Monday Musings ~ Effortless Effort

Effortless Effort Framed
As many of you are aware, I’m practicing the concept of  “effortless effort”. I know what you’re thinking. Ha! How hard can that be? Well, actually it takes some effort to find your flow. My Tai Chi Master said, “You’ll know you’re in the flow when your feet are rooted in the ground and the movements flow through you effortlessly.” Being “rooted in the ground” is a rather new concept for me – I tend to be the girl with her “head in the clouds”…just sayin.

I realize my Tai Chi instructor is a master of his craft because he’s been a student and teacher of Tai Chi for over forty years. Developing expertise, or mastery in any field of endeavor takes time, patience and practice. I’m reminded of the 10,000 hours rule cited by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outlier – The Story of Success.

“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” – Malcolm Gladwell

(I rather enjoy that Gladwell used the words “research” and “magic” in the same sentence!) Anyhow, I clearly have many hours of practice ahead of me before I master the art of Tai Chi.

However, in my effort to live in the flow of life, I discovered a new concept that has me fascinated!

“Purposeless wandering”

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, seriously this chic has gone off the deep end, but wait…before you rush to judgment, hear me out. Or better yet, listen to the wisdom of the ancients.

“Chuang Tzu refers to this type of being in the world as flowing, or more poetically, and provocatively, as “purposeless wandering!” How opposite this concept is to some of our most cherished cultural values. To have no purpose is unthinkable and even frightening … And yet it would be difficult to maintain that our current values have promoted harmony and balance…” ~ Ted Kardash, Taoism, and the Wu-Wei Principle.

The concept of “purposeless wandering” resonates with me because it describes the path I’ve been walking for the last few years. After decades of hard work and raising children, I finally have time to wander aimlessly and wonder.  My curiosity plays the role of tour guide and I am forever entertained.  I’m constantly tripping over a new found treasure on the trail!

Wander not lostMy most recent discovery is – poetry!  Last week, I wrote eight poems -in one day! That’s more poems than I’ve written in my lifetime. What’s up with that? Shhhhh….it’s magic, just sayin. If I can summon enough courage I may debut one of my poems here on my Friday Features post – stay tuned.

Although I’m enjoying following my curiosity and wandering the trail, I do believe I’m making progress on my journey.  I believe I’ve already mastered one of the most  important concepts of living in the flow (Wu- Wei) and that’s letting go of future outcomes. I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, but I don’t really have attachments to future goals or outcomes. Yeah, I want to finish my memoir and master the art of Tai Chi, but hey, the world won’t end if I don’t.

And yet, I believe I’ll do both, not because I have to, but because I want to. Writing and Tai Chi are now part of my flow. Not yet effortless, but give me another 9,000 magical hours and I’ll get there!

In the meantime, I’m enjoying my purposeless wanderings along the path. Thank you for joining me on my journey!

Have a magical Monday my fellow travelers! ~ Namaste

Monday Musing ~ Chai Tea for the Tai Chi Master

chai tea framedI served Chai Tea to a Tai Chi Master during a poetry reading last week. It was a sacred moment and quite unexpected. The events of that evening unraveled in a series of missed connections and new discoveries.

Let me explain how the universe conspired to place me in the presence of a Tai Chi Master. For those who follow my blog you know that this is my “Year of Yes” (this introvert is saying yes to invitations and opportunities that I would typically shy away from).

So here is how it began. I recently joined a writer’s group and offered to help fold and mail the spring newsletter. My contact, Lois, a sweet older woman, called and asked to stop by my home to drop off the newsletters but I was on my way to another event (a “year of yes” has filled my calendar). So I suggested we meet later in the day to which she responded, “Do you like poetry, dear?”

“Of course, I do,” I stumbled, wondering if that was true, having never truly grasped the lyrical prose of poetry.

“Wonderful,” she replied. “Then let’s meet at the bookstore in town at 7 pm for the poetry reading. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee,” she offered.

“Um, okay, that sounds lovely,” I replied. Oh dear, what had I gotten myself into?

“Oh, and Sue, if you arrive before I get there please order me a chai tea, no cream.”

“Of course, chai tea, no cream,” I repeated. “I look forward to seeing you, Lois.”

And so it happened that I arrived before 7 pm at the bookstore and ordered an iced coffee for myself and a chai tea, no cream, for Lois. The barista said she would bring the tea to the table after it had steeped for the proper time.

I found my way to the back of the musty old bookstore to a small room filled with books from floor to ceiling. Three older men sat around a long table talking. They fell silent upon my approach.

I introduced myself and explained that Lois had invited me. They welcomed me and offered me a seat. I sat next to an old man with a long white beard, bushy eyebrows, and cloudy blue eyes. He asked my name and I said it three times, moving closer to him with each effort until he responded “Ah, Susan.” He then confessed he was hard of hearing.

The men had been discussing the looming eye surgery of the old man. His cataracts so thick he is rendered nearly blind.

As the men spoke and I listened, several other people arrived and gathered around the table. The barista entered with a small tray, holding a beautiful white teacup and saucer and a small pot of chai tea. She placed the tray of tea on the table in front of me. It was 7 pm, Lois must be running late, I thought. The old man called the poetry meeting to order.

He asked if I had a poem to read. I responded, “Oh goodness, no. I’m just here to listen and learn.”poetry framed

And so the old man went around the room inviting others to read their poems. The man named “Shadow” read powerful poems of history and war, and girls in knee-high boots. The big man with the beard read romantic poems of love and loss and moonlit nights. The man named Noah read poems of nature, hiking, and guns. They read, critiqued and discussed each poem at length.

And then the old man, blinded by cataracts and nearly deaf, recited his poem on Infinity, from memory. I was awestruck. He recited several more of his poems, pausing for effect, his prose musical and enchanting.

His poem on Silence held me spell-bound. Afterward, he explained the importance silence plays in our world, based on his experience with Tai Chi. (Have I mentioned I’ve always wanted to learn Tai Chi?)

The old man recounted the opening of the Beijing Summer Olympics where over two-thousand Chinese performed Tai Chi in silence. I was transfixed by his words, his quiet, calm, yet powerful energy.  I inquired of his experience with Tai Chi. He explained that he had studied the art of Tai Chi with the Grand Master, William Chen.

William Chen, Tai Chi Grand Master
William Chen, Tai Chi Grand Master

The old man said, humbly, that he had been studying and teaching Tai Chi for over 45 years and was simply a Tai Chi Master, not a Grand Master.

I glanced down at the teapot on the table, an hour had passed, still no Lois. I offered the tea to the old man and he graciously accepted.

I reached over and placed the teacup and saucer in front of him. As I poured the tea from the pot he took a deep breath and smiled. “Smells delicious. Thank you, Susan, you are too kind,” he said, lifting the teacup to his lips.

It was in that moment, goosebumps covered my body and I knew I was in the presence of a great spiritual master. I recalled the saying:

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears”

And so, in the spirit of saying “yes” to the universe, I took my first Tai Chi lesson yesterday from the old man. I learned about “effortless effort” and “investment in loss”. I also learned the first three movement sets of Tai Chi, slowly, with patience, as the master guided me.Tai Chi moves

As for my friend Lois, she called to apologize for missing the poetry reading. Yet I am grateful for her invitation and the opportunity to pour tea for my new teacher. And who knows, I may just learn to make words sing like a poet while mastering the power of silence, balance, and patience through the art of Tai Chi.

Wishing you all a magical Monday!

~ Namaste