December 4, 2016
Pam Towne, who is arguably one of the very best T’ai Chi Chih instructors anywhere, wrote an article a few years ago for the Vital Force (the T’ai Chi Chih community’s quarterly magazine) entitled “According with Impermanence.” The very first time I read it, it struck a chord so deeply in me that I actually keep it handy so that I can easily whip it back out every now and again…it’s kind of like an onion: every time I read it I get some new, slightly deeper meaning out of it.
Here are a few excerpts:
Justin [Stone, Originator of T’ai Chi Chih] said that we are here to learn who and what we are and to accord with impermanence. Everything in this physical universe is in a constant state of flux: Autumn leaves fall, our bodies change, loved ones die. Pain comes from holding on to what was, not from letting go.
T'ai Chi Chih practice has so many benefits that we may not generally think of it as helping us to accord with impermanence. Yet it does, at a very visceral level. The simple act of shifting the weight back and forth conditions the body-mind to become more accepting of change, and T'ai Chi Chih has certainly helped me to flow with the changes in my life.
Seijaku [the advanced form of T’ai Chi Chih] is especially beneficial for dealing with impermanence. We begin each movement with softness then encounter resistance. Once we have passed through that denser energy, we return to softness. Repetition of this practice makes it easier to move through challenging life situations and return to inner equanimity. [Both Seijaku and T’ai Chi Chih] cultivate serenity in the midst of busy daily activity and develop inner strength for meeting life's unexpected moments.
So here’s where I’m going with this: if we are to believe that attachment is the cause of all (or at least most) suffering (and I do) then even holding onto old ways of doing things, or old ways of thinking about yourself, or old ways of interpreting what people say can easily cause as much pain as not letting go of a relationship that’s already been over for a while (and most of us over the age of 15 know how painful THAT can be!!!) So it seems to me that the only way to stay relaxed, grateful, and even joyful as much of the time as is humanly possible is to get REALLY good at letting things go!
Now for most of us that’s pretty easy to say but really hard to do! I’ll give you an example: I recently hurt a friend’s feelings REALLY badly. In the end it doesn’t really matter that I did it completely accidentally…since I care about her so much all that matters is that I hurt her and I need to make amends. And if I hold onto old ways of behaving like trying to justify myself, or feeling victimized by her anger, it isn’t going to make my apology go any easier, in fact the opposite is true.
Let’s look at this issue from another angle. Consider also how most people feel about themselves when they have some bodyfat to lose: most folks experience SOME feelings along the continuum of negative self-talk like embarrassment, shame, insecurity, a sense that others are judging or pressuring them, frustration, or my personal favorite “I know I have no right to feel bad so I‘ll just put on a happy face no matter what!” But hanging onto those feelings certainly doesn’t help someone make healthier lifestyle choices…in fact those old familiar feelings often sabotage us before we even begin.
In life it’s easy to fall in to the trap of focusing almost exclusively on the “hard stuff”…it’s REALLY hard to get through, right? But for most people the hard stuff takes up a much smaller percentage of an entire life than the easy stuff, right?
So how does one just stop hanging on too long to old behaviors, attitudes, and stuff that simply is no longer working, you ask?
One of the side effects of practicing any form of meditation is an enhanced capacity for “going with the flow” or, in other words, being fully present at any one moment, rather than constantly reacting to things that remind you of things that happened long ago. But practicing T'ai Chi Chih (a moving meditation) may be the very best choice of all because it’s certainly not THE ONLY way to meditate but it’s most likely THE EASIEST way!!! My next classes begin in just a few weeks so click here for more info.
Photo courtesy of Women Living Well