Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nurture the Root

Cultivate the root.
The leaves and branches will
take care of themselves.
          -- Confucius
This quote is an ideal teaching--and reminder--for t'ai chi chih practice. For me, the leaves and branches represent the hands and arms. While the hands may move in circles, push forward and back, carry balls to the side, and pull taffies we must always be aware that our upper body motion is stimulated by t'an t'ien and the shifting of the weight. Even though the moving arms and hands may be what most people notice--and what many t'ai chi chih practitioners focus upon--the true power and inspiration for the movements comes from below the waist.

As I further refine my practice--and as I learned from Sr. Antonia this past weekend--I feel the root in the soles of my feet but also in the palms of my hands as they sink down toward the earth and in my tailbone. Just like the roots of a tree or plant my rootlets provide stability and convey nourishment, i.e., life force energy that flows from the Earth into my body.

This morning's continuing t'ai chi chih class in Cornucopia, WI was a wonderful new beginning. It felt good--as always--to experience the Chi with others. There were numerous comments offered after our circle practice about the ways in which our attention moved away from practice to ? (Each person had a different focus point or lack of focus.) We agreed that our coming together again after a two-month break was timely and welcome.

Post-practice I shared some of my experiences at the TCC Retreat in St. Paul. It was obvious to all, myself included, that I'm eager to share what I learned and to continue to integrate new learnings into my own practice. One of those learnings--an important one--is to remember to connect with your root....
                                             Why/Why Not?
     One time some students from out-of-town came to visit me. After doing some T'ai Chi Chih together, the conversation became more general. As is usual, someone asked about reincarnation (a bad term).
     I pointed at the trees in the courtyard. 'It is autumn now, so the leaves are falling from the trees,' I explained, 'but they will be back in the spring. Is that what you mean by reincarnation?'
     'Oh, those will be different leaves!' they rushed to point out.
     'Why identify with the leaves?' I asked. 'Why not identify with the tree?'
From: Spiritual Odyssey: Selected Writings of Justin F. Stone, 1985-1997, p. 37

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