Open The Story [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Put on your swimmies for a dive into the esoteric.

It was hot last night so I lay awake thinking and that’s never a good thing for the people – like you – who pay attention to the random things I write or say. This is what I thought in the heat of the night: Saul always instructed me to look beyond my opponent and place my focus in the field of possibilities. “Look a hundred feet beyond your opponent,” he said.

It’s universally true that a mind needs something on which to focus. And, left untended, most minds will focus on complaints or problems. During my tilt-at-windmills-consulting phase I’d tease my clients with the notion that, rather than eliminate challenges, people create them. We need them. We call them hobbies. Or play. Or problems. After all, stories are driven by conflict and we are, at the base, storytelling animals. It’s worth noting that a great collaboration is not the absence of conflicting opinions but the capacity to use the heat of creative tension to find/discover a third way.

What does this have to do with Saul and the field of possibilities? A focus, to be useful, needs to be specific. What exactly does the field of possibilities look like?

The reason our untended minds sort to the negative is that the negative is usually concrete, an easy fixation. Fear is a clear picture – even when imaginary. Obstacles are easy to spot. Possibilities are rolling and amorphous. Changeable. It is the nature of a good possibility to shape-shift.

The masters of meditation mostly tell us to soften our focus. Or to let the thoughts roll through the brainpan like clouds; do not attach to what we think. Do not take ourselves so seriously. Practice flow instead of the hard fixing of thought.

And, therein is the source of my late night esoteria: the mind needs something to focus on. Or does it?

If I soften my gaze, if I look beyond the problem-of-the-moment to a vast field of floating possibility, am I tossing myself into a feedback loop? I lay awake wondering what the field of possibility might look like if it was graspable. Some people make vision boards for just this reason. Quinn used to hum and fill his mind with lyrics.

Tjakorda Rai laughed at me and told me I needed to “open my story.” At the time I thought he meant to take responsibility for my story. Now, I know exactly what he meant: let it flow. Get out of the way. The demons and monsters and fears and problems and challenges are…passing things. Story fodder, nothing more. So look beyond them. Flow. Focus on the flow. Open the story.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FOUNTAIN

Root And Fly [on KS Friday]

“Inspiration does exist but it must find you working.” ~ Pablo Picasso

At some point I realized that all of the good guidance I have received, all of the masters that I have admired, made statements about Roots & Wings.

“A writer writes. A painter paints.” ~ Tom McKenzie

“You must write 10 bad pages to arrive at one good page.” ~ John Guare

“Live on the plateau (in the present moment).” ~ George Leonard

“Cultivate your serendipity.” ~ Tom Quinn

I remember Jim E. teaching actors not to push their voices to be heard but, first and foremost, to root down into the earth.

After years of practice I am approaching the lesson that Saul taught his tai chi students: stay on the root and the energy will move you. He also taught me, on a brilliant Saturday morning when I was trying to bend the world to my will, to look beyond my opponent into the field of opportunity. It is two ways of saying the same thing. Root. And the wings will appear. Root, and possibility will find you.

Work at the easel, and inspiration will arise.

all of Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s gorgeous blog post on ROOTS AND WINGS

give me roots, give them wings/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Face The Wind [it’s Chicken Marsala Monday]

thewindCHICKENprimaryimageBOX copy

superheroes product BAR copy

Saul taught me to look beyond the obstacle and, instead, place my focus in the field of possibilities. How I experience my life is largely a matter of where I decide to focus, what I choose to see.

Life, I’ve learned (or finally accepted), never stops throwing new things at me – challenges & opportunities. And, when looking in the rear view mirror of my life , I am generally hard-pressed to distinguish between what was a challenge and what was an  opportunity. The challenges became opportunities, the opportunities brought a basket of challenges.

The winds of change blow all the time. As Chicken, like Saul, reminds me on this Chicken Marsala Monday, the winds of change are never an obstacle. They are a constant force (called life) moving you, moving all of us, to learn, to grow. They are an invitation to turn our faces into the wind, look to the horizon and appreciate the ride.

SUPERHEROES gifts and products

read Kerri’s blog post on The Wind Never Stops Blowing You

www.kerrianddavid.com

the wind never stops blowing you/designs ©️ 2016/2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Accept The Gift

This morning in Tai Chi Saul spoke of his teacher and his teacher’s teacher and soon we students were aware that we are the burning point of a tradition that reaches back thousands of years. We were suddenly alive in a moment that rippled into an unknown future and a distant past. Our study was revealed as a link in a chain. Our weekly meeting dropped into a greater context and mattered in a grander scheme of things. Our practice was no longer about the perfection of a sequence of moves; it became an orientation to life. We realized that we are participants in a tradition in service to the vitality of life as it flows through us and expresses in the world.

