Practicing Tai Chi or any martial arts after an injury is an excellent opportunity to learn or relearn basic principles. I recently sprained my ankle. After a few days of taking it easy on my affected leg, I practiced some forms and was reminded of how important it is to connect with the bubbling springs.
Every time we bend our knees and hips to lower our center of gravity, being grounded in the sole of our foot allows the structure to carry the weight instead of the soft tissues. A small deviation away from balanced structure is felt immediately with an injury somewhere along the chain of pearls connecting our feet with our spinal engine. Moving slowly through the forms also allows us to listen to the rest of our structure as a small change outside of proper alignment can be felt with the injured tissues.
A couple of principles of martial arts apply here:
- The fundamentals are always good to practice and relearn.
- Listen with all of your senses to ensure alignment and connection.
- Be mindful of injury, but do not allow the injury to define you or your movement.
- We can learn our form from anyone, even someone who doesn’t practice our form, even from our own injured body.
“We make vessels of clay,” observed Lao-tzu,
“but their true nature is in the emptiness within.”
The Taoist Arts approach to stillness at least in the guise of meditation is emptying our minds without focussing on emptying or stillness itself. There is no stated goal of Taoist meditation during a particular sitting session. The direction is as simple as, “If thoughts come in, just let them go. Don’t focus on them.” This observation of our chattering mind is extremely useful as it allows us to experience how our particular mind works with the thoughts, feelings and what-nots that lurk within us. Observing this while sitting still in a posture facilitating internal circulation allows us to connect mind and body in subtle ways.
Certainly, there are other martial arts and meditation practices that can help us connect in this manner. The form is not as important as the non-judgmental observing of ourselves. Over time with a long-term practice, we get to know ourselves and how we respond internally to the events around us. This understanding born out of observation enables us to see the myriad things in the world and not be moved by them. Stillness emerges. Once we connect with some level of stillness within ourselves, we are more relaxed and able to weather difficult experiences. Our manager can come yell at us and we respond with calm and listening to what’s behind the words so we can interact in a way to discharge the angst and deal with the problem at hand. Our spouse can come home all wound up from work and we can interact with them in such a way to help them understand they are home and safe. We may find ourselves in a car accident and react as we can to avoid death or dismemberment if at all possible. Connecting with the stillness within allows us to respond appropriately to the situation and it’s needs. This is the function of stillness. We see a need and fill the need. We observe without judgement and do what’s necessary in the short-term while not sacrificing the long-term.
SIDE NOTE: Stillness is an unstated foundational concept of managing the “business of you” I share on another blog at www.bizofyou.com. Instead of meditation, martial arts or other art forms, it looks at ourselves through the lenses of business and systems thinking to ultimately achieve the same thing, using stillness to create the life we truly want.
There is a place within us where all thoughts meet.
This place can not be found or revealed when you seek.
It’s something you pass through when focussing on something else.
It emerges out of the life-long practice of something beyond yourself.
It cannot be taught. It can be shared. It’s feeling with our thought.
It’s thought with our feeling. It’s discovered when peeling
away the layers of pomp, romp and circumstance.
This place of no place is within us all.
It is our center of action
It is simply
to move or react to
what’s happening around us,
This is the place within us all discovered
by some in meditation and by others through interaction.
Stillness is when a mountain crashes down before you and you
remain unmoved. It is being unstirred by the passions while at the
same time embracing the senses, perceptions and fantasies of mind.
Stillness enables our passions to connect and explore without
emptiness of spirit. Stillness is where we all return
when we let go of our need to be
something we are not.