Practice

You would think, hitting someone, that “throwing” a punch would make it stronger. The shoulder goes forward, the body goes forward so that there is a straight line through the arm, shoulder, torso, leg, back foot, rooting the punch in the ground. But no. As I punch, I keep my torso vertical to keep in control and able to move in whatever direction I wish. Tempted to put my shoulder forward, as I would pushing open a stuck door, I learn that this is weaker, twisting the torso: instead I keep it straight, shoulders parallel with hips, and move my hips. This brings the power of hip, thigh and calf into the punch. The jargon: hips off, one hip toward the opponent; as I punch I bring “hips on”, my whole front facing the opponent, my fist at his stomach or face or side.

This morning we were feinting with the left to the face, and as the opponent’s blocking left knocks that out of the way we punch the right to the unprotected side. So, instantly after blocking above we must block below. As it is an exercise, we match the punches and blocks together beautifully. The blocker then comes forward with a stomach level punch. I was with the beautiful Alex, 6′ and 16 with floppy curly hair, who floats like a butterfly in sparring. We were practising that as well, launching forward off the back foot to punch then pulling back out of range. I have skinned my big toe, landing on it. Aiming, keeping torso vertical, leaping in and out, it is too much to bring in hips off hips ON as well.

It is a spiritual thing. We seek no-mind, the relaxed state where the body uses the muscles necessary for the move without tension, and responds to the opening or the blow without conscious thought. And, we have rules and techniques to learn, and others to do it with.

Centering prayer, on the other hand, my mind goes all over the place. I would like an understanding. I want to do it right, and while I realise that it will take practice, I do not want to spend half an hour at a time if I am not Getting Somewhere with it. So I asked Facebook: You meditate. Your attention wanders, and you draw it back to your breath, the Mystery at the heart of the Universe, whatever.
Are the thoughts merely distractions, or are they ever Useful?

One response which I love is that, of course thoughts are useful. But they are a tool,  and one can get into unhelpful thought patterns: so it helps to have the life-skill, developed through meditation, of stepping back from the thought, realising it is only a thought, and choosing how I wish to think. “It helps to not get annoyed with the phenomenon and stay compassionate to onesself”.

So, I may enjoy the practice, if I become conscious of my breath, and luxuriate in appreciation of my wonderful body and its functioning. I also love the idea in meditation of, when realising I have been thinking rather than appreciating the Breath, of thanking the thought, which has done its job, rather than getting irritated with myself because I have been thinking, I have not done it right. I am assured, though, that meditating without thought is possible.

Allow, accept, appreciate. I may enjoy my breath. I may accept the thoughts, appreciate them, and see them, and then I may enjoy them. Rather than fighting to keep my attention on my breath which does not interest or motivate me, hungry for moments of enjoyment, judging all my “failures”, I can just do it, so enjoy it all. I may even get “better” at it, if “better” has any meaning.

Next day I am stiff all down the legs, so that I waddle rather than walking, and have skinned my big toe painfully- I should land on the ball of the foot, not the toe. It is good to learn and improve. In the Quaker meeting, I find myself thinking on an old sore, so I leave the meeting room, lie on the floor and cry. That is what I had meant by the thought being useful- it came up in a safe space, and was healing. And- while out of the meeting room, I put on the kettles so the water is boiled for tea.

I have improved the look of my site, with parent pages and sub-pages, which means I can have more pages: Polemic on arguments, and Photography organising the pictures. Have a look at my new page, “Gorgeous“. I had lots of portraits of me before deciding to transition. They reassured me that I could appear female. Alas the HTML which allowed me to emphasise some words with the font Pristina is not currently working.

12 thoughts on “Practice

  1. Yes, choosing how we wish to think. I heard someone say that we are actually meditating all the time – by focusing our thoughts on whatever it is we’re thinking. It’s the choosing and maybe knowing that we can choose that takes practice and leads to a happier state. I love the new look of your site: clear, clean and easy to navigate.

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  2. Clare, my yoga instructor used to tell the class “observe your thoughts as clouds that are passing by” I found this a simple and beautiful way to accept that they are always out there but I can watch them without attachment.

    There will always be another space in the day to “think about what you are thinking about” so allow this gift of time that we have while here to bring you what you seek. It’s all out there just waiting for you!

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    • A slogan from a t shirt: Yoga gives. Yoga accepts.

      I think noticing what I am thinking about is a useful skill to develop. One tends just to think, and to stand back from it and notice it, that is worthwhile.

      My post on Monday is an answer to the video you shared. It is my response, from where I am now. I respect what they are doing, and I am grateful to you for sharing the video.

