Silent Illumination (默照)

Silent Illumination (默照)

Silent Illumination (默照)

Today my student asked, “When I practice the Long Form*, in the beginning my attention is highly concentrated on my practice, but as time goes by, it seems harder and harder to keep focused. My attention wanders to all kinds of thoughts; mostly negative, but some positive, past, present, and future. What should I do?”

First it is important to remember, “everything is in a constant state of change”. “There is no permanence”. We are not trying to force ourselves into a “stone buddha in the garden”, that is unmoved by blistering sun and impervious to freezing cold. We want to be fully awake in the present moment, so we can respond appropriately to whatever arises.

Often when the mind is slack and a problem arises in movement, instead of being able to notice it early and having enough time to “nip it in the bud” before it fully matures, our lack of awareness only notices it when we are done with the movement. It is too late to correct it. Instead of “letting go” of it for now (to come back later) we mentally cling as the body continues on to the next movement. Mind and body separate.

Tai Chi is a practice of keeping Yinyang connected. When the mind and body separate, by thinking about one thing while doing another, we need to practice “returning”, as soon as we “wake up” (from our daydream) and see the true reality of the situation.

Left unregulated, a simple thought can easily grow into a strong emotion (frustration, anger, worry, anxiety, fear, nervousness, etc.) that produces negative physical changes in the body (tightness, slow muscle response, shaking, coldness, instability, etc.)

We “don’t use 力 Li; brute force, but 意 Yi; intent”. Yi is described as the Wisdom Mind. Like a horse with blinders, it pulls the plow that cuts a straight row. Its mind is focused on one objective and does not stray far. Unlike 心 Shen the emotional Heart-Mind, that is described like a monkey. Restless and unable to satiate; feeling happy, sad, angry, worried, and afraid whenever situations change, triggering a difficult to control response.

It is through experiencing a difficult and challenging situation over and over that we get familiar with our plight and can learn to deal with it appropriately. It takes patient effort and consistent practice to make a substantial change in ourselves. If we simply run away, avoid, or indulge our emotional self we will never develop an unmovable mind, determined to meet its objective.

Tai Chi Chuan can be an excellent form of moving meditation, that trains the mind just like the movements train the body, by keeping the “mind in the body” and using the sensation of feeling to respond appropriately, while avoiding falling into the trap of entertaining an emotional dialogue with ourselves.

*This practice should take a minimum of 25 minutes, but can take up to an one hour.

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