Sunday, March 4, 2012
Cycles of Learning
It was a balmy 41 F, as we set out for our Qi Gong session in the park at 7:45am. Overcast, like my mood. I was tired this morning, up late last night after attending a performance of the BSO accompanying the 1928 silent film - The Passion of Joan of Arc. The oratorio Voices of Light by Ricard Einhorn was as beautiful as it was intriguing. The emotional power of the actors facial gestures were very moving for me.
As I woke at 6:30am, I had my ready-made excuse to blow off Qi Gong. But why? The practice outdoors with Nianzu Li and others is always so good for me. The collective energy of the practitioners and Mother Nature supporting my individual effort. As we arrived, I noticed that there were more birds singing to the early morn than last week. Tree buds were exploding all around us and the cycles of life continuing. As were the cycles of my thinking. Negative judgmental thoughts of myself and others kept arising as I worked with the exercises. Where was this coming from and why now? Recycled patterns that serve no useful nor higher purpose, but are part of me. The movements are so simple; Nianzu so focused and giving, and I stuck in my thinking. Have I learned these particular movements well enough that now they are moving into the realm of the automatic & habitual and not requiring the active attention that new learning requires of me?
I have seen this drifting attention pattern many times before. An activity moving into habit and lacking the spirit. Yet Qi Gong needs the active participation of both my body and mind to be with the movement to fully reap the benefits of this work. True for every activity, I suppose. When learning a new piece of music, the time arrives when the mind drifts from the playing as a certain level of automaticity enters my hands, my being. Then like this morning, when I notice this drift I need to bring my attention back. How to wake up to this moment I am living; be it doing Qi Gong, making music, or just being with another? Finding and observing my breath is a steady ally and part of our Qi Gong efforts. But today, a pattern of distracted thinking had taken root in my mind and was affecting my efforts.
Despite wanting to walk away and most likely increase the intensity of negative thoughts about myself, I persisted. I paused a few times, to let go of the trying and come back to the doing with varying degrees of success. There were moments of presence within, but today some olde, possibly inherited patterns of thinking were flourishing. I was gentle with myself and this cycle, kept to the practice and know that this too shall pass. And I am grateful for that knowing.
No great happy ending, but at least I was not burned at the stake like Joan. An hour can appear to be an eternity or a glimpse. Thoughts come and thoughts go, do I attach myself to them remains key. The practice of gently working through the various states of mind that arise is the journey. Practice like this in one activity affects all activities. As the Zen saying reminds us - The Journey is the Path.
The bulk of this was written this morning. Nearly eight hours later with a nap and much rest, my energy is still amiss. Perhaps a microbe is highjacking my biochemistry. The negative thinking pattern of this possibility is daunting and eliciting despair. Can I water the seed of happiness in me and accept what comes? Please be gentle with your good selves on your journeys.
Photo by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE