Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas: The Real Reason for Celebration

This is the Christmas holiday season again and my favorite time of the year. We All have so many reasons to celebrate here in the United States because most of us have something to eat, a roof over our heads, and no war raging around us. We are all truly wealthy in an economic sense but this kind of wealth has little use to us in Reality. That is why this time of year is so important to All of us here and around the world. Although the date, December 25th, is an arbitrary date for the birth of Jesus - he was actually born in the Spring - the celebration is what is important. The sad thing, though, is most people have no idea of the magnitude of the great gift Jesus gave us. Established Christianity teaches a superficial interpretation of the teachings of Jesus. Their interpretation has the same problem that All Established Religions have. It and the rest are All interpreted by the left-brain, thinking perspective of the Ego and therefore can Never "hear' the Truth in his teachings. There has Only been One Truth from the beginning of time and has Always been, and Always is, immediately available to each and every human on earth. This Truth is the same for everything in the Universe so it may very well be understood by All of Nature. It is our Ego that gives us humans the arrogance to think we are something extraordinarily special in this Universe. We Are Not! We are actually lost and separated from who and what we really are - thanks to the Ego. So let's get to the heart of the matter - the One Truth.

This One Truth that Jesus was teaching and few have "ears to hear" is Experiential, Not something that can be rationalized or explained. It must be experienced! The teachings of Jesus, which were called "The Way" by him, were called that for a very important reason. A reason that is oblivious to All Established Religions. You see, Jesus walked this earth as a man, just like any other man, long, long ago. No one knows when. While he was an ordinary man, he Awakened to his True Nature that remains hidden by most people's Ego and he realized the Great Illusion that we think is reality. He Experienced the God within us All and over time mastered his Ego. He gained the Wisdom to understand that Cause and Effect, Karma, was the barrier to becoming his True Nature and through his Path with Heart Overcame Karma and, thus, Overcame this material world. His words to his disciples, "I have Overcome this world"! To Overcome anything means you had to be a part of it first. Now, add such teachings of his such as after he performed some unbelievable "Miracle", his disciples were in total awe of this event. His words again, "you can do this and So Much More"! It was no big deal. It was nothing beyond our own abilities - completely Natural and Normal. To those of us "with ears to hear", we understand exactly what he meant. To those of you who are unfamiliar with the way they spoke back then, the phrase " with ears to hear" means to understand. Today we say, "can't you see" or something similar. Back then, Wisdom was generally passed down through word of mouth instead of written material. He made it very clear that few had the "ears to hear" and the rest "knew not what they were doing". It was not their fault then anymore than it is today. The rule is the same though. Only relatively few Can Understand at any point in time. I think it has to do with the evolving soul like the evolving of everything in Nature, but this is pure speculation. All I know is that there are relatively few truly Awakened people while the great masses remain Asleep and are completely oblivious to the One True and their True Nature. Now for the punch line.

Our True Nature is Being One with God. We always are except the Ego hides this very well with all of it's interference. There is no place to go to find yourself and God except within you. We are not supposed to be here in all of this suffering. God is pure Altruistic, Non-judgemental, Objective, and Blissful Love. Period!! Jesus had spent lifetimes Overcoming Karma to Overcome this material world full of pain and suffering yet the Love of God, our True Nature, filled him with such overwhelming Empathy that he literally risk everything by coming back here as a human to show us how to do what he did. Repeat: HOW TO DO WHAT HE DID! His teachings, "The Way", told us exactly "the way" to Overcome this world and join him as his equal. He came close to getting caught up in the vicious web of Karma several times and had to go cleanse himself, get Centered and One again every time. He did this when he went into the desert for 40 days. Just as he had to get away from the chaos to get Centered, so do we. You must find the time.

