Greetings. So foggy this morning for practice in the park. There are several fog horns in front and on the sides of me as I play Tai Chi. The sounds are all a bit different and it makes for quite a chorus. An eagle swoops in front of me and lands in a big fir tree to my right. The squirrels run around with walnuts in their mouths, finding places to hide them. This morning practice helped to clear my mind and body from some of the negativity of this election. It really works. Also, a reminder of the upcoming workshop in Sequim on the three dantiens.
Self Awareness, Self Realization, Enlightenment
A few weeks ago, I wrote about he three energy centers or lower, middle, and upper dantiens. These centers get charged with energy, and then refines this energy and propels it up to the next higher level. Our path from awareness to self awareness to self realization to enlightenment can be achieved by constantly refining energy and consciousness and moving it upward through the energetic channels. Every spiritual practice I know of has this process.
I have been thinking of these three terms lately in regard to my Tai Chi practice. Are any of these my goals? Are these by-products of practice? Why am I studying Tai Chi?
I recently asked a class three questions. How many of you are studying Tai Chi for improving self awareness? All hands went up.
How about self realization? A few reluctant hands.
Enlightenment? Giggles and more hands, but less than self awareness.
So much for my amateur poll. But what does this mean for me as an instructor, and you as the student?
Self awareness seems the most simple goal of any conscious health practice. It takes self awareness to look at one’s self and become aware of how the body/mind is functioning. How is my structure, posture, strength, balance? We need to look closely at what we are doing and what we are thinking in order to have a gage of how life is evolving. I can state with certainty that Tai Chi, when properly taught, will lead almost every serious student to a deeper and greater awareness of self. It is designed into the Tai Chi learning curriculum. Without this skill, progress will be hit and miss. We gain a knowledge of our character, feelings, motives and desires as we shine our inner light of awareness on our physical/emotional self.
With self awareness, there is the element of the witness present. This is when we use our higher self to look at what we are doing and thinking. It is like watching a movie where we are the main actors. There is a feeling of separation the one doing and the one watching. It is important not to judge what you see. Just become aware of how you are acting and responding to situations and interactions in your life.
Self realization is the next step along the path. There is a spiritual/religious slant to most people’s thinking when this term is used. There is even a Hindu master’s organization called the Self Realization Fellowship.
My feeling about self realization is that it is when one has fulfilled one’s potential and is aware of it. One is using the skills and talents that one was born to use, and ones that are learned and trained, and one is functioning in this state most of the time. Joy and happiness outweigh sadness and unhappiness, and one can easily slip into the role of helper and teacher. The witness is used much less often as the higher and lower levels of consciousness are united. One does what one was born to do.
Enlightenment is the final, possible level of human existence. It is the ultimate blending of how a human can function and still take part in life. It is usually thought of as a transcendent experience. I studied this path with an acknowledged enlightened being Master Subramuniya, back in the 1970’s. I lived in his home ashram and was his personal chef. I had a lot of time to study his teaching (classical Hindu), as well as his personality and being. What strikes me now, as I think back, about who he was and how he functioned, was that he was almost always completely in the moment. He functioned in the deepest levels of consciousness and he was able to lead us, his students, into places in our minds where we had never been and didn’t know existed.
Yet, he was so human with, what I considered at the time, as character flaws. As I look back I see he was just being who he was, with no pretense. He was an amazing person with a wonderful story. Goggle him and read more if interested.
So, back to Tai Chi. I feel the first step along the path is a feeling inside that there is more to life than what one is presently aware of. A feeling one needs more, and that there is a way to increase this awareness. I personally was seeking and when I saw Tai Chi for the first time, I knew it was a way for me. I knew.
One then moves in the direction of self awareness. We study the form to study ourselves. We work on having some control of our inner and outer body/mind. We learn how to become the witness to our actions. We interact with others on an energetic level.The energy is focused and refined in the lower dantien.
We then evolve into self realization. We act and react appropriately. Our understanding of, and feelings for others is manifested in heart center strength. Our forms are under our complete control. The body does what the mind directs. This is the refining process of the middle dantien.
The final step, enlightenment, happens when the body, mind, and spirit unite and the individual disappears into the cosmic whole. One acts according to the cosmic plan, with no sense of self or separation from others.
When we think of our energy centers, the lower dantien (physical center) is related to self awareness, the middle dantien (heart center) relates to self realization, and enlightenment to the upper dantien (mind, spirit center).
Master Subramuniya once told me that the process of becoming enlightened is like diving into the water. First one part, followed by another, then another, until one is finally fully immersed. It is not all or nothing. It takes time and practice to remain longer and longer in this state, until, one just becomes this enlightened state of being. I, like most people, have had moments of enlightenment, but being able to live fully free at all times, is not most people’s goal. They have work, family, friends, and enlightenment just isn’t a realistic goal. Think of the mystics, meditating in a cave for years.
So, it is my understanding and experience that this path, the path of using Tai Chi to evolve the spirit, has been used for centuries and proven to work. Follow the example of your teacher, read and study the classics, set your goals, practice with faith, and you will attain.