Please give a listen to talks from my teacher, Master Ji Ru (Shifu) on how to develop a more peaceful life for yourself and everyone else too!
No bootcamp or insanity. Just nearly daily showing up for some aerobic work and some light weights. Fitness walking with my husband, which is a real challenge, because for every one of his steps, I need to take like, three. But we’re learning how to adjust for each other. It’s fun.
Why am I do this? Because it really has been hitting me how much it seems that we tend to treat the body as if it was just a convenient vessel for toting our brains around. But, the body is so much more and sometimes, it can feel like so much less. When we are in even basic shape or fundamentally fit, the body is our gateway to so much enjoyment in life. It just makes doing everything easier and more pleasurable, from getting out of bed in the morning to being with friends and family, even going to work! But when the body is out of shape, unfit, it affects everything we do in the negative. Everything becomes physically harder and more tiring. In this state, our mind can not function well either, because the un-ease of te body pulls the mind down, constantly pestering it with a pantheon of troubles and pains.
Of course, the mind screams at us then, suffering the terrible injustice of physical suffering. And we tend to identify with our physical suffering, don’t we? We become our un-ease or dis-ease. We say things like, “My arthritis, my diabetes, my aching back,” and so on. And that, changes us from merely having some physical discomfort to full-on suffering.
Alas. So what’s a poor body to do?
A couple of things maybe. How about some modest exercise and meditation?
Through mindful attention to the body we can rediscover that the body can be our friend again. We need to proceed, step by step and we need to have a goal. I believe in gentle challenge, reasonable goals that slowly take us towards our destination. While in meditation, we let go of ideas about getting anywhere, because what we need is actually already right here inside us, with getting the body fit (as with other sorts of goals) it helps to know where you want to go.
How you define that is up to you. Maybe you want to climb the stairs without strain and feeling winded. Maybe you want to lose weight. I’d suggest that even if you think you want to lose a lot of weight that you start by breaking your big goal down into smaller, manageable goals so you can see, measure, know your gradual success. It’s not wrong to aim high, but realize that even Olympic athletes get to such levels of achievement through years of steady, determined application of effort of the body and mind.
And where does meditation fit in all this? Very simple, a little meditation helps you let go of stress by giving you a chance to stop thinking all those stressful thoughts, worries and obsessions. It’s also a lot easier to let your mind go quiet after some physical activity. Just sit and breathe. Try to just be aware of the feelings of the body, just as they are. Sensations that will come and go. Try to breathe and observe the sensations without any judgement of like or don’t like. See if you can resist the urge to scratch every itch. Wiggle in place. When I first started to meditate, I felt awfully itchy suddenly. No sudden bug attack, only the mind wanting to distract me from what I was doing.
With this, as with the physical activity, start small. Try one minute. Then two. Go for three if you are up to it. Step by step. Add time as you feel comfortable.
So, be patient. Be determined. Set a schedule for your exercise and meditation plan. Then, go for it. Step by step. Take action and as the saying goes, be the change you want to see in the world.
Let me know how it’s going? What works for you? How do you keep moving toward your goals?
And if you think you need some help, give me a shout. I’m glad to help. You can try a group class if you like or a private or semi-private training for your body and your mind.
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The cold returned to Chicago today …felt very March-like … in like a lion, you know? So, maybe that’s what made it double-nice to go train hard this evening.
The full album is on the Facebook page but here are a few of the pictures. We’re definitely getting ready for World Tai Chi Day so come on in and join us for the fun and peace of body and mind.
I think the Buddha had a very special understanding of what life is. He made it very simple: just bring your mind back to this moment. Don’t let the mind go any further than this. Then your mind will be very clear. When the mind is always in meditation, you can handle hardship, more than you know.
See what you see now. Do not try to see the future. In order to see clearly what you see now, you must clear the mind of distractions. In this country, we are taught how to think, but not how to stop relying on thinking. When you stop relying on thinking, there is no worry or fear, and there are no problems. The mind is the object, and the object is very clear when the mind stops depending on thinking. Learn to abide in conditions, not to abide in your wishes.~ Master Ji Ru (Shifu)
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Great, clear results from yet another study that shows meditation is good for the brain, helps you learn better and see reality more clearly. Plus, it’s a great stress buster. And no, you don’t have to sit like that!
Introduction to meditation, 8 week class starts in Feb. at Calm Chicago. call us to learn more and register.
