Monday, July 26, 2010

Tai Chi is All Feeling

As you progress past the point of learning the postures and how they flow together creating the form, you must feel the Unity of your Body-Being and let your calm Mind direct your Chi. Your relaxed body will effortlessly follow your Chi. Proper Tai Chi Practice will eventually have your entire body breathing in the Yin, exhaling the Yang, and feeling like a ball of pure energy. It is a feeling of Oneness, Power, and unbelievable Bliss. 


eeling the connection between the movements. Feel the openings and closings, the contractions and expansions, the separations and joinings.
  The whole body is connected as it moves through the form. Feel the connection between the hands stretch as they move apart, and condense again as they circle back together.
  The movement begins in the belly, and propagates outward. If you feel the form in the abdomen, you’re on the right track.

The 13 Principles of Tai Chi:

Sinking of Shoulders and Dropping of Elbows
Relaxing of Chest and Rounding of Back
Sinking Chi down to Dan Tien
Lightly Pointing Up the Head
Relaxation of Waist and Hip
Differentiate Between Empty and Full: Yin and Yang
Coordination of Upper and Lower Parts of the Body
Using the Mind Instead of Force
Harmony Between Internal and External
Connecting the Mind and the Chi
Find Stillness Within Movement
Movement and Stillness Present at Once
Continuity and Evenness Throughout the Form

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Letting Go by Gil Fronsdal

Learning to let go of frustrating events, mistakes we all make, and even catastrophic and traumatic events like I experienced many years ago is something we all must learn to do if we are to ever be truly happy. Meditation in one form or another is the only way to achieve this. There are countless forms from ancient times and newer mindful techniques used today in psychological therapies but they all have one purpose - to learn to live in the Present. Below is an article from The Insight Meditation Center by Gil Fronsdal, a teacher there who received his training under the direction of Jack Kornfield, that pertains to this "letting go". Enjoy!


Letting Go by Gil Fronsdal

Letting go is an important practice in everyday life, as well as on the path of liberation.  Daily life provides innumerable small and large occasions for letting go of plans, desires, preferences, and opinions. It can be as simple as when the weather changes, and we abandon plans we had for the day. Or it can be as complex as deciding what to sacrifice, when pulled between the needs of family, friends, career, community, or spiritual practice.  Daily life provides many situations where letting go is appropriate, or even required.  Learning how to do so skillfully, is essential to a happy life.

Buddhist practice leads to a letting go that is more demanding than what ordinary life usually requires. Beyond relinquishing particular desires and opinions, we practice letting go of the underlying compulsion to cling to desires and opinions. The liberation of Buddhism is not just letting go of outdated and inaccurate self-concepts; it also involves giving up a core conceit that causes us to cling to ideas of who we are or aren’t.  Liberation is releasing the deepest attachments we have.

The practice of letting go is often mistrusted. One good reason for this mistrust is because, without wisdom, it is easy to let go of the wrong things; for example, when we let go of such healthy pursuits as exercising or eating well, instead of our clinging to those pursuits.  Another reason for mistrust, is that letting go or renunciation, can suggest deprivation, weakness, and personal diminishment if we think we have to abandon our views and wishes in favor of the views and wishes of others.

It is possible to let go either of a thing or of the grasping we have to that thing.  In some circumstances, it is appropriate to give something up. In others, it is more important to let go of the grasping.  When someone is addicted to alcohol, it is necessary to renounce alcohol.  However, when someone is clinging to the past, it is not the past that needs to be abandoned, rather it is the clinging. If the past is rejected, it can’t be a source of understanding.  When there is no clinging to it, it is easier to learn the lessons the past provides.

At times, it is important to understand the shortcomings of what we are clinging to before we are able to let go.  This may require investigation into the nature of what we are holding on to. For example, many people have found it easier to let go of arrogance when they see clearly the effect it has on one’s relationships with others.  When we see clearly what money can and can’t do for us, it can be easier to let go of the idea that money will give us a meaningful life.

Sometimes it is more important to understand the shortcomings of the grasping itself rather than the object of grasping.  Grasping always hurts. It is the primary source of suffering.  It limits how well we can see what is happening.  When it is strong, clinging can cause us to lose touch with ourselves. It interferes with our ability to be flexible and creative and it can be a trigger for afflictive emotions.

