Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dan Menzel - Newsletter 2010

On the cloudiest of days,
the sun still shines the best, 
however it shines only above the clouds, 
yet it is shining non-the-less!

I may not always see the many different circumstances in my life in this light at first, but it is definitely there. The key I have found is to stay soft (or open) to the many possibilities in each and every circumstance that arises. Especially in our perceived busy, intense, trying times that exist while dancing in the wake of our current societal frictions. I've found it is best to find the positive side to every situation. There is always one present if only I am willing to take the time to ground myself within...

You may ask, "How does one confront these troubling situations in life?" I must respond, "With Tai Chi principles of course!" As I will try to illustrate to you here, and as I always try to instill in myself and in my students, Tai Chi practice is not only the physical act of doing the form. It is also the focus on the details of everyday life through the eyes of a Tai Chi practitioner. The style we practice is known as the "long form," not because it takes so long to go from the beginning posture to the final posture, but because it is all one continuous flow of postures, including all of the subtle "in-betweens", that is never really ending. My Tai Chi training has shown me over the years that life is the same. It's not merely Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., but one continuous flow, including all of the subtle "in-betweens." It is less like "I can't wait until Friday" and more like "every day is like the weekend.”

What does this mean? Tai Chi practice has taught me the importance of internal quiet as I practice. Internal quiet allows me to navigate through the external noises of my life, such as traffic, airplanes, construction, music...well, the list goes on. But there are internal noises as well. Perhaps the boss at work has upset me, or the darn car wont start. Probably the loudest noise to me is my own voice within my head! The plethora of phone numbers, meetings, grocery lists, as well as the stresses of the unknowns, my own self-doubts, endless chatter from within, right? Well, the good news about the practice of Tai Chi Chuan is that it helps me to quiet this internal noise as I concentrate on my practice. The thoughtful diligence I am referring to can be as simple as focusing on breath, or weight distribution, or just spending the few minutes a day exploring the center of my own gravity. Focus on a personal or physical attribute in a positive light, and really give it its due.

Much like a walk within the serenity of the woods, a person walking their own path has many choices. At first glance a fallen tree may seem an obstacle, but through thoughtful diligence I may find my way around it or through it. I might discover a secluded spot beside a beautiful river or amongst a grove of pine trees, and maybe I will be lucky enough for "When is the Best Time for Tai Chi!” Yaaay! What a gift this would be! I believe this is how daily life could (and should) unfold for us all.

One mindedness through the use of many tools crafted by centuries of past lineages.
Oh, the benefits of this simplicity seem endless. The concepts are reinforced by the transformations in various people’s lives that I have witnessed over the years. I have seen how, after just a few months of practice, the calm sets itself into the shoulders and faces of students who started the introductory class with the hope of some kind of relief, and yet a tinge of doubt. And the ones who have persevered in practice, including myself, become like "bees to honey"! As time goes on, the Tai Chi practitioner can then recognize (from a quiet state) where the "noise" is present in their peripheral surroundings, and thus direct or "connect" to that situation by "listening" and using the internal techniques that are encouraged in class. To me, there is no greater gift than to be totally in tune with one’s surroundings. (insert big smiley face here).

The last step is to "apply.” What does this mean? Apply can be as easy as walking in the opposite direction from a perceived conflict. It’s hard to say what the situation would call for. Perhaps it is something as inert as somebody griping at the coffee shop about the price of tahini in Tahiti! Sometimes the most effective positive action can be just a smile, or a pat on the back, or a warm smile and a thank you. You've totally disarmed the griper and perhaps made their day a little nicer. As I shed the din of everyday life and begin to transform myself, I can cause a perceptual change, which, in turn, transforms my surroundings by the way I interact with sureness and calm.

I have learned that Confucius was right about reciprocity being the one word that we should live by. "Do unto others," if you will. The key is to approach everything in life as if doing "the long form.” Everything we do, everything we touch, everything we feel and connect to. One world, one living organism, one life for each of us, which is as simple as breathing air. Let's embark upon this path together through the application of the basic fundamentals of Tai Chi Chuan!

Which, by the way, are presented in the one-month introductory classes and thoroughly explored in the Ongoing Program designed by Master Elizabeth Wenscott and the lineage of Tai Chi Masters before her.
All the best in 2011

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