Jesus accomplished the most difficult thing in the world most likely over many lifetimes of trying to get it right yet he risked everything by coming back here out of Love to show us the Way Home. He did not take any so-called "sins" from us by dying on the cross. He did that to prove how unimportant this material body is and in grand fashion, I must say! You will never "get to Heaven" by just Believing that he was fully God incarnate. Until each of us follows "The Way" back to Home, Heaven, our True Nature, God, we All will die physically, go to a place of complete Peace, Love, and Bliss until it is time to return to School - this material world where all pain and suffering exists. We will All Awaken some day when it is time and hopefully find a true Path with Heart that follows "The Way" that Jesus risk All to come here to show us. If we dedicate our lives to mastering ourselves and our Ego, we just may Overcome this world as Jesus did and never have to come back. Now that is something to really celebrate!!

Merry Christmas to All!

"Hearken to the word; understand knowledge; love life, and no one will persecute you, nor will anyone oppress you, other than you yourselves."
 ~ Jesus

"Ask, and it will be given you;Seek, and you will find; Knock, and it will be opened to you."
 ~ Jesus

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
 ~ Jesus

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Path of Practice

I am writing these posts on T'ai Chi Ch'uan to help everyone interested in learning this incredible "tool" for mastering yourself and rediscovering the Divine within us All, our True Nature. This "Way", this Path, is at the core of the teachings of every Sage to ever walk this earth - Lao-tse, Chuang-tse, Buddha, Muhammad, Meso-American Men of Knowledge, Jesus, of course, and many more throughout all time and all cultures. Tai Chi is but one path out of many that will Awaken us to the "God within" if practiced diligently. There are only two Ways to achieve this Enlightenment according to Bodhidarma, the great Buddhist Sage and founder of Zen. Though there are many paths, they all fall into two categories: Reason and Practice. In the end, however, all Practice becomes Reason.

Here is a good article for beginners. Starting your Practice and incorporating It into your life can be difficult for many so these tips should be helpful to those of you who have difficulty getting motivated and staying focused. Those of you who stay true to your daily Practice will begin feeling the ecstasy originating in your Center, your tan tien, after a few months. Once you start reaping the fruits from your labor, your life will change, your Awareness of what is truly important in life will become clear, and your Practice will become your Path with Heart.


The Path of Practice

by Richard Farmer

The Path of Practice So many people tell me how hard it is to practise or to find time to practise, so I thought I would sit and write some thoughts about my own journey with practice in the hope that they may be of benefit to you. The essential points to get clear are:

    * Where are you going to do it?
    * Who is going to practise?
    * What do you need to help you today?
    * How long do you have today?
    * These questions will tell you - what to practise.

It is important that you have somewhere to practise as by laying your Tai Chi in the same place you build an atmosphere which is conducive. Perhaps the addition of a candle, if it is inside, also helps, but it is not vital. How much space you need depends on what you want to practise, for an exercise or Shibashi for example, you need only enough space to stand up in. To practise the Form you need a bit more and if you do not have enough space, usually by shifting things around you can make enough room. If need be you can shift some of the foot positions, I had one student who developed the Form to fit an L-shaped room!!! He had to make a conscious effort to stay straight in class though. So if you don't have enough
room, make some.

Of course this is true at a deeper level, there are a thousand reasons why we can put off practice, and usually when we need to play the form the most, we feel least like doing it, so it is about being flexible as well as making space.

Space for what? Well, for a start, you. You may think that or a practice to be worth anything you must do at least an hour at 5.30 am. outside in the mist! It must consist of the entire exercise sequence and half an hour of Form before you have breakfast - but with that kind of schedule you will only get round to it about once a month, if ever! Here is the crux of the matter, which You are we talking about? The idealistic, mythical You or the realistic everyday You? Again if we don't recognise who is talking we may never practise and what a shame that would be. So we must engage the everyday You, this is the one that needs and wants the practice and benefits of Tai Chi.

Playing and practising Tai Chi Chuan can be split into two kinds: Practice as a way of becoming Tai Chi and nourishing and supporting us for the coming day; and practice as a way of refining the Art of Tai Chi Chuan.