1. Calm Chicago has new beginner classes Saturday and Sunday! Pick your new class time!
2. Taiji (tai chi) is great zero-impact exercise for all ages. It helps fight chronic diseases, high blood pressure, stress-related illness and is great preventative medicine.
3. Taiji (tai chi) can be an awesome part of your resolution for a healthier more mindful, peaceful you this year. With taiji you build up a stronger body/breath and mind all while enjoying simple to learn movements that feel good from the very beginning.
body, breath, Buddhism, Chan, Chicago, christmas, Compassion, dharma, enlightenment, gift giving, happiness, karma, loving kindness, meditation, Metta, mindfulness, Peace, practice, qigong, retreat, sitting meditation, tai chi, taiji, wisdom, zen
My father, Irving Gompers Isaacs, World War II veteran and retired rag-man, if he lives long enough to make it to Feb 13, 2011, will be 91 years old. His face is pink. His eyes grow more dim and puffy with each passing day. His face is round like the moon, a fact emphasized by his nearly total lack of hair. He has Alzheimer’s disease.
Together we’ve shared a lifetime of struggle. The usual things you’d expect. Some, maybe not so much. We’ve lived through your basic family discord. For him, and those of us who care for him and love him, life has become in many ways, very simple. Some of those things have to do with the kind of basic human functions we usually associate with the beginning of life. Potty training. OK. You get it. In the interest of everyone’s dignity, I’ll say no more.
He’s happy to hold my mother’s hand. He likes a really good hug. Despite his advanced age and deteriorating mental condition he’s got the grip of a steel worker. And, he can still do crazy complex math equations like nobody’s business. When I visit he says, he grabs my hand or hugs me hard and says, “I’m not letting go.” And I know what he means.
In his eyes, I see a strange mix of holding on and at the same time, a letting go occurring slowly, involuntarily, inexorably. Against his will we’re sliding away from him and he from us. Sometimes, he’s embarrassed about it. He covers well with those he doesn’t know so well.
With me, he looks at my dog and asks, “What’s his name?”
“Oh, yeah. Tiger.”
Count 1 – 2 – 3 …
“He’s a good dog. What’s his name?”
Other time he merely squints at us and says, “Glad to see you.” His face crinkles. He looks for my mom who may not be in the room to explain who these strangers are. She does a very nice Nancy Reagan.
“Oh look, dear,” she says. “Look! It’s Matt here to see you.” His face hangs for a moment uncertain. Neurons fire somewhere.
“Oh yes!” He says, his voice full of confidence real or feigned. He puts on a good show.
Through the slush puddle my father’s mind has become, certain things rise to the top. Basic human connections. Simple expressions of love. And this is what strikes me as I write this column, thinking about what I might have to offer here about making the holidays mindful. Joyful. Meaningful.
This year, let’s try to let go of how it was. How we wished it should be but maybe – never quite was. How it should be. How it might be if only this, that or the other thing was different. We can try to let go of what everyone around us says they want. Family squabbles over who cooks what or who gave what to whom, or sent a thank you card or failed to do so. These things have more to do with our confused sense of a permanent self and little else. At the end of the (holi)day, we have bigger fish to fry. (If you’ll pardon the expression.) Other greens to cook.
I have to say that sometimes, in the interest of trying to have a happy holiday, we get lost in being responsible for how everyone else feels. Or how we think they might feel. Or how we think they might possibly want to feel. (We do this naturally. After all, this kind of thing is our every day habit.) In the end, honestly, what do we get? Holiday comfort and joy? Or suffering?
The fact is, we each own just one thing. Our actions. There are three kinds of actions. What we do, say and think. How often have you tried to make everyone happy and only ended up with a plate full of distress? There are times when no matter what, others may be dead set on grumbling, holiday or no holiday.
The truth is, the things we do have no direct relation to how others feel. (Because all those others? They own their feelings, thoughts and deeds, just as much as we do!) We often try to pin this kind of thing on each other but it’s just one of those habits, we’re best off relinquishing.
On top of our own personal circumstances, let’s face it. The world could use some genuine, mindful attention right now. This holiday season … instead of getting wrapped up in various passing family dramas. Let’s see if we can focus on the bigger picture.
When we quiet our minds, so much irrelevance falls away. We can let go of habitual holiday practices that don’t actually benefit anyone. Real happiness and peace comes from seeing clearly what is and being okay with that. We don’t have to struggle so much. Or grumble about the holidays.
