The Path To Awakening
I have been on a spiritual path, a path to awakening, for much of my life, especially the past two decades. I am grateful for my hero journey into the spiritual world, it has saved my life. I have also been disappointed by some of the false promises offered by the booming universe of spiritual healing to people in need, in particular the suggestion that there are simple, often ancient remedies to cure illness, bring happiness and wealth, make us secure.
The idea that if we think only positive thoughts, the things we wish for will be drawn to us, we will attract what we need. If we plant statues and shrines on our lawns – or talk to our homes – our houses will sell. If we take this tonic or weed, or meditate, or take certain kind of yoga our diabetes can be cured, our hearts will heal, we will live long and happy lives.
I have watched our deepening fascination with Asian culture, and the persistent believe that the Chinese and Japanese possess ancient secrets and wisdom that can transform our bodies and our lives if only we will submit to them. My spiritual work has been long and hard and difficult and gritty, no magic lotions or ancient practices have helped me conquer the fear that crippled me for so long, or cured my diabetes, or healed my broken heart. That took many difficult hours of therapy, and yes, spiritual counseling, prayer, meditation. I look out at the Asian world, and I do not see the peace and health and contentment that persuades me that culture has so many more answers than ours.
Nothing helped my diabetes more than a tough nurse-practioner, many nutrition lessons and rigorous monitoring of my blood. Nothing has helped my heart more than miles and miles of walking, sweating, moving and the hard and good work of rehabilitation. It is difficult for me to navigate between these two worlds – the secular and traditional and the spiritual, they exist not in harmony but in conflict with one another, there are places where they collide, many more where they diverge, I am constantly being asked to choose between one and the other, and forced to do so, for my very survival.
This dichotomy has been heightened by my marriage to Maria, a passionate spiritualist, a practitioner of yoga, a meditator and dancer, lover of the natural world, of dirt and rocks, of animal spirits, a student of spirituality in all of its forms. She is convincing, she is persuasive. We are close, she has drawn me closer to this world. But we are each on our own separate paths, we are not one thing, we will each get there in our own way. I am committed to awakening, to a spiritual life. I almost lost my life in oblivion and disconnection, I will not go back there.
I can say this, there is no simple way of thinking, no tonic or remedy, no ancient practice of movement that alone brings awakening, it is scut work, long and hard and relentless. It is clear to me that I will never complete this journey, I will only stay on the path and work every day to give my life meaning, to learn the true nature of compassion and generosity of spirit. I am a long way off. I hope Tai Chi will help me get there, I trust Scott and he says it will.
My good friend Scott Carrino is a Tai Chi Master Instructor, we have embarked on good work together, the teaching of writing, the teaching of Tai Chi. Yesterday, I began my first real lessons, Scott showed me three exercises to begin my Tai Chi work, all three designed to increase mobility and center me, to connect my heart to the world around me. Today was a good day to begin, cloudy, angry, rainy and windy skies. I love this weather.
Scott suggested I practice Tai Chi in my study, before working. I did, Red and Lenore at my feet. I turned back and forth, lifted my arms, relaxed my body and my legs. It felt strange, awkward, I was impatient to get to work, to write. I felt resistance to this new thing, more instructions, more movements, another chore amidst all of the responsibility and detritus of recovery. But I did it, and I will do it again tomorrow, and the day after. It will take more than one day. I want to see where it goes, I want to open up to it.
I see there are issues related to aging as well. I am walking more stiffly, perhaps more tentatively. People are beginning to open doors for me, offer to carry things I have always carried and can carry now. I have always lived a life of the mind, I am ready, I think, to life a life of the mind and the body. My open heart surgery has given me rebirth, my body is moving in new ways, I am feeling clearer and stronger than I have in so many years.
This may be the gateway for me to accept Tai Chi and understand it, to connect my body and mind in a new awakening. I am anxious to pursue this, also to share it with you, as I have shared my recovery. And this Tai Chi is, I think, a part of recovery, my heart has been returned to me, my body as well.
I see Tai Chi as a way for me to introduce the two to one another, a coming together of spirit and body in a different kind of soul. I have reached no conclusions, made no judgements. I am open to new experience, crisis and mystery is just around the corner, always.