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Let the Earth Fall Away

By Lorraine Miro

From the Spring 2003 Newsletter

We all experience times when the bottom seems to drop out and the ground literally falls from under our feet. The causes are numerous, the death of someone we love, failing health, mounting debt, disappointed expectations, or any number of events that cause us to suffer.

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Most often, we run as fast as we can from the pain. We try to busy ourselves with distractions so that we do not feel our suffering too much. It's not surprising, considering the messages we receive daily from the media. Sadness is considered a disease and at the first sign of depression, we are encouraged to take a pill, join an aerobics class or get away for a vacation.

For those of us who follow "the way," we know, at least intellectually, that it is just as natural for human beings to experience sadness as it is for us know happiness. Despite our attempt to walk the line down the center of the tai chi circle, there are times when our suffering seems so powerful that it overwhelms us.

Despite our attempt to walk the line down the center of the tai chi circle, there are times when our suffering seems so powerful that it overwhelms us.

As martial artists, we pride ourselves on our courage. Training is hard and we have to face our limitations every day. There is always someone better, younger or quicker. Our bodies ache and we don't have as much time as we'd like to practice.

Still, we persist, because the arts offer us the tools to cultivate ourselves. They are the way to personal transformation. Our training puts us in good stead because it is always teaching us to face our most formidable opponent, ourselves.

Can we apply this to our emotions, to those times when we are overwhelmed by fear or sadness? Man da will not help us here, nor will extra pushups or even herbal remedies. There is no form for a broken heart. But, neither are we without resources.

There are techniques to help us train the mind and use our emotions to enrich our lives. As in our physical training, it takes courage and persistence. The road is never easy, but nothing worth gaining ever is.

First, we need the courage to look.

Not to judge, but simply look at what is causing us suffering. Very often, we will be surprised to learn it something quite different than we thought.

For example, I remember once feeling completely devastated by the death of a friend. This person was very special to me, we shared all of our secrets and I felt wonderful whenever I was with him.

Initially, I thought that I suffered because I missed him, but after looking for some time I discovered that what I really missed was the way I felt when he was around. I realized that because he never judged me, or viewed me as this or that, I was free to be completely open with him. I had no self-image to prop up and maintain, no expectation from him that I was obligated to fill. I was free to experience whatever occurred without the weight of a role hanging from my neck. My sorrow had nothing to do with my friend, I was missing my freedom.

Eventually, we will always find both the problem and the answer are "ourselves."

Did my pain disappear? Not right away, but at least then I understood what I was battling. My friend had shown me the way, but he, himself, was not the answer and I could begin to start working on a plan to free myself. It is important to look, and once we think that we have found the answer to keep looking. If we stop too soon, the truth that we hide from ourselves will never be revealed. Eventually, we will always find both the problem and the answer are "ourselves."

Secondly, we need compassion.

Martial artists are a lot that tend to be hard on themselves, but we are human, too. Many people equate compassion with self pity, but it is a very different thing. Compassion says, you are no different than any sentient being and as such, you are subject to suffering. Self pity tells us we are special and singled out for persecution.

As we would have compassion for others, we are no different in our needs. We must be gentle with ourselves if we are to explore the inner depths of our nature. We can expect to encounter selfishness, vanity, greed and a lot things we'd rather not see. This journey is not for those who are faint of heart!

With the deepest compassion we can muster, we need to shine a bright light on our pain and continue to stay with it, until finally we reveal ourselves. At the point of revelation, we might expect to feel liberated, but the truth is, if we have really dug deep enough, we find that we no longer know who we are.

When we no longer move to the right or the left, but take the middle path, we begin to see things how they are.

This is because we will have exploded myths and constructs that we may have carried all of our lives. When the solid premise on which we have based all of our life's assumptions drops away, it's as though gravity has disappeared and we have no sense of up or down anymore. It is this "unknown, groundless state" that is exactly where you want to be. It is where you will begin to experience life without filters, without expectations. It is where you will grow.

Thirdly, we need perseverance.

We hear our teachers' tell us after every class. "Practice, practice, practice! That advice is most relevant here, because we are changing our reality. Our brains become hardwired to react to situations and although we know our actions are no longer appropriate to our new understanding, we react out of habit. We may go back to the old ways hundreds of times, but there will be the feeling that something isn't quite right, as if our familiar, comfortable clothes no longer fit.

Eventually, when we no longer move to the right or the left, but take the middle path, we begin to see things how they are. Our meditation trains us in this middle way. It teaches us to stay with the moment and to relax with what is. It is in the moment where everything is possible and where we can awaken to the full potential of our lives.

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