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Cultivating Stillness

As far as I can remember, I have always had a self-practice. Nevertheless, the pandemic situation reoriented my self-practice toward the foundation exercises even more. Before the pandemic, it was important for me to do Taoist Tai Chi® practice as much as I could. Due to the lack of available space, especially in the winter, I had very limited room for self-practice. Therefore, by following the instructions of our leaders that were given at the Saturday zoom meetings, I focused on the foundation exercises and some parts of the Taoist Tai Chi® arts set. I have to admit that was a challenging reorientation of my self-practice that I found quite challenging at the beginning.

My focus during my self-practice of the foundation exercises was on the instructions that were given on the last two LIT retreat weeks, the one in Orangeville and the last one in Dunedin. I also included in my routine chanting practice.

I noticed during the practice of the foundation exercises that it required focus and intention. Where was my mind and my heart during my practice? Was I just doing the moves like an exercise for the sake of doing it? Or on the other hand, I had to constantly pay attention (focus) on how I felt inside and what was happening without judging, but as a neutral observer. I often believed that my focus and train of thought were getting worse, but I have to humbly admit to myself that I am noticing more how my mind is constantly wandering around. It is really a meditation of staying in the current moment.

Ironically, I noticed the same phenomena with my chanting practice. Yes, at the beginning, the difficult part is physical and just keeping up with the chant and the group is challenging. Gradually, as I got used with the chanting text, my mind started to wander around and got distracted, similarly as when I practised the foundation exercises. I thought to myself, how can I avoid it or decrease the intensity of my distractions or of my mind wondering? I discovered that it was important to ensure that I applied myself diligently to pronounce each syllable as best as I can, also an instruction from a leader. My pronunciation of the chanting words must be like striking the fish, precision with focus and an intention to come from the heart.

I have noticed the stretching and opening of the body or maybe that the tightness is the same during the practice of the foundation exercises as during my chanting practice. For instance, if stretching occurs along my thigh during the foundation exercises, often the same stretching will happen during the chanting practice. I also observed that it varies from one day to the next, depending on my state of mind and the situation.

My self-practice made me realize even more strongly that the whole body is stretching, from the toes, under and on top of the foot and all the way through the body, around the head, above the teeth and behind the eyes. It is difficult for me to explain it. The Saturday morning sessions that we had over the past year helped me to put words and images of the body as to why this is occurring. I feel blessed that our directors are holding these sessions to help us improve our understanding, which will help us to help others even more.

With my self-practise, I noticed that it was calming my mind and that a certain stillness was setting in. This improvement in stillness enabled me to promote a better harmony within the family, at work and in the community. I found that a quieter mind helped the physical practice and chanting, which in return calms the mind even further. It seems to be like a circle of continuous self-improvements, where there is no end or finish line, just practising and aiming at being a better person. These improvements provided me with a better focus and enable me to help others more efficiently. Of course, as I look at myself, I realize that I am the same person, with many shortfalls and improvements to be made, but I am hopeful that I will be able to look at myself more clearly.

I would like to sincerely thank the Directors of the FLK for providing us with the directions and encouraging us to practise and help others.

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