This was the first trip to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health for Maria and I. It is one of those legendary institutions, like Esalen and Omega, and we didn’t know what to expect. We weren’t disappointed.
The 350-acre campus overlooks Lake Mahkeenac and is just down the road from Tanglewood in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts. The grounds are immaculate and beautifully landscaped. The lodging is functional/no frills, but comfortable enough. (We didn’t spend much time there, save to sleep.)
The seminar we presented was “Tai Chi Alchemy: Get Out of Your Head and Into the Game.” We were notified on arrival by the programming director that they were very excited by the enrollment; it was the largest taiji group they ever had. Since we recognized only two names on the list (Thank you, Sharon and Richard!), we knew we had a room full of fresh faces waiting for us. Very exciting!
It turned out that only about a third of them had done any taijiquan, but that was no problem. This program was not primarily about learning a taiji form, but about how to life your life in participatory consciousness. We use exercises and demonstrations that came from my research into “love-based martial arts” because they are the most effective way to get people to feel what is going on, not just think about it.
A book signing was scheduled for Saturday afternoon, so we visited the bookstore to see if the books were on the shelves. We looked around but they were not to be found. Then we passed by the checkout counter and found Western Gate prominently displayed next to Martin Buber’s classic, I and Thou (which I contend is the most important book released in the 20th century). Imagine my delight!
I wanted to give everyone a taste of the power of Meeting right away. Maria stood relaxed as I and a large martial artist tried to push her straight back. This petite, 120-pound grandmother easily rooted the force of 400 pounds of two men pushing on her. By Meeting us with her whole being she was able to access the root and energetic coherence necessary to overcome the overwhelming size and strength differential.
What do I mean by “Meeting”?
This is the real secret of life—to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. – Alan Watts
The magic of life comes from conscious, focused participation with your whole being, not just showing up and taking notes, nor by amassing a storehouse of techniques and information. You have to involve yourself in what you are doing, willing to be transformed by it. In participatory consciousness we can access energy and information that are not available when we are detached from what is going on.
In our effort to make sense of our lives and world, we separate out from events as we live them. We enter non-participatory consciousness, the Trance of Objectification. Events are abstractions, and abstractions of abstractions. Non-participatory consciousness acts as a buffer to insulate us from the lived life.
This seminar provides a bag of useful tools and a detailed map that help us navigate our way to participatory consciousness. We must awaken again and again from the Trance of Objectification to find a vibrant world just beyond the fog of our thoughts.
Inspired by Martin Buber, I call it Meeting. He said succinctly, “All real living is meeting.” In Meeting, we encounter the people and things of world not just as objects of thought, but with our whole being.
To help inculcate Meeting into the lived life, I practice what I call a “love-based martial art.” The key elements we covered were:
- Wholeness (Energetic Coherence)
- Rooting (Song Kua, Central Equilibrium)
- Meeting (Presence, Mindfulness, Engagement)
The seminar was designed to introduce, inculcate, and develop these abilities/states:
- Wholeness/Energetic Coherence
- Effortless Power
- The “space between thoughts”/Instant Meditation
- Awareness of internal energy/qi
- Qi amplification
- “Borrowing” jin
- Enhanced Presence
- Enhanced control of attention
- Awakening from the Trance of Objectification to Non-objective Awareness
- Participatory consciousness
It was a horse race to pack all that into one weekend, but the gang was up to the task. And it was done with the laughter, love, and wonder that we have come to expect from Tai Chi Alchemy.