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I am fortunate in the small city I live in, Canberra, that there is a good tai chi school. These are not easy to find. They are also understanding of my desire to do tai chi mostly for health benefits and that I have no interest in it as a martial art.
They are also responsive to my rather strange take on tai chi – wanting to know about the internal dynamics and not the external application: this is the way it is usually taught. They even went so far as to spend a few minutes during a class talking answering a question I had asked after class one night. They are called the tai chi academy.
This post was provoked by one of the warm-ups that we do before we do the tai chi form itself. It is the warm-up for the hip joint. (The warm-ups for tai chi and other Chinese martial arts are warming up the joints by rotation rather than relaxing the muscles by stretching.) The warm up for the hip joint involves standing on one leg while making a circle with the other leg and so rotating the hip joint. For lots of people – and certainly for someone as physically unco-ordinated as me – this does not seem easy.
There is however a way to make it easy – and that is to focus on a point and keep your focus on it. (About where your eyes naturally fall on the floor.) When this worked I found it remarkable. This was first shown to me by a teacher of qi gong, Julie Vear.
After a while I began wondering about whether this relationship of focus and balance is also true in other parts of our lives than the physical. I think it is.
Intellectually, if we are focused on what we need to learn; then we will be able to sort out what is relevant and not be ‘all over the place’ wondering what is relevant and what isn’t. For instance: if I want to know what the scientific method is, I do not need to know the history of philosophy, the history of science or anything else, I will be able to steadily pursue my interest.
Emotionally, if I know what I find satisfactory or unsatisfactory in a relationship I will have clarity. If I am unhappy about the way someone speaks to me, I can either raise this with them or conclude that there may not be anything I can do about this (which may mean I re-evaluate whether I want this relationship in my life).
Spiritually, if I have a sense of purpose my life will become simpler. I can have a sense of what I am ‘meant’ to be doing. This gives me a way to evaluate my involvements. At one stage I wanted to figure out what place our physicality had in Evangelical Christianity. This focused which books I read, what sorts of things I tried out, some classes I chose to do and so on. At the moment I am focused on finding out if I can make my money doing what I love – this affects the topic I chose for this blog, the ways I choose to market it and so on.
A focus brings balance to our life.
Can we be too focused? I think so. Obsession isn’t balance. Focus sees something in terms of the world around. When we are obsessed we see only what we are focusing on – when we are focused we have a sense of our needs and why we want to focus on this particular thing at this particular time.
Here are some things to try to get balance through focus:
• If you are obsessed: ask yourself what it is you want from focusing on this particular thing.
• If you are feeling unbalanced: ask yourself if there is a possible focus. Try to find what your need is and what it is that attracts you to what you are focused on.
• Try out the tai chi hip-joint warm up. Allow your eyes to look naturally down. Find something to focus on. Then raise one leg. Note how your focus shifts – and how you lose balance when you stop focusing on the floor – like when you become conscious of trying to move your leg.
I’d like to hear your experience of focus and balance. Do you find that they are related? Have you had times when you have lost focus and been unbalanced and then found it again. I’d love to hear your experience in the comments.
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