Thursday, May 12, 2011

Conscious Competence

Yesterday we sighted our first two hummingbirds. I should say, we heard a familiar buzzing sound then saw a tiny body flit around the corner of the house. Right on schedule! Years ago someone told us that hummers typically return to this area around Mother's Day until Labor Day.

As if on cue we immediately jumped out of our chairs, made nectar, and found, filled, and hung feeders. Just one more sign of spring.

Today Frances and I prepared our home for a visit from her brother and sister-in-law. It was excellent timing to have a T'ai Chi Chih class practice this morning. It placed me in a relaxed and receptive frame of mind. I don't stress out as much as I used to when I'm preparing for guests. Frances and I finish what we finish prior to the arrival of our guests and trust that the rest of the preparations were unnecessary or will happen later. That's a very good attitude to have!

During this morning's TCC class I noticed that latecomers to the class were still in high speed mode as they joined our circle. Predictably, some of us who began the practice on time were drawn into the faster pace.

After practice I suggested that it would be helpful for those who arrive late to spend a few minutes quieting their minds and bodies before joining our circle (either by settling themselves in the hallway before entering the room or by taking a few minutes in the circle to breathe and focus their attention, feel the energy in the room, and try to match the level of quiet relaxation before joining in our practice). Also, I asked class members already in the practice circle to maintain their slow, calm, quiet movements in spite of the heightened energy around them.

As we all know, it is difficult to keep a slower pace when others are rushing (just think about what happens when you drive on the freeway). Still, it's a valuable exercise in mindfulness to focus awareness on the pace of your practice when you practice alone as well as when you practice in a group. So often the speed of your practice is affected by the thoughts in your mind. When we practice in a group, however, the speed of our practice can also be affected by the thoughts that are in others' minds.

How do we maintain our focus and equanimity? How do we coordinate our movements with the movements of others in our practice circle? How do we learn to recognize the occasions when we are spun up and take responsibility for slowing ourselves--body and mind--down? It's a worthwhile challenge and pursuit.

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