk going into someone's life.
I do it with courage, humour and sometimes, smart remarks. I'll ask you to open your heart, your mind and to feel and
spend some time with what is going on inside yourself. I am not surprised when someone starts to tear up in my class. I cried
pretty steady in the beginning of my lessons with Sam. Because dropping my shoulders and learning the next move were only
outside corrections, they were easy compared to dropping the attitude, the judgment, and the fear I had. Being able to open
my mind and let go of pre-conceived ideas, was a lot harder for me than memorizing a form. It was also, a lot more rewarding.
I'll say it again, if you go to a Tai Chi or a Qigong class and no one is laughing (or sometimes even crying), you should
Have the courage to let this art give you a chance. Show up each day. Go inside yourself, slow down and notice not only
your shoulders, but the path that leads to your heart. Become aware of how you take in instructions. I'll do my best to be
aware of how I give them.
Enjoy the journey,
This one (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5065006)
is Martha Graham talking about dance in her 1953 "This I Believe" essay. I think everything she says would be
true if you replace "dance" with Taiji, Qigong (Liangong), or martial arts.