A teacher, in some area, on some level, is more aware than you, and their skill is to lend you sufficient spirit to be similarly aware. The difficulty then is the struggle to remember when you no longer have the presence of their energy. What you recall of the external depends upon your visual memory largely, whereas what you recollect of the internal depends upon the degree of respect and reverence you have in your heart for the teaching.
Nothing quite so obnoxious as a person who has learnt 'to love themselves.' Wankers. That's not love. It's self-indulgence and self-importance. It's delusional. To love yourself requires a lifetime's work uncovering what you really are beneath the conditioning and wishful thinking. It has nothing to do with spoiling yourself and everything to do with painful self-exposure – stripping away the armour you've barricaded your spirit behind and being brave enough not to die of fright.
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." This says it all really. The work is to accrue the strength to forgive. And you are (only) free when you've forgiven everything. Then you'll let go and die in peace. So much of the modern desire for longevity is an ego-driven (neurotic and puerile) holding onto health and existence by people who have rarely, if ever, been really (selflessly) alive anyway.
The union of mind and body. This is our task. Clearly not the thinking mind, you can't think the body, not usefully. It's the mind that remains when you stop thinking and just relax. A tall order I know but without it there will never be energy. So how to stop thinking? Can't use force, not for long anyway. It's a matter of faith, and of learning to love and to live for love and for nothing else. And love, true love, is always love of the other, never one's own, and such love drifts gradually towards love of God, love of the Absolute Other, and meditation becomes prayer, the mind with God, finally.
Faith must underpin the work. If you don't believe in practice then it won't work for you, not deeply anyway, not on your soul. Ultimately it's not about how good you are at your chosen discipline, it's about how good you are as a person. And to be good – to be capable of love on all levels – requires, first and foremost, faith. And to improve, to become better, surprisingly maybe, requires hope. In fact, this is what hope is: belief in the possibility of improvement, in a better future.
To love a person means to see them as they are. And seeing, real seeing, is only possible when you suspend judgement and allow yourself to be moved; when you let the heart-stopping reality of face-to-face wrench you out of your fantasies. This is the function of love: not just to connect, but to stop the world by putting you out of sync with certitude.
A meditation session must be attentive enough to catch higher frequencies and long enough to feel lower frequencies. Then you are expanding your range – your humanity. And this added detail and depth radically changes the whole picture – reveals that what you previously took as reality was just a set of stiff unyielding prejudices.
A path with heart takes you deeper, but it's a depth that mind could never foresee. This is why it's so important, for soul, to go beyond the mind. The mind always holds back. In a sense this is what the struggle to understand is – not the drive for truth it purports to be but a frantic effort to make the unknown like everything else – an attempt to superficialize reality.
The tragic mistake we all make, on some level or other, is to cheat. In Taiji this usually means adding more tension to an already tense system in order to give the semblance of relaxation and progress. Instead of realigning, and slowly, through practice and patience, plucking up the courage to honestly relax to both gravity and the other, the arrogant student assumes he knows best and adds his own cleverness. This always ends, usually decades later, in tears.
Each layer of tension constitutes a blanket between thee and reality. Take them all away at once and you'd either die of shock or go mad. This is why it takes so long; so many layers, so much strength to earn. But, as you see, not strength of body, nor strength of character, but the strength to face a reality that has absolutely no need for you.
Being present ain't so easy. On the one hand it requires me to let go of the past (pray the past let go of me) and on the other I must connect totally with the flow of energy through me – I must live the continuity of moment to moment – life must become a long unbroken Taiji Form. This is achieved by developing the mind of intent, and honouring the larger mind that is intending me; what used to be called the will of God.
The curse of the advanced student is that heavy pall of self-importance that shrouds their practice as they "get into energy," like a leaden cloak of seriousness donned to let the world know they're practising. Beginners don't have this, and great masters certainly don't. But, as my mother would say: It's just a stage. A necessary stage.
Don't expect too much from communication. It has little to do with words. It is simply time together, listening, being and, most of all, becoming. It should be light and slight, without the pall of competition. As my grandmother used to say: If you have nothing positive to say then keep your mouth shut.
Meditation reveals that mind is simply the upward flow of energy balancing gravity. Mind is prayer – a natural response to gravity and Earth. Plants have this best, especially trees, who spend all day lifting their minds to God. Meditation is a time when we become trees – when we effectively beg God to unravel our crumpled spines and cleanse our hearts.
When you have the time, the energy and the inclination then practice is easy – a joy; it almost does itself. This is how it should be. So the real work is all in the preparation: making sure you have the time and energy, and, most of all, the heart, to work. Again, this is ultimately a matter of posture; of poise