Let us consider the first. To become Tai Chi is to use the movements to invite ourselves into the body and into the moment. When the mind rests in the body we are in a state of balance, we are not pulling into the future, nor dwelling on the past, but being nourished by the present. Something I say to myself to remind me is "Be peaceful outside, soften the muscles in movement, be peaceful inside, relax the mind, rest here, now". To practise this Tai Chi I may use an exercise or series of exercises - it may take one minute or it may take twenty, whatever I have time for. How long is not the point. The point is to remember everyday to relax, to live, to become present in movement, in the moment as it and I move. A day begun with this reminder has a different flavour than one begun rushing about. So to stand in the Attention Posture, for example, balanced and released has accomplished what practice is for - Tai Chi.

The second aspect of practice, the perfection of Tai Chi Chuan, will take some time. The disharmony of the past will not be undone overnight. So day by day, bit by bit the pieces of the jigsaw are put into place sometimes slowly and
sometimes swiftly. In the RDTC Short Form Book the Practice of Principles section details the stages of Tai Chi Chuan. To supplement that, here is an overview.

    * Know the sequence
    * Uniting the body into one unit using the Yang, spine and Yin Cycle model.
    * Develop concentration.
    * Understand the Chi ball or circle or sphere or the shape of each posture.
    * Move with the dynamic or wave of movement that each posture creates.
    * Use Chi and intention rather than muscles and control.

These are themes of attention and when a posture has these elements it can be said that Tai Chi Chuan is present. Of course some postures will be complete before others, usually the ones we prefer, in fact the reason why we prefer some
postures over others is because these themes are present and so is the Tai Chi, and it feels good. If a posture feels bad, check back over these themes and build the picture.

Practice at this stage would mean taking a sequence out of the form and looking at it through the eyes of the themes, consciously looking for and integrating them. I would choose a day when I had a little more time than a minute or so and through this looking I will become more confident and enjoy that sequence more. This will of course encourage me to approach my practice with joy.

So to have a successful and regular practice, ask yourself:-

Q: What do you need and want today?
A: I want to just relax in the moment, something simple.
Q: How much time do I have?
A: Just five minutes.

Solution - I would choose a simple breathing exercise.

A little everyday is worth more than a lot occasionally, do what you can and above all enjoy the journey - we are not in a hurry. More haste less speed is definitely true of Tai Chi Chuan. Playing Tai Chi like this builds up a positive experience and this makes us relax and want to practise more. It is of course a circle, in this case a circle which will lead you to, rather than away from, Tai Chi Chuan

~ Richard Farmer

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tai Chi and Taoism

Here is an article explaining the correlation of Tai Chi and Taoism. The two are so fully integrated that the Practice of Tai Chi is Taoism expressed and is thus a true Path to Enlightenment. A worthy Path with Heart indeed!


There exists a long history of movement and exercise systems which are associated with Taoism. In some sense one can see elements of all of these as contributing to the climate from which Tai Chi emerged.
Lao Tsu, the founder of Taoism, wrote:

Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight.
-- Tao Te Ching (22)
He who stands of tiptoe is not steady.
He who strides cannot maintain the pace.

-- Tao Te Ching (24)
Returning is the motion of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao.

-- Tao Te Ching (40)
What is firmly established cannot be uprooted.
What is firmly grasped cannot slip away.

-- Tao Te Ching (54)

Stiff and unbending is the principle of death.
Gentle and yielding is the principle of life.
Thus an Army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.

The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.

-- Tao Te Ching (76)

There are some interesting inspirations for the movement philosophy of Tai Chi within the writings of Chuang Tzu, for example:
"The pure man of old slept without dreams and woke without anxiety. He ate without indulging in sweet tastes and breathed deep breaths. The pure man draws breaths from the depths of his heels, the multitude only from their throats." And:
"[The sage] would not lean forward or backward to accomodate [things]. This is called tranquility on disturbance, (which means) that it is especially in the midst of disturbance that tranquility becomes perfect."

