Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Form Vs Speed #5 in The Divine Moment Series

For five years, I studied Tai Chi with Master Cheng of The Atlanta Tai Chi Association.   That was twenty plus years ago, and I've lost my memory of the form though I am presently working to regain it.

However, that isn't what this post is about.

I haven't lost my memory of Master Cheng or his most oft repeated, and often recalled admonition - "Maintain the form."

At the conclusion of my first lesson, I was sitting with the class of twenty or so tai chi practitioners who I'd been trying to emulate for the past hour and a half.  They were meditating.  I was trying to catch my breath and remember everything I'd seen when Master Cheng came in, which is a total understatement.  The man, and I'm not sure even that is accurate either, doesn't seem to touch the ground when he moves.  He's a hovercraft without an engine, I thought.  Then in a move that defies description, beyond noting that it was both smooth and nonstop, he descended to the floor at the head of the group, stopping in a picture-perfect lotus position.

Then he made eye contact and smiled slightly at everyone of us. Bowing slightly, he said in a voice that wasn't soft or hard, loud or hushed, "Questions?"

Guess who had one.  If you guessed me, you're right.  I had caught a glimpse of the third level class practicing before my beginner session started, so I blurted out a question from the heart of my western mentality.  Nodding toward the room where the most advanced class was still practicing, I asked, "How long will it be before I'm as good as they are?"

Master Cheng smiled the most benevolent smile I'd ever seen, and said, "Maintain the form Master Bert, and your question will answer itself."

Then he stood, using the opposite technique as he had employed to sit and floated from the room.   There are some moments in each of our lives that are unforgettably.  That was one of mine.  And, I cannot recall a day since that one, when MC's word's, "Maintain the form," haven't come to me at least once.  It is the most often-practiced teaching I've ever received.

Generally speaking, we, as a species, are not about form.  We are about speed.  Mindless speed.  To cite a minor example, as I type this I find myself going faster and faster until I crash or remember to maintain the form.  Speed for the sake of speed ultimately leads to crashes, while maintaining the form assures success and satisfaction.  It is almost too simple.

From The Divine Moment:

Hear the patterns of sound.
Slow down the tempo
of your apprehension;
bring it to a 
still and endless moment.

This will do, will it not,
for Eternity?

Maintain the form and you will arrive at the answer to that question.     

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Slight Trick of the Mind #4 In the Divine Moment Series

A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, is the book on which the recently released movie, Mr. Holmes, was based.   I've read the book and seen the movie and my comprehensive, albeit short, review is simple.  They are both great.  And, my advice is, read the book before you see the movie.  You'll know why after you have done both.

If you have to do one or the other but can't do both, as much as I love Ian McKellen, my advice is, read the book.  It will last longer and you can carry it with you and, as you will discover, Mitch Cullin is a marvelous writer.

Here's a passage from the book to beef up my argument for the book:

"Not through the dogmas of archaic doctrines will you gain your greatest understandings, but, rather, through the continued evolution of Science, and through your keen observations of the natural environment beyond your windows.  To comprehend yourself truly, which is also to comprehend the world truly, you needn't look any father than at what abounds with life around you - the blossoming meadow, the untrodden woodlands.  Without this as mankind's overriding objective, I don't foresee an age of actual enlightenment ever arriving."

Those words are spoken by the 93 year old Sherlock Holmes to his young friend, Roger Munro.

When I read the passage, I stopped and copied it into my notebook because it is such a beautiful way of restating one of my favorite lines from The Divine Moment, this one:

"A mark of progress
at one stage
is an obstacle at the next." 

Holmes' message to Roger is a great one to use to emphasize what we all must overcome to move successfully through this portion of our evolution as life forms, a process that began eons before we made our appearance on this minor planet, in a mediocre constellation, parked in an obscure corner of the universe, an evolution that will continue long past the time we leave this place on our way to the next.

The guidance we receive in a given moment, no matter how useful or profound, will only serve for a finite period of time and must be released, without regret or hesitation, the moment it no longer serves.

Few of us are willing to release the things that worked so well in the past.  We cling to them long past their point of usefulness.  

Which brings to mind another passage from an old favorite, Illusions - the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, by Richard Bach:

"Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river.  The current of the river swept silently over them all - young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.  Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current was what each had learned from birth.  But one creature said at last, 'I am tired of clinging.  Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going.  I shall let go, and let take me where it will.  Clinging, I shall die of boredom.

The other creatures laughed and said, 'Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!'  But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.  Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more."

The longer you've clung to the teachings that brought you to this place, the tougher it will be to turn loose.  No matter.  Of this you can be sure.  If you have the courage to turn loose, the river will lift you to the surface.