Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What story do you want to tell?

Zero. That's the temperature. In the morning quiet I'm once again overcome by all things white: white sky, white ground, white falling from the sky, white resting on tree branches. Other than the ever-present stark brown presence of tree trunks, the only other shade of color before me is a dark blue-black streak of bruised sky spreading across the rim of the far horizon.

During this morning's T'ai Chi Chih practice I realized one elemental fact: It's not about doing ... it's about being. And, yes, I've thought and heard, realized, and verbalized this vital theme many times before. Yet it's also true that I frequently and  repeatedly forget it.

Is it possible to simply be in your body during your TCC practice? There's no need to push your weight forward. No need to grasp, pull, push, or manipulate balls of energy. No need to bend over, forward or back. Quite simply: no need to do anything.

Just inhabit your body in this moment, now. Experience your connection to earth and sky. Feel your breath. Observe the weight moving along the soles of your feet, back to front, front to back. Notice your arms and hands floating out and away from your body. Notice your thoughts circulating. Let them go.... Pay attention to how good it feels to be wholly in this one slow, relaxed moment as if that's all there is.

That was my morning practice. And ... it felt wonderful. It reminded me of last week's discussion after TCC class practice. One student in the class commented that she allows herself to move with the flow of energy and simply enjoys the feeling it brings. It's obvious when you watch her. She moves softly and smoothly with a look of pure peace and enjoyment on her face.

Too often we get caught up in how we appear, what we think we should do, and what we think we're missing. I was reminded of this fact when Frances and I watched The Audition on DVD last night. This documentary takes the viewer behind the scenes of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions. It brings us into the lives and final preparations of 11 contestants readying themselves for their first appearance on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

The Met staff who coach these 11 hopefuls during their final week of preparation repeatedly remind them: You're telling a story. What is the story you're trying to tell here? You know what you need to do. Just let yourself do it.

For teachers and long-time students of T'ai Chi Chih I believe this same advice holds true. Once you know and have practiced this form over and over again, year after year, your body retains the memory of what needs to occur. All you must do is get out of your own way and follow the energy.

It's clear that the mark of an accomplished singer, musician, actor, or T'ai Chi Chih player is the way in which she or he embodies his or her role. I see many stories told through the way my students move. The tension in their bodies, the busyness in their minds, the need to push through something, the desire to be perceived in a particular way, or a pure unrestrained enjoyment of the practice.

What's most important is the ability to rest in the moment and trust the energy. If I (you) can do that, we can do anything....

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