Archive | December 2011

Watching Your P’s And Qi’s

“Full lotus, now, everyone.”

Meditation calms; qi gong relaxes; studying the Tao enlightens. So, why does this lead to such bad behavior from some practitioners?

Some brief etiquette reminders:

1. You are not the Dalai Lama (unless you are the Dalai Lama, in which case, OMG, the Dalai Lama’s reading my blog!!!). Spending an hour a day doing tai chi, yoga, or reading the Tao Te Ching may teach you a great deal. But it does not make you all-wise and all-knowing. Kenneth Cohen talks about how in studying Taoism, students often hit a point relatively early on where they suddenly “see” what the point is. Or what “a” point is, in reality, which they take to be the whole point. After this, a certain “Eat my karma, buddy” sets in. You can tell just by looking: the person walks around looking humble and superior at the same time–the “head bowed smirk.” Think of it this way: you wouldn’t learn to play chopsticks and then look down on someone who could only play “Doe A Deer.” You’ve learned something; but “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

2. Don’t push. Don’t push me into full lotus when my hips can only manage half. Don’t expect me to be able to lay my forehead on the floor in forward bend. Yes, it would be lovely to be as flexible as you. I’m not and many others are not, as well. The same can be true of more mind and spiritual practices. Maybe you really can visualize your body rising on wheels of fire out of your lower Dan Tien. But if someone else can’t, there’s no point in trying to nag them into it. When they get there, they’ll get there; and if they don’t but still feel great trying, well how cool is that.

3. Keep it real. If you want to live on a mountain top, alone and undistracted, that’s fine. If you don’t have kids, a partner, a job, a full life. But if you do have responsibilities, don’t use your mind/body studies to absolve you of them. I’ve seen people shut the world out when the baby needs changing, the dishes haven’t been done, the cat’s tail is on fire: “This is my meditation time.” OK.  But I suspect the great Tao masters put out the fire first.

4. Live your practice but realize its and your limitations.

5. And above all, be nice. It’s kind of what these practices are all about, right?