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The mind and heart can engage with and conquer outside forces

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There is no out there for the mind, yet that same mind constantly gives us opposite challenges along the way.

Over time, my understanding about the foregoing concept has ripened to include the following:

Before Ajahn Thanasanti became a Buddhist nun, she was pinned to the ground by a bear while hiking in India. As the bear chewed on her head, she quickly transitioned from terror to a recognition that she was going to die, and to be with the experience and transition; the context is the Buddhist tradition (probably not exclusively Buddhist) of experiencing a positive transition to death. At one point she summoned OM to herself, and soon after the bear ran away. Years later, a bear came up to her in Colorado, sniffed her knee, and ran away. What a great example of the powerful effect of chanting powerful mantras and being calm.

Baba Ram Dass relates how he once sat to be sketched for an artist at her request at a party, after he had taken LSD. Without changing his facial expression nor posture, he visualized himself in various scenarios, to the point that the artist erased and finally gave up, proclaiming: “I can’t do your face. It’s like putty. It keeps changing.”

At t’ai chi practice one day, a senior student of my teacher Julian Chu initiated an exercise with me to see the difference of what happens when someone pulls on my arm when I do and do not focus my mind into my arm. When I focused my mind into my arm, relaxing it the entire time, he had much much more difficulty moving my arm by pulling on it. Of course, t’ai chi megamaster Ben Lo can prevent people from moving his arm with even tremendous force, saying he puts his mind into his fully relaxed arm.

Ajahn Thanasanti survived her bear attack through being one with the moment, and probably having compassion for the very bear that was about to extinguish her life. Ram Dass made an artist unable to paint him through his being playful in his mind. The two t’ai chi teachers I have discussed above practice daily, believe fully in the power of t’ai chi, and know the power of putting their minds into their actions. The outside forces around us can either be a distraction to curse or a new opportunity to welcome in developing and checking our ability for our minds and hearts to harmonize our world.