By investigating both the grasping itself and the object of our grasping, it becomes possible to know which of these we need to let go of.  If the object of grasping is harmful, then we let go of that.  If the object of grasping is beneficial, then we can let go of the grasping so that what is beneficial remains.  Helping a neighbor, caring for your own health and welfare, or enjoying nature can be done with or without clinging.  It is accomplished much better without the clinging.

The Buddhist practice of letting go, has two important sides that fit together like the front and back of one’s hand. The first side, which is the better known, is letting go of something.  The second side is letting go into something.  The two sides work together like letting go of the diving board while dropping into the pool, or giving up impatience and then relaxing into the resulting ease.

While letting go can be extremely beneficial, the practice can be even more significant when we also learn to let go into something valuable. From this side, letting go is more about what is gained than what is lost.  When we let go of fear, it may also be possible to let go into a sense of safety or a sense of relaxation.  Forsaking the need to be right or to have one’s opinions justified can allow a person to settle into a feeling of peace.  Letting go of thoughts might allow us to open to a calmer mind.  By letting go into something beneficial, it can be easier to let go of something harmful.  At times, people don’t want to let go because they don’t see the alternative as better than what they are holding on to.  When something is clearly gained by letting go, it can be easier to do so.

We can see the Buddhist emphasis on what is gained through letting go by how the tradition understands renunciation.  While the English word implies giving something up, the Buddhist analogy for renunciation, is to go out from a place that is confined and dusty, into a wide open, clear space. It is as if you have been in a one room cabin with your relatives, snowed in for an entire winter.  While you may love your relatives, what is gained when you open the door and get out into the spring, probably feels exquisite.

One of the nice things about letting go into something is that it has less to do with willing something or creating something than it does with allowing or relaxing. Once we know how to swim, it can be relaxing to float by allowing the water to hold us up.  Once we know how to have compassion, there may be times when we not only let go of ill-will, but also let go into a sense of empathy.  Letting go of fear, may then also be resting back into a sense of calm.

A wonderful result of letting go is to experience each moment as being enough, just as it is.  It allows us to be present for our experience here and now with such clarity and freedom that this very moment stands out as something profound and significant.  We can let go of the headlong rush into the future, as well as the various, imaginative ways we think, “I’m not enough” or “this moment is not good enough”, so we can discover a well-being and peace not dependent on what we want or believe.

A fruit of Buddhist practice is to have available a greater range of wholesome, beautiful and meaningful inner states to let go into.  In particular, one can come to know a pervasive peace, accessible through both letting go and letting go into.  The full maturity of this peace is when we let go of our self as the person experiencing the peace.  With no self, there is just peace.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Heart and the Tao by Glenn Berger, Ph.D.

 Finding this blog is a real treat for me. I have always seen the contrasts between the social teachings of Confucius and the spiritual teachings of Lao-tse but have never seen the intersection of the two until now. This is of great interest to me and quite a find indeed! It has been obvious to me forever that you can not separate the two because when we are acting in accordance with our True Nature, the social and spiritual aspects of man are identical. Dr. Berger is a student of Confucius and, therefore, has studied the teachings of Mencius too. Mencius lived about one hundred fifty or so years after Confucius and Lao-tse and infused Taoist thought in his studies and teachings of Confucius. He is highly revered by Neo-Confucians as the teacher of orthodox Confucianism. I admit to knowing very little about his teachings though. In this essay by Dr. Berger, you will understand why I have always said that when we are One with our True Nature, we are always at the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. It is not a conscious act but is the "perfect" act that naturally occurs when we are "in the flow" of Tao.  When Lao-tse and Confucius reportedly met, Confucius left their conversation completely puzzled. He basically said when ask about Lao-tse, "I have no idea what he said but he is the wisest man I have ever met!". It is obvious from this essay, though, that Mencius' Taoist influence made it possible for him see a connection.

This is a double delight for me because Dr. Berger is trained in Gestalt Theory - the only theory I studied in Psychology that explained a greater power in excess of all of the parts - ie; God, Tao, Self, etc. I have always been fascinated with Gestalt and it has played an important role in my understanding of Reality and Truth. I hope this article helps you in your understanding why it is so important to stop trying to control everything(Ego) because Everything is already in perfect control when we completely let go(Faith) and just Be our True Nature. Enjoy!


