Thursday, January 12, 2012

Into the Heart

The T'ai Chi Chih class sessions last night were wonderful. After our continuing class practice--the energy in the circle was absolutely fabulous--I asked our group of seven: Isn't it terrific that, even when we make mistakes in our practice, we do so with grace? (And I wasn't simply referring to physical grace; I was also thinking of the mental/emotional/spiritual balance we learn from our practices that helps us accept our mistakes and imperfections with 'grace' instead of self-blame or irritation.)

The beginning class was filled beyond its maximum capacity and enrolled students seemed to have more experience with, and interest in, meditation, chi flow, and the like. That makes teaching easier for me because students are open and responsive to the hidden (or not-so-hidden) potentials of activating, balancing, and circulating the Chi. To the beginners I said: I can't convince you of the healing powers and benefits of T'ai Chi Chih; you need to practice to experience the cumulative benefits of this moving meditation for yourself.

This morning's class practice began late due to the winter-like (shock!) weather conditions. I traveled 40 mph to class and the three students who arrived were 10 to 20 minutes late. It was tense driving and I could feel the tension during the first portion of our practice. Eventually it faded away as our minds and bodies relaxed and became more attuned to each other.

During our post-practice discussion of Buddha's Brain, Chapter 12, "Blissful Concentration," I asked students to articulate how T'ai Chi Chih practice helps us strengthen our attention when considering the five key factors that Buddhism teaches for steadying the mind (p. 193):
Applied attention--initial directing of attention to an object, such as the beginning of the breath

Sustained attention--staying focused on the object of attention, such as remaining aware of an entire inhalation from beginning to end

Rapture--intense interest in the object; sometimes experienced as a rush of blissful sensations

Joy--gladdening of the heart that includes happiness, contentment, and tranquility

Singleness of mind--unification of awareness in which everything is experienced as a whole; few thoughts; equanimity; a strong sense of being present
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation helps us to experience all of these aspects of mindfulness and, as the authors of Buddha's Brain assert, With practice, concentration naturally deepens for most people (Lutz, Slager, et al. 2008). (p. 193)

I was particularly struck by the fact that the fourth item mentioned in this list was "joy" since Justin Stone named this form: T'ai Chi Chih Joy Thru Movement. When I see the smiling faces of my students at the end of each practice, I know without a doubt that this moving meditation has traveled beyond the mind, through the body, and into the heart....

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