Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why I Am Here...

Photo credit: RJ Woodbine
In four short weeks, this first semester here will end. I have experienced so much in a relatively short time period. All of my learning has been rewarding. In the past two weeks, we've accelerated our focus on the Taijiquan form itself. Today, we completed the first set of kicks after "Search High for the Horse" in the second chapter. Along the way, we've learned the basic application(s) associated with the patterns and it's made executing the form much more relevant than what I would have studied independently.

One of the revelations I experienced about ten days ago is how to have the hands and legs arrive at the same time (i.e., when doing Brush Knee, Step Forward). The rear leg is the source of the power that is directed by the waist and ultimately expressed through the torso and then the arm-hand. However, when stepping forward, my tendency was to lead with that leg/knee and invariably my arm/hand would arrive after my hips had squared and settled. What I discovered is the necessity to plant the heel and foot of the leg stepping forward and establish that root first as the rear leg gradually transfers the momentum upward and forward through the hips and waist, torso, arms and hand until all settle the wrist as one cohesive body movement. A beautiful sensation to experience and much easier on the forward stepping knee.
I thought I was sufficiently prepared for the physical demands of the daily training schedule; especially given the investment I made in conditioning for the ten months prior to starting in September. I was off a little in my estimation...I've had to learn to pace myself and modify my short-term training goals accordingly.

Two weeks ago, I also had an unexpected physical challenge with an unknown source of exposure to Poison Oak. I strongly suspect the vector was the dog who often runs through the woods chasing who knows what. I had been in the habit of massaging his ailing left hind hip/leg. I was exposed to Poison Ivy in 2015 (source unknown) and needed medical intervention then because I was having a systemic inflammatory reaction that would not abate. Here, again, my response was severe enough that I had to go to the emergency room after three days of treating it myself.

The medication I was prescribed eventually controlled my systemic reaction, but took a toll on my system along with the severity of the Poison Oak itself. Partner training was challenging; especially on those days when we had to have contact on my forearm (it was covered at all times and there was no threat of exposure to anyone). My arm was swollen, painful, and acutely sensitive to touch. My sleep was affected as well as my energy and emotions. I am just now feeling physically like myself though two days ago I was exquisitely fatigued from the training schedule, my personal conditioning routine, the aftermath of the medication and the Poison Oak slowly resolving.

Then, there was the emotionally stressful result of Tuesday's presidential election. I've never bought into the notion that as citizens we actually have freedom of choice in an historically two-party system that vigorously only offers two options-Republican or Democrat. Typically, this always leads to selecting the lesser of two evils rather than addressing the actual needs that may be voiced by non-traditional parties and platforms. And it's clear to me that when it comes to the presidential election process, the popular vote is one without teeth in representing the will of the people. However, the illusion of inclusion is a necessary strategic device to minimize anarchy.

That this country elected a man to its most powerful office who openly and blatantly espouses and encourages both personal and institutional racism, misogyny, and who is a pathological liar speaks loudly to both the gullibility (the president-elect is quoted as having once said he thought Republicans are very stupid and easily led) of a vast majority of people and an intrinsic and inherent dissonance of spirit in America. Many have now been given license to exercise their tirade of hatred (and fear) of the 'Other' without concern of reprisal or need to hide underneath hooded white sheets. The threat of fatal bodily harm is a real one and, unfortunately, is nothing new historically in America (genocide of so-called Indians, slavery of Africans, Japanese internment, the Tuskegee experiment, etc.).
However, in my estimation, the challenge is much deeper than the mundane, albeit dangerous, practice of institutionalized racism. It is a spiritual struggle between Light and Darkness, not white and blackness. The more people can be distracted by the prestidigitation of race, gender, class, etc., the less likely it is that they will respond en masse to the root causes that affect even those that believe they are privileged.

Ultimately, that is why I am here on "the mountain." These disciplines of Taijiquan and Qigong are an avenue of spiritual cultivation to learn to "be in the world, but not of it." It is not a strategy of disengaging from the world, but rather one of engagement based on spiritual clarity and empowerment that widens the aperture of Light to shine brightly on the darkness. It is an investment in the cultivation of self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and respectful interdependency that honors the spiritual Light in each of us without the fear of or need to profit at the expense of the other.

Character is what you do when no one knows you're doing it.