Today's weather: low 70s and humid when we started T'ai Chi Chih class practice. We formed a circle in the shade of a huge tree and, midway through practice, repositioned the entire group in order to follow the shifting, breezy shade as it sheltered us from the sun's hot progress across the morning sky.
It was a busy summer morning: walkers passed, men conversed on the other side of a border of trees, and people came and went from the building where our class is normally held. The earth beneath our feet, though, was soft and wet and it felt wonderfully satisfying to move in quiet unison.
By practice end I was glad to retreat to a cooler spot indoors for tea time and discussion. Our topic today: "Two Wolves in the Heart," Chapter 8 from Buddha's Brain. We eagerly launched into a conversation based upon the brief story author Rick Hanson led off with at the top of this chapter. It told of a Native American elder who was asked how she had become so wise, happy, and respected. She answered: In my heart, there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. It all depends on which one I feed each day. (p. 121)
As Hanson affirms, it's a humbling story. Why? Because it's far too easy to fall into an us vs. them mentality, to forget our oneness with all life, and to selfishly look out for our own best interests. But Hanson also assures us that we each have the ability--grounded in daily actions--to encourage and strengthen empathy, compassion, and kindness while also restraining and reducing ill will, disdain, and aggression.
How do we do this? One simple, direct, and obvious way is to engage ourselves in a daily T'ai Chi Chih practice (or yoga, or Centering Prayer, or?). Day after day, week after week, year after year.
It's not always easy. It may occasionally seem dull, redundant, and useless. But a regular practice has a powerful, positive, cumulative effect. Gradually you realize that you're different from the person you used to be. All it takes is regular, consistent, disciplined practice. These quiet, soft, flowing, peaceful movements will lead you out of an old way of being into something new, something quieter, softer, more flowing and incredibly peaceful. Is it really a new you? Or are you just beginning to re-member who you truly are?