The ongoing practice of calmness/relaxation, losing the ego, no-self/no out there, and deep listening
Regular Underdog readers know how integral taijiquan is to my life and trial practice, including to achieve and keep calmness in the eye of the storm.
Daily taijiquan form practice morning and night is essential to obtaining phenomenal benefits from taijiquan. I can say that at my best I apply taijiquan principles throughout the day. Nevertheless, it is essential for me to do the physical taijiquan form daily and to do push hands/sensing hands/sparring several times a month for further improvement and to test how well my relaxation and the rest of my taijiquan practice are going.
Before resuming sparring this morning with the group led by the amazing teacher Julian Chu at the t’ai chi court at Cabin John Park (Maryland, Sundays 9 a.m.-11 a.m.) during the summer, I had gone several months without sparring and group practice. Not only was my absence from group practice a matter of competing time obligations (and there always is a way to make time), but also missing some days of form practice (in part because my returned 20111 black ice knee injury pain tells me I need to address that, at minimum perhaps with an x-ray) and wanting to be up to par to resume sparring with this group, which includes many highly accomplished practitioners. Fortunately, I broke that cycle today, even though I had not been practicing the form daily, in part spurred on by inspiring sustained cheering from a group of people in their twenties or so, as I practiced taijiquan late yesterday afternoon in the western side of the Ellipse Park behind the Old Executive Office Building. Practicing with this and other great taijiquan groups improves my practice, motivates me to continue with my morning and evening practice, and spurs m on to be better focused on the path of achieving and maintaining calmness in the eye of the storm.
Here are some things that were highlighted and re-highlighted all the more for me today:
– Calmness and active relaxation (not limpness) are the only way to go in life. No exceptions.
– Lose the ego. do not be fixated on whether I am wasting my time sparring with people who are neophytes who know little about taijiquan sparring. I was a neophyte at it for a long time, and many accomplished practitioners let go of their egos and applied their patience and compassion to teach me.
– Even when a sparring partner is grabbing onto my wrists and using hard energy in their arms and hands to try to push me, that gives me a realistic ability to be ready for what to do when and if a non-taijiquan practitioner tries assaulting me on the street (although accomplished local taijiquan practitioner and teacher David Walls-Kaufman warns that taijiquan alone is insufficient to self-defend against a deadly attack when one is not yet highly accomplished with taijiquan).
– Lose the ego when a less experienced person seems to be gaining the advantage in sparring. Ask what is going on within me and my practice that is not giving me greater advantage over my opponent. The principles of taijiquan must always be followed in sparring. Ego is not one of those principles.
– Life and taijiquan practice is not about evaluating others, but about focusing on myself. When a friend, ally or employee do something that seems to derail my path, and when someone else seems to be crossing my path, I must look within myself about how I can adjust, change and improve, and not focus on criticizing or trying to change the other. Of course, in litigation, I need to try to persuade others, but the persuasion starts with improving and adjusting myself. For instance, how can I convince someone else to stop biting fingernails if I bite mine (which I do not bite).
– Always deeply listen in life, to ourselves and to others (both their verbal and non-verbal actions). Be aware and calmly en garde at all times. lest I lose advantage and become wounded or weakened at any time.
– I m a stronger person, advocate and fighter when having compassion and empathy for everyone else, even my with my most challenging-seeming nemeses.
– I am a stronger person, advocate and fighter by being open to others as much as I am to my family and best friends, not prejudging,, not judging, not fearing, and not putting on armor. The person tapping on my car window, for instance, is not necessarily someone who wants to harass me, or even to panhandle. A few months ago, a man tapped on my driver’s window because he wanted to know the meaning of NMMHRGK on my license plate, which acronym stands for Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo, which is the very essence of being open, peaceful, and compassionate.
– If my arm almost gets broken in sparring (which was a threat twice today when sparring briefly with Julian Chu when he was demonstrating about remaining relaxed when pushed, and with another practitioner of over three decades), I need to ask what I did to enable that risk, rather than getting upset at what the other person did to enable them to getting close to breaking my arm (and neither of these people are ones I could get angry at).
– Sparring sessions are a safe laboratory for experimenting and for not getting sand thrown in my eyes. In court and in litigation, the kid gloves come off. I must at all times remain as calm and ego-less — and apply all the taijiquan principles, including those discussed above — even when in pitched battle with the kid gloves off. To be ready for battle without kid gloves, the safe arena of taijiquan sparring is critical. To be ready for taijiquan sparring, I must practice taijiquan daily. Helping me relax in taijiquan practice is my occasional sitting meditation practice and daily mindfulness practice (where one can practice mindfulness even when walking to the bathroom and even when inside that potentially stinky room that is good not to linger in).
Do my daily taijiquan practice before spending much time reading taijiquan articles. Focus more during the week on practicing mindfulness than reading about it.
Thank you deeply to Julian Chu, my fellow taijiquan practitioners, all my taijiquan teachers, and everyone else who have and who continue to challenge and teach me along the path. Bowing in respect and thanks to you all.