Beginner’s Mind Continued

Beginner’s Mind keeps touching my spiritual journey in ways that make me think there is something in the Beginner’s Mind reality to which I need to pay closer attention. It’s hard for me not to try to figure out why Beginner’s Mind is so attractive. More on that in another blog entry.

First I have had some additional insights into Beginner’s Mind:

  • The room in which my son’s design team works has white boards on all the walls.
  • For a while I could see Beginner’s Mind from inside an imaginary full face motorcycle helmet. The helmet was black. The Beginner’s Mind image came when I looked out through the visor. I often wake up in the middle of the night. Instead of getting up so I could restart my sleep cycle, I would reach out and throw on this imaginary motorcycle helmet. Beginner’s Mind is a very peaceful image on which to focus in order to get to sleep.
  • Sometimes life sends a sucker punch. A normal reaction to such a difficult life situation is to curl up into a ball and cry. An alternative to the crying solution is to look at the Beginner’s Mind image. If I need to curl up into a ball and cry, I probably am facing a radical life change. Beginner’s Mind works really well with new beginnings.
  • I meditate each morning before the day begins. One of my meditations involves trying to discern my Path. I want to see the Path clearly and then my goal is to take one step down the Path. As with any other beginning, Beginner’s Mind is a totally appropriate state to be in before taking that one step on the Path.
  • It seems to me that Beginner’s Mind is a state of internal balance. I am a T’ai Chi practitioner. Balance is one of the fundamental attributes of good T’ai Chi work. The intersection of T’ai Chi and Beginner’s Mind leads me to an article I wrote several years ago which had a section on T’ai Chi and balance.

As an elaboration on this last insight, I am including in the next few paragraphs portions of my article on T’ai Chi and balance. The Yin/Yang image that’s included with the article is a graphical explanation of all of the polar opposites presented in the article and in general of all polar opposites. The image shows that within each yin quality there is a little bit of yang and in each yang quality there is a little piece of yin. Here’s the excerpt:

It may not be obvious that the idea of balance can be an archetypal form. For westerners, the concept of balance is pretty simple. Either something has physical balance or it doesn’t. The Taoist idea of balance is somewhat larger in its scope. On page four of Master Da Liu’s book T’ai Chi Ch’uan and Meditation the following sentences are presented. “On the largest scale, heaven is yang, while earth is yin. Day is yang, while night is yin. Bright and clear weather is yang; dark and stormy weather is yin. On the scale of living things, male is yang, the female yin. Spirit is yang, body yin.”

A recent study on senior citizens and T’ai Chi reported that seniors who do T’ai Chi have better balance than those who don’t. This finding may have surprised some physical therapy practitioners but I don’t think it surprised any T’ai Chi people. T’ai Chi is very much about balance. One of the main moves, repeated over and over again, is to sit on one leg, extend the second leg, move the hands to the desired position, then step forward onto the second leg, shifting the body’s weight to the second leg. A person who stands on one leg with the knee bent will develop better balance. Adding movement of the second leg and arms requires a great deal of attention and a great amount of balance. It is an exaggeration, but just a very slight exaggeration, to say that T’ai Chi is completely about balance.

The balance point in slow set is one type of balance. The balance point in fast set is another type of balance. There are T’ai Chi forms that combine slow and fast movements. There are two-person, three-person and four-person forms. Each T’ai Chi weapon (sword, broadsword, fan, and staff) all have a different balance point. The more T’ai Chi I learn, the more I learn about balance.

T’ai Chi balance extends beyond the physical into emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels. My teacher tells his classes that the T’ai Chi practitioner doesn’t respond to an attack with the fight or flight mechanism. Instead we are supposed to respond by relaxing. As we relax we are supposed to listen through the physical contact of the attack for the energy expressed in the attack. As we understand the nature of the attack, we can decide how to respond. If I am fearful of being hit, I will not be able to use my T’ai Chi training to deal with the attack. The ideal state is to be emotionally, intellectually and spiritually neutral while in a state of physical balance.

In this training, I see another metaphor that can be applied directly to my life. It is pretty ridiculous to think I could take a T’ai Chi sword to work and use it to deal with office politics (no matter how much I might want to take that action). On the other hand, I can take the balance lessons learned from T’ai Chi to work and directly apply them. If I’m under verbal attack at work, I need to maintain my inner balance and listen to the attack, to understand the source of the emotional energy released in my direction. After I understand, I have the opportunity to decide how to respond. The alternative of responding in kind to an attack without thinking doesn’t meet my needs. I want the opportunity to be able to decide how to respond after I understand the situation.

I’m trying to lead a virtuous life. It’s like walking a tightrope while people are pushing and pulling on me. It is absolutely necessary that I maintain my physical, mental and emotional balance while I strive to reach my goal. T’ai Chi is helping me become the person I want to be by providing me with a practical mechanism to become profoundly balanced.

Finally, I think that the Beginner’s Mind mediation is the antidote to the internal chaos I feel from forty years of meditating on the Abyss. The Abyss as I have experienced it is a roiling mass of light and heat. Beginner’s Mind, on the other hand, is peaceful, organized and balanced. It’s hard to imagine two more opposite realities. As I considered these two polar opposites in terms of the Yin/Yang symbol, I immediately realized that the Abyss contains a small spot of peace and order. There is nothing preventing order from emerging from chaos. Looking at the Yin/Yang symbol again, it was hard to see the small spot of chaos in the Beginner’s Mind reality – until I realized I was the small spot of chaos.

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