So … to close, I’d like to share something my teacher wrote. Take it in. See what makes sense to you. So, what ever your spiritual tradition, what ever your faith… check it out …
Some people say Buddhism is pessimistic. Buddhism is not pessimistic. It is not optimistic. Buddhism is realistic. It asks us to remove the fog that clouds our thinking. When our minds are clear, we can see conditions clearly; and, when you see conditions clearly because you have mastered your mind, the struggle ends. Then, moving from moment to moment, you joyfully accept all conditions.
Problems are not bad or good. Problems are situations requiring a solution. Solutions that work come from clear minds. We are faced with very big problems at this point in our history. Pollution, poverty and war, for example, threaten all of us. These problems are increasing, not decreasing. Soon, scientists say, these problems will be out of our control. But, so far, our solutions have been lacking because our minds are not clear.
Having not mastered our minds, we are unable to see conditions clearly, and we continue to struggle. Now, time is running out. We have to learn how to see conditions clearly, through meditation and practice. We have to learn to master our minds. There is no other way.
~ Master Ji Ru (Shifu)
I send wishes for everyone’s peace and happiness. Let’s take a moment together. How can each of us give the greatest give of all this holiday season? That of seeing clearly, and acting in ways that allow each of us to move through life blamelessly. Let’s do our best to make the world a better place by making each action, thought, and word no matter how small, with a pure heart and the intention to be of benefit.
Buddhism, capitalism, Chan, Chicago, Compassion, dharma, do it yourself, enlightenment, environment, green, happiness, karma, loving kindness, meditation, Metta, mindfulness, Peace, save the planet, zen
It’s easy. All you need is things you already have.
One Part – brown sugar
It’s one thing to talk about global warming and saving the planet. But the truth is, it can feel so overwhelming to fix anything. But we must not get stuck in that feeling. And that’s why I love this idea.
The cold truth is, none of us needs to, or can, save the Whole Planet by ourselves. Clearly, this is a group effort. Remember the saying, Think Globally. Act Locally? That may really be a serious key to solving many problems we face on earth.
Rather than waiting for our respective governments to do anything, or for big businesses to fix it – we can, each of us, do small simple things that are pretty much FREE that make a difference.
And then what we get is a ripple effect. Except friendlier. What we can avoid is more storms like that one. Instead …
Each one of us, a tiny piece of a larger whole – acting more mindfully, trying something new, like this enzyme made from kitchen garbage, water and brown sugar.
What we get is a healthier body, household, community, planet.
And yes, the link has a great deal of Chinese in it…don’t let that throw you. There’s enough english and photos to make it pretty clear. And if you have questions – by all means, send them on. I’ll be looking into updating the text some to make the info even more accessible.
Drop us a line about how it goes.
body, breath, capitalism, Chicago, Compassion, happiness, job, loving kindness, meditation, Metta, mindfulness, multi-tasking, multitasking, Peace, qigong, sitting meditation, stress-management, stress-reduction, tai chi, taiji, work, zen
If we rush our taiji practice, what are we doing? We’re rushing through taiji just so we can check that off our list of things Very Busy People Do, so we can rush to the next thing – get that done – check it off and the next and the next and so on …
And we do this all day long.
Maybe if we see that long list of things checked off, we feel like we can stand back and say look at all I accomplished today. Or, maybe when we rush around, the feeling of frenetic activity gives us the delusion that we’re Working Very Hard. And that’s like, the American way.
But we should not let ourselves be fooled. Rushing around, frantically with no mind on what we are doing because half our mind is already thinking about what we have to do next or what we forgot to do yesterday and what we’ll have to do tomorrow because surely we’ll run out of time today … Feel like you need to breathe right now from all that rushing? Me too.
One of the main points of taiji practice is to let go of all that, all the worldly concerns (not forever) and just relax and be fully present in the moment. Present, fully aware that you are breathing, moving the body, slowly, mindfully. Now, isn’t that better? We practice taiji not to get somewhere – but just because it feels good. Our mind and body come together with the breath and we begin to restore some balance, bring some softness, flexibility into all aspects of our being.
Not a bad deal for an exercise that requires no special equipment! So, try it. Sneak off at work into an empty room, an under used hallway, even the bathroom and grab a slow five-minute taiji or qigong break. (OSHA recommends that office workers take five minutes each hour away from their tasks for best health and performance.) You’ll save yourself a lot of visits to the doctor in the long run because you’ll be healthier. And your company will even safe money because you don’t miss work because of illness produced by stress.
Will your first session of taiji turn you into a perfect human specimen? No. But over time, you’ll see a big difference.
Taiji is one of those things that makes us feel better from the very first time we do it and is something we can practice for the rest of our lives.