I’ve written often about my lessons during this remarkable year, primarily about the release of control. I can control my thoughts. I can control where I place my focus. That’s about it. I can intend (a process of thought). I can control my action (also a process that begins with thought). My work (and I hope my growth) has been about getting out of my way. My lesson over and over has been about listening and letting go. I’ve been amazed how letting go always brings riches unimaginable. Holding on, forcing, resisting, pushing, trying to make things happen always diminishes me – and everyone around me. It has brought great heartache and even greater harm to people I love.

My tai chi practice now extends beyond the studio. Saul tells me to empty. He teaches me to listen. I have become a monk in my studio cell and I spend my days listening and drawing. This morning he led me into a deeper practice when he asked me, “What is your concern?” He showed me how I was orienting myself according to my opponents need. “Address your concern,” he said looking beyond me before adding, “Look into the vast space before you and place your focus on the horizon. Put your energy on a point on the horizon and move to it. Your opponent is incidental. Your opponent gives you their energy, their resistance. Accept the gift and do not give away your energy. Address your concern. You are your concern.”

His lesson: do not engage with the resistance. Do not invest in the obstacle. Place your focus on a point beyond all of the mind games and move your chi in the direction of your chosen point. Move your chi, and yours alone. Others will move their chi as they will. Stop giving your chi away. In this way, you will drop into your present moment. You will drop into your eternal moment and the masters of the tradition will join you there.

(896. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.)

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Begin With A Charge

780. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Given my post yesterday I laughed out loud this morning when Saul-The-Chi-Lantern started talking about the cult of exhaustion that is sweeping the nation. He said, “Have you noticed how many people start their morning by saying, ‘I’m exhausted?’ Why would someone choose to start their day exhausted?”

Now, isn’t that a world-class question? The choice of exhaustion comes to those who believe they have no choice. After Megan hammered my thick noggin yesterday, I’ve been looking at my choices.

Saul led us through a section of the form before picking up the thought. “People talk of tai chi as some kind of cult but given the choice of starting your day with a vital charge or starting your day exhausted, why wouldn’t you choose to begin each day with a vital charge?” He laughed and continued, “I want to get things done when I get up in the morning. A vital charge is useful. I guess I belong to the cult of people who desire to feel good.”

A month ago I was in Holland with an international group of coaches. They were talking about their health care and the number of weeks of paid vacation they get every year. One of the participants asked me why Americans were dedicated to working so hard. Essentially her question was about why we are so dedicated to exhausting ourselves. Balance is not high on our priority list. Scratch the paint and look beneath her question and find a deeper inquiry: she wanted to know how I explained the gap between our identity as free people and our national dedication to servitude. We work for health care. We work more hours by far with less time off. We seem okay with the every increasing gap between the haves and have-nots. Sequestration is the best we can do because the other options would require us to take a look at the gap and its drivers. I had no answer. Denial didn’t seem satisfactory. I didn’t want to say, “We think we have no choice.”

And then I flew home and promptly exhausted myself. The universe has never been subtle with me when I need to pay attention to something. Saul’s question followed Megan’s admonition. Stillness, listening, and choice.

Saul returned to the practice saying, “Exhaustion makes no sense to me especially if I can avoid it.”

Begin And Begin Again

766. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Today, one and a half years since I started my tai chi practice, we learned the 37th move of the Cheng Man Ch’ing’s 37 posture T’ai Chi Ch’uan form. It is incorrect to suggest that we finished anything. In truth, we have only just begun. This type of practice is never finished. It is like a fine art form. There is no end to the study. It is an infinite game. The actual sequence of movements is merely the armature upon which the real learning of the practice is constructed. I’ve learned the sequence and now am ready to learn.

After the session we went across the street to celebrate completing the cycle at the teahouse. Saul-The-Chi-Lantern told us his daughter scolded his choice for celebration. She thought cupcakes or chocolate cake was more appropriate for celebrating. She told Saul that tea was no way to celebrate anything! The notion of a tai chi celebration makes me laugh. It seems like a paradox or perhaps fodder for a cartoon that might be found in the New Yorker.

During our tea celebration I talked with the other David who has been a student of Saul’s for over thirteen years. David is a life long meditator and sought Saul when his meditation practice plateaued. He told me that meditation is not something that happens in your head. Meditation is embodiment, dropping into the body. It made sense to me as meditation often begins with a focus on the breath. Years ago he felt stuck in his sitting meditation and happened upon Saul. He told me that this tai chi practice has changed his life. It restored and invigorated his meditation practice (another paradox). To David, there is no separation of spiritual and the every day. “It is all a spiritual practice,” he said.