This approach is reflected in the entire movement philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan. There is, moreover, a long tradition of Taoist monks practicing exercises. Some of these were referred to as tai-yin or Taoist Breathing. Exactly what these were and what their origins were is obscure but they are mentioned in Chinese chronicles as early as 122 B.C.
Then in the sixth century A.D. Bodihdharma (called Ta Mo in Chinese) came to the Shao-Lin Monastery and, seeing that the monks were in poor physical condition from too much meditation and too little excersize, introduced his Eighteen Form Lohan Exercise. This approach gave rise to the Wei Chia or 'outer-extrinsic' forms of exercise.
Later in the fifteenth century A.D. the purported founder of Tai Chi Chuan, the monk Chang San-feng, was honoured by the Emperor Ying- tsung with the title of chen-jen, or 'spiritual man who has attained the Tao and is no longer ruled by what he sees, hears or feels.' This indicates that already at this time there was a close association between the philosophy of Taoism and the practice of Tai Chi.
In the Ming dynasty (14th to 17th centuries), Wang Yang-ming a leading philosopher preached a philosophy which was a mixture of Taoism and Ch'an Buddhism which had certain associations with movement systems.
In any event the principles of yielding, softness, centeredness, slowness, balance, suppleness and rootedness are all elements of Taoist philosophy that Tai Chi has drawn upon in its understanding of movement, both in relation to health and also in its martial applications. One can see these influences (of softness and effortlessness) in the names of certain movements in the Tai Chi Form, such as:

  • Cloud Hands
  • Wind Rolls the Lotus Leaves
  • Brush Dust Against the Wind
  • Push the Boat with the Current
  • Winds Sweeps the Plum Blossoms
Moreover the contemplation and appreciation nature, which are central features of Taoist thought seem to have been reflected in the genesis of many Tai Chi movements such as:

  • White Crane Spreads Wings
  • Snake Creeps Down
  • Repulse Monkey
  • Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain
  • White Snake Sticks Out its Tongue
  • Grasp Sparrow's Tail
  • Golden Cock Sands on One Leg
  • Swallow Skims the Water
  • Bird Flies into Forest
  • Lion Shakes it's Head
  • Tiger Hugs its Head
  • Wild Horse Leaps the Ravine
  • White Ape Devotes Fruit
  • Yellow Bee Returns to Nest
The story comes to us that Chang San-feng watched a fight between a bird and a snake and in this event saw how the soft and yielding could overcome the hard and inflexible. Particularly significant here is the reference to the White Crane (The Manchurian Crane, Grus japonensis), with its red crest an important symbol for Taoist alchemists.
Certain features of Taoist alchemy and talismanic symbolism have also penetrated the Tai Chi forms. As part of their contemplation of nature the Taoists observed the heavens and were keen students of astronomy and astrology. Movements of the Tai Chi Form such as :

  • Step Up to Seven Stars
  • Embrace the Moon
  • Biggest Star in the Great Dipper
  • Encase the Moon in Three Rings
  • The Smallest Star in the Big Dipper
  • Meteor Runs After Moon
  • Heavenly Steed Soars Across the Sky

Reflect this Taoist astrological concern.
Symbolism was a potent force in Taoist thinking. Taoist magic diagrams were regarded as potent talismans having great command over spiritual forces. They invoked the harmonizing influence of yin-yang and Eternal Change; the Divine Order of Heaven, Earth and Mankind; and the workings of the Universe through the principal of the Five Elements. These were symbolized by the Five Sacred Mountains (Taishan, Hengshan [Hunan], Songshan, Huashan and Hengshan [Hopei]), central places of Taoist development and pilgrimage.
Thus it is no surprise to find that the symbolism of names has, in important ways, infiltrated the forms of Tai Chi. There was a numerological component to this symbolism as well. The number '5' has a special mystical significance to Taoists (and to Chinese in general). There are the symbolic five mountains, five elements, five colours, five planets, five virtues, five emotions, five directions, etc. all of which have a mystic significance. Hence we see five Repulse Monkeys or Five Cloud Hands in the Tai Chi form. There are many instances where the numbers '1', '3', '5' and '7' figure prominently in the structure of Tai Chi.