Musings of a Martial Artist/Writer

Temple in the Wudang Mountains, China (Photo Credit: Karney Hatch/Creative Commons)

The Mountains’ Calling

I had a dentist appointment last week, which gave me all the more of an excuse to head out to one of those ‘naturally attractive’ areas for writers. Who can resist the allure of a free-spirited, multi-college region; nestled in the midst of one of Massachusetts’s best mountain ranges? Especially if it possesses a Starbucks café with a view? Writer’s paradise 🙂 For a few years now, if I wasn’t out in this particular location for writing inspiration, I would be there to practice my Tai Chi forms on the summit of one of the main mountains.

For as beautiful and enriching as each of these endeavors could be, I long grappled with a sense of bittersweet sorrow. A longing for something I found hard to put into words. I wondered if I’d spent my college years at a much larger university campus, would they have been any better? The smaller-scale, still-predominantly-women’s Catholic college I attended was nice in ways, but not very socially-fulfilling. I just might have made a lot more co-ed friends, but would they have been lasting friendships? Being lucky enough to find a few, super-close relationships in college and beyond graduation is truly a wonderful thing.

A Turning Point and Contemplation

When I began my martial arts training, it was there that I’d discovered what I’d long been seeking. I finally found some true, kindred spirits who have forever changed my life for the better. I found myself wondering though, If any of them were out there with me – in this realm where heaven and earth came together as One – would I still be feeling that familiar pang of sadness?

So I sat there in Starbucks – alone at a small table beside the window – just looking out at the majestic view of the mountain range beyond the plaza across the street. It was a sunny, slightly-warmer-than-average afternoon, and the feeling of spring being right around the corner was palpable. The yearning for understanding was there, too – as strong as ever. I pulled out the notebook I usually carry on me, and opened up to allow the exploration of my thoughts and feelings to flow freely…

The mountains, in all their grandiosity, speak volumes to me. Yet like any language which isn’t commonly used, their words are challenging to interpret. This is especially difficult when the communication is not stated through actual words, but felt within oneself. I think of what my teachers might say…

To hear, you must be silent… and listen.

I won’t deny that this is a practice I’m still very much working on. I’ve become very aware of just how much I tend to stand in my own way. I tend to create obstructions with my thoughts and feelings that makes it even harder to hear that soft-spoken voice of wisdom. Quieting one’s thoughts and disconnecting from one’s perceptions isn’t easy. It can be accomplished though. cIt just takes affirming and acting upon the intention to do so. This is an important step in the process of understanding an energetic language. We also see it demonstrated in the practice of Tai Chi….

Quiet the mind, relax the body, allow the energy to flow without obstruction or latching onto it…

As I wrote and contemplated these things, I began to notice something happening. The yearning, the loneliness and the bittersweet feelings I initially had were lessening quite a bit. I gazed out the window and just allowed myself to become aware without judgment. I realized how the mountains just are what they are; and that unlike us humans with our egoic tendencies, they judge none. They are symbolic of internal and external stillness… awareness… and for thousands of years, people have sought their refuge from a world of overthinking and overstimulation…

Practice stillness… You can’t get the answers you’re seeking if you try to force them to speak. They come to you from a place of stillness…

The next insight I received was perhaps the most important one to me – as it deals with a perception that so many of us are all too familiar with… and that’s ‘disconnect’. It’s pretty strange, when you really think about our ‘isolation’. How can we all exist together in this world – inhabited by billions of people – yet we still tend to feel so alone? I questioned myself. I also questioned those what-if-things-had-been-different? thoughts. Regardless of whether or not I had friends with me in that very moment, aren’t we all still connected somehow? We’re only a call or a text message away, we’re going about our daily lives on the same planet, we’re all sharing the air that we breathe…

Taoism (or Daoism) is the philosophy that we embrace in our Kung Fu and Tai Chi tradition. It emphasizes the importance of harmony. Connectedness. Nothing being separate. It is ‘the Dao‘… ‘the Way‘…

When you quiet the mind, and allow yourself to just be amidst your surroundings, you align with the natural flow of the Universe’s energies.

‘Disconnect’ is merely a flawed perception, which comes from an egoic mindset that’s convoluted. It’s not the truth, despite its oftentimes nagging insistence that it is. When we’re disconnected from ourselves, it’s understandable how we might become disconnected from the world around us. Introspective practices – such as meditation, Tai Chi, or even reflective journaling – can help with rebalancing. Personal preference is important, too, when selecting whatever it might be that can assist with quieting and calming the mind. By acknowledging whatever technique(s) that work best for us, individually, we naturally activate realignment. This in turn brings us into harmony with ourselves, our world, the Universe…

Conclusion

The natural world never ceases to amaze – especially when it comes to the wisdom it wants to share with those who desire (and open themselves up) to hear it. When I’d finished my journaling, I felt much lighter… more in tune with the infinite energy of inspiration that surrounded me… and, of course, deeply grateful for simply Being in the present moment. Even if you’re just gazing out a window at a scenic view in the distance, there’s much insight to be gleaned from it. Just go within and allow that soft, wise voice to speak to you…

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