As always, I get surprised at how and where these Tips come from. They appear suddenly and grow until they feel ready for releasing into the air. This tip is no exception. On Wednesday, we had a little birthday party in the Studio to celebrate Art’s 80th. Many people, myself included, don’t make much fuss about birthdays and holidays. My wife and I tend to celebrate each day as if it was special, in our own way. I certainly don’t fault people who make a big deal. If it is fun and has meaning for them, I’m all for it.
Art has been a morning class participant for many years, and did a bit of Tai Chi, but it wasn’t his cup of tea. Art is a special person. There is always a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eyes, a song escaping his throat, and a ready joke for any occasion. We all love him dearly.
He is fortunate to have a wife, Barb, who supports him, encourages him, and lifts him even higher. They are a truly spiritual couple, whose every action is designed to help others attain a union with the holy spirit. My life has been charged by knowing them for the last several years.
Great, but what does this have to do with Tips? It came with a vision I just had about Art and Tai Chi class. In my mind’s eye, I saw Art reaching up toward heaven with his left arm, holding onto the right hand of the Great Spirit. And his right arm and hand is reaching out to all of us, to give us the charge we need to reach the higher planes of Being that we know and experience on rare occasion.
And this led me to remembering that when I first started teaching in Tucson back in the 1970’s, we did a lot of group exercises – not only to increase our own awareness, but to strengthen our connection to the Tai Chi community and the world at large. In one exercise, we would stand in a circle and join hands, but in a Tai Chi way. The left hand was held palm upward. The left side is the receptive side, so by having the palm facing upward, we are able to receive energy more easily. This definitely makes us more receptive.
The right hand was held palm down. The right side is the creative side, so with having the palm down, it is easier to send refined energy out. Using this hand combination, we would get the energy circulating, and we would play with ways to increase the benefits of this simple exercise.
Each person has their left palm up and their right palm down. The leader starts by saying “Breathe in”, and everyone draws breathes in, using belly breathing. The breath is drawn in through the left palm to the belly. Then the leader calls ‘Breathe out”, and everyone, using belly breathing, breathes out from the belly, through the right palm. The leader shouldn’t make this breath too long, as some people don’t have the capacity that others might.
The leader calls again, and then instructs the group to breathe on their own with the intention to draw the energy from the whole group in through their left palm into their center, then breathe out, through their right palm into the entire group. What usually happens, is that the circle, no matter how many people, will start to breathe as one, and many people experience the strong feeling of this circulation of energy.
This can also be done as a solo exercise. Stand comfortably. Hold the left palm up with the arm comfortably by the left hip. The right palm is held over the lower belly, just lightly touching. Then breathe in through the left palm, filling the whole body, and then out through the right palm into the belly. This is a good standing meditation. I recommend 10 or 15 minutes, or any amount that feels comfortable.
So I thank Art for leading me to this remembrance. That’s what we are here for – to help others attain self awareness and happiness.
A couple of days after Art’s birthday, I received this email from Barb. I asked her if I could share it with my people. She said she would be honored. So, here is why I care so much for these people.
I am feeling a bit philosophical as Art and I prepare for our silent retreat this week at St. Placid Priory.
What do we take? What do we leave behind? How can we simplify? Who do we hold close? What relationship needs mending?
Our travels to the Benedictine Monastery near Olympia are impeded by the tragic train derailment.
What is so important in our lives that we will not be deterred by barriers … that we will find alternative ways to be one with our values, gifts, earth and each other?
The Amtrak train was speeding, and moving 50 mph beyond the posted limit at a curve. It never made it around the bend.
Take an honest look at yourself. Where are you speeding, and headed for a wreck? What treasure is being left behind in your wake because you are moving so fast? Are you overlooking a curve or side road that may lead you somewhere glorious? Are you afraid to slow down because you may see the true refection of what God is calling you to be?
“Too many questions,” you say. “Maybe,” I respond. “Yet I am convinced there is something here that will tickle or prick your comfort zones.”
Throughout Advent, I keep this empty corncob creche filled with hay in front of me. This symbol brings tears to my eyes and strums a tender chord in me at some deep place in a way that I cannot fully express, nor do I need to say.
My dear friend, what is waiting to be birthed in your soul? What emptiness yearns to be filled? May exquisite new stardust formations emerge from the cloud cover and sparkle for you. We are visitors to this beautiful and fragile planet. Nurture what is precious in your life .. in your actions and in your heart.
One year from now, we will look back and marvel at the year’s reinventions, much of which are unplanned. You WILL be different.
I love you, and wish you all the sweetness that will arise from the corncob crib.