The Heart and the Tao
by Glenn Berger, Ph.D.

In the culminating vision of the Sage, Menciusheart, theHeavenly Mandate, and flood-like ch’i are combined with theTao, or the Way. One accomplishes an alignment with the Heavenly Mandate, or universal law, by manifesting the heart, the faculty of goodness, resulting in flood-like ch’i or fully embodied vitality and courage. The method for living in such alignment is called the Tao, or Way. To quote from “On the Practice of the Mean,” one of the four canonized books of Chinese wisdom, “by ‘the ‘Way’ we mean that path which is in conformance with the intrinsic nature of man and things.”  By following the Tao, or Way, we achieve the moral life by living in accordance with natural principles and we become the profound person. We achieve jen, or authentic human-ness.

It is in the natural order of the universe to have manifested a compassionate heart in humankind. We are also given the faculty of cultivating ourselves. What this means is that we can advance our own evolution. By developing ourselves, we participate in the perfecting of nature. The purpose, telos, or entelechy of the universe is love, where love is the ultimate realization of compassion and harmonic relationship. We are each given a capacity for goodness through our inherent compassion and it is our task to develop this capacity optimally in order to play our part in the realization of the universe. Cultivating the compassionate heart is fulfilling the mandate of heaven. This is what it means to live according to the Tao. As the furthest extension of universal development, humankind finds its optimal harmony with the purpose of the universe when we self-cultivate toward the realization of heart.

We come to an alignment with heart through living according to the Tao. The Tao is the heart in time. The heart is the Tao in us. The heart is the faculty that can comprehend and practice living according to the Way.
When we live according to universal principle, our inner conflict ends: what we should do finds harmony with what we want to do. As Mencius put it,

“The profound person steeps himself in the Way because he wishes to find it in himself. When he finds it in himself, he will be at ease in it; when he is at ease in it, he can draw deeply upon it; when he can draw deeply upon it, he finds its source wherever he turns. That is why a profound person wishes to find the Way in himself.”

In this sense, to develop morally is not to learn moral rules, though these provide a framework for the real learning. Instead, we want to cultivate our hearts, the capacity for knowing right from wrong within. In this way we do not obediently follow some rule imposed from without, but intrinsically do the right thing in any circumstance, as the circumstance dictates.  As Confucius put it, “The profound person, in the world, does not set his mind either for anything, or against anything; what is right he will follow.”

Self-cultivation, or the process of developing our human potentials, is accomplished by living according to the Tao. It is through the realization of our human potentials that we embody the Heavenly Mandate, or universal principle. This embodiment of universal principle is our purpose, what we are meant to be, or our entelechy. The full realization of our potentials is to fulfill our human nature and is the way we come to know the universal law. The full manifestation of our human nature, which is an embodiment of universal principle, is compassion. Compassion is the purpose of the universe. To realize loving compassion is to manifest the entelechy of the universe. When we manifest the potential of the universe, we are at one with the energy of the universe.

For the Confucians, we get “close enough” to the Tao by having optimal relationships in each domain of being. We cultivate these relationships by developing our empathy through practicing the virtues of benevolence, respect, and compassion and we do this by accessing the heart.

The Confucian conception of the personal heart and its interconnection to all other hearts, the heart of the universe and the transcendent spiritual heart, is best explicated in the monumental work, “The Highest Order of Cultivation.” Here is my interpretation of the core of this text.
•    Only once one has an embodied experience of the interconnectedness of all, can one integrate all aspects of the psyche, leading to integration and wholeness; where the parts of the self exist in cooperative relation.
•    Only when we are whole can the potentials of the heart be realized. Only when we are whole can we realize our potentials for perceiving, thinking, feeling, imagining, acting and connecting.
•    Only when we have realized our potentials do we manifest virtuous moral being. Only when we have manifested virtuous moral centeredness can we put our relationships right, having harmonious relationships, meeting the needs of our partners and growing optimally.
•    Only when we can put our relationships right can we have happy, good children and flourishing families.
•    Only when we have balanced families can society be at peace and harmony.
•    Only when society is in order are we living according to the Heavenly Mandate, or the laws of the universe.
•    By cultivating ourselves, we fulfill the purpose of the universe.

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