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  3. Hi Clare,

    Thanks for this thoughtful meditation. You do Karate? I can identify with a lot of what you say. I do Kung Fu, rather shabbily I have to say, and admire the mindfulness in your practice here. It fascinates me, being a strictly non-violent and passive kind of person, how attractive the practice of a potentially uncompromising and brutal martial art can be, how much it can inform the inner, and I suppose the higher self. I think it comes down to focus. Even light sparring, where the slightest bruise or scratch to one’s partner causes a flurry of guilty apology, is great for making you dismiss all unnecessary distractions.

    Maybe that’s the attraction. Anyway, do keep it up.

    Regards

    Michael

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    • Precisely. I feel that in sparring I can attain that Spiritual state of no-mind, perfect attunement to the task in hand. In Japan, Spirituality is a source of strength. I too am a non-violent person, and I love this quote:
      “You block the attack when an opponent approaches; at his second attack you break his sword and spare his life. This is katsujinken.
      – Tokimune Takeda”
      In that non-contact sparring, I can play with the possibility of decisive violent action, if I ever needed it.

      Thank you for commenting.

      Love,
      Clare

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  4. There is no wrong way to do it. Meditation is another word for prayer. I still do it in the morning before I get out of bed or at night when I lay down on my pillow. It is OK that you may fall asleep while resting and calming your mind. When I first began to meditate, I lit a piece of incense and I turned on a sound machine to the waves and later I began using the heart beat sound, It took me to peace quicker and I would lull off into my ‘zone.’ Some zone out while running, or doing the dishes, even while driving a car, or sitting in class. It is that place of calm abiding where you are ;listening’ to that still small voice. It is something that the general population does at random and meditating is just drawing attention to it and becoming aware that you can do it at will and for longer periods of time. Once you acquire this knowledge you can meditate, go to your happy place’ at will. IT is that place of calm that abused children and adults calm to go in order to be able to endure the hostilities and violences coming at them. So many people’s souls already do it naturally and when they begin to try it they make it too complicated for themselves. For some people a structured posture meditation does not work, for some gazing at a candle or into their fireplace works, for some it is simply sitting on a park bench in nature. By creating a ritual by playing meditative music or sounds, dimming the lights, getting comfortable, puffing up pillows and lighting incense, your body and mind become used to the idea that meditation is coming and go into the meditation before you’ve even sat down from doing the last part of lighting your incense. I taught my children, we homeschooled, to meditate at a very young age, ever person needs to be able to have their own contact for enlightened messages for the Source, or God or Buddha or whom ever it is you pray. It is you pipeline to the heavens. Meditation may come to a person in as many different ways as there are people in the world, no two people meditate or ‘zone out’ the same way. I remember my 6th grade teacher telling my father at a parent-teacher conference about me, “She can be looking right at you and not hear a word you are saying.” My father nodded in agreement. My friends say they can walk right past me on the street and be directly in front of me and I didn’t day a word to them, if they are my good friends or family, they know already I was not ignoring them purposely but I was in my zone,and they are used to me doing this, I was meditating or receiving incoming messages. My boyfriend used to accuse me of not listening to him, but he is learning there is more to listen to than just him, and I can do both at the same time. Some people simply can not sit still and still their mind they require movement, you will need to play around with it to find the very thing that works just for your soul that causes you to make contact. A Buddhist for of structured meditation is learned and adheared to as an obedience and some souls require more freedom, that way is only one way, but it is not the only way to meditate. When I taught my children they each told me at separate times that it was something they had been doing each of them different from me and each other, already, they didnt know it was called meditation. Good luck and peace

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  5. Sorry I keep having after thoughts, some people hear their messages, some people see pictures in their minds, some hear sounds or go places, some do all of the above or even something else differently, the messages are subtle and intuitive. the calming is so that you are able to ‘tune in ‘ and listen. Some messages are very clear about the part they play in your life while other may require some deciphering or waiting and in time they play themselves out and then you began recognizing the message and what it meant for you. Meditation is that ‘in-between’ state you are not quite awake and you are not quite asleep and your eyelids are even half open or completely shut and it is the half dozing, lucid state. I hope this helps.

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  6. It is like the Billy Joel Song, “In the Middle of the Night.”

    In the middle of the night, I go walking in my sleep.
    To a valley so wide, to a river so deep.
    I’m always searching for something, something sacred I know.
    That can only be seen by the light of the soul.
    In the middle of the night.

    …It is a truly beautiful and sacred song, rich with meaning.

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