Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Touching the Earth
Each blade of grass has its spot on earth whence it draws its life, its strength; and so is man rooted to the land. ~Joseph Conrad
In Greek mythology, Antaeus was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and Gaia, mother earth. As long as he was in contact with the ground, his mother gave him strength to beat anyone in battle. He vanquished all foes until Heracles figured out his secret and held him in the air, rendering him weak and easily dispatched.
In tai chi and kung fu, our teacher repeatedly reminds us to root through our feet into the ground. All our power comes from our connection to the earth. I got a memorable demonstration of that today. Our teacher was showing us how much energy can be generated by “sinking” into our root. Using me as his partner, he stood in front of me with his open palm facing me, his fingers lightly resting on my chest.
Without withdrawing his hand, he made only the slightest visible move, sort of a dropping of the hips and a settling of the wrist. Power exploded from his hand. It felt like a horse had kicked me in the chest. I flew backwards across the room and landed unceremoniously on my behind. It surprised everyone, including, I think, the teacher, who ran to help me up and was very solicitous of me the rest of class.
As I’ve told people about my martial arts practice, it is a practice in humility! Beyond my wounded ego and derriere, though, I learned something today about the giving and receiving of energy.
On the giving side, it is abundantly clear to me that we are the most powerful when we are grounded. This is true whether we are talking about physical power or spiritual strength. When we are connected with an open channel to our source, by whatever name you want to call it (nature, God, chi, the universe), we are able to offer to others the energy that flows through us and out. People who manifest beauty, whether through art or love or martial arts or any other form, often speak of something coming through them rather than from them.
On the receiving side, the same is true. We are the least powerful when we try to block the natural flow of energy. Knowing what my teacher was about to do (even if I did not anticipate the degree of power), I braced myself to resist. I was not rooted, but rather rigid. Whatever harm I suffered was from my own resistance. Had I been able to stay fluid and rooted, his energy would have moved through me and back into the earth.
And what was my resistance but fear? Fear blocks energy. We can neither offer nor receive energy when we are stiff with fear. Fear uproots us because it disconnects us from the ground of the present moment, from the fluidity of our breath, from the loveliness and the lovingness of the universe.
How often in my life do I resist what is? How often do I get pulled from the perfection of the present moment into fearful thoughts? Yes, too often. So I’ll be back in class tomorrow, and I will ask for another demonstration. Because this is where my practice is, on the ground.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. ~Frank Herbert
related posts: Invest in Loss; Step Away from the Thought