I can’t explain it and would have a hard time providing details but this practice has changed me, too. I am more grounded. I am less stressed. I am easier in the world and feel more clear about what is really important and what is not. I’m less apt to rush. I don’t keep lists anymore. I’ve stopped watching the news or any television for that matter. I don’t want to be distracted from living. Rather than fill it up with stuff I want to open it, taste it, touch it, and feel it.

Earlier in class Saul talked of emptying ourselves. “When you empty yourself it will be as if you catch a current of energy or air and it will carry you along,” he said. “Ride the air.” He told us that it often happens after practicing for a few hours that he thinks the world has gone mad. “I go into the world or go home and there is so much stress to get things done. There is always a list, a bulb to be changed or a hole to be dug. I feel as if I just returned from the monastery to a frantic world lost in preoccupation.”

Get Almost Naked

745. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Saul-The-Chi-Lantern shared two bits of wisdom this morning. The first was his secret for remaining free of the chaos of domestic life. When he returns home and finds the vacuum is running, all three televisions are blaring and there is an implied list of things for him to do, in his words, “I get almost naked. I take off most of my clothes because it will appear as if I am about to take a bath.” He suggested running a little bit of bath water just to support the illusion. He said, “In this way, you remain aloof of the confusion. People will leave you alone.”

Once, while exiting the freeway on my way to the Polyclinic, I saw a fully naked man walking leisurely down the sidewalk and, as proof of Saul’s theory, no one bothered this man. Most, if not all pedestrians and motorists alike steered clear of the fully-naked-man. Though a true scientist would argue that my assertion is false. Had the sidewalk man been nearly naked instead of fully naked he would prove a better sample case.

The second bit concerned intentional party behavior wisdom. Saul told us that as a young man he had the reputation for never sitting down at parties. People assumed that his capacity to stand for hours at a time came from stamina developed from his tai chi practice. Saul said, “This was not the case. I was dedicated to continued sampling of the appetizers on the table but had to mask my repeated visits to the table. Too many visits to the food table is not polite. My stamina had nothing to do with tai chi and everything to do with my dedication to food.”

There you have it. Pearls of wisdom for living a good life: 1) Get almost naked to remain free of the chaos. 2) Make several trips to the appetizers but do so in a subtle if not polite manner.

In case it slipped by unnoticed, be aware that both pearls are essentially studies in the fine art of creating illusion. 1) Pretend you are taking a bath. 2) Weave an illusion of stamina so you might graze the snacks without calling attention to your real intention.

Saying, “There you go! 70 years of wisdom reduced to two essential pearls,” Saul spun around and led us into a silent practice of the form.

Receive The Gift

617. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Push hands is a core practice in Tai-Chi. It is a done facing a partner, forearm-to-forearm, feet rooted to the floor, moving to sense the center of balance of the other person. If it were a game, the objective of push hands would be to knock the other person off balance.

I am a novice and am learning that the skill is to not assert force, which seems counterintuitive. In my western mind, if I am to knock my partner off balance, I need to push; I need to assert. It’s called push hands, after all! But that is not the case. As Saul-the Chi-Lantern says, push hands is a “listening energy.” Pushing with force knocks you off balance, not your partner. Listen. Feel. Stay rooted in your center. The skill is to feel my partner’s center and the moment they move off their center, I help them, no force necessary. I use my partner’s energy, helping them move further off center, moving them in the direction they are already going – off balance.

There are life metaphors a-go-go in push hands. Today there were two in particular: first, it is too easy for me, the novice, to focus on the moving hands and forget about the still center. The power is not in the moving hands, the power is maintained in the still center. A powerful person is not distracted by the moving pieces – we live in fast-river world with no end of rapidly moving pieces – it is easy to lose center with so much pulling at our attention. A variation on lesson one: a powerful person does not push with their arms (that is to assert force, thus throwing myself off center); a powerful person pays attention to and operates from their center. They sense. They feel. They listen. They move from their center, not from their extremities. The mind wants to assert, to force, to achieve; the mind is all about moving from the extremities. Power is in process. To force is an attempt to control; the moment I attempt to control, my partner supports my attempt and launches me across the room.

The second lesson was even more potent for me: power doesn’t feel powerful. It feels like helping. Push hands is a great exercise in creating power-with; there is no defeat, no winner and loser, there is a greater and greater capacity to listen, to embody a potent center, to support your partner in occupying their center. As Saul-the-Chi-Lantern often says, “Learn to receive the gift.” Translation: occupy your center; stop trying to make things happen; surrender your need to resist: Listen. Participate. Use what is right in front of you and amplify the energy. Help your partner stay in their center is the best way for you to learn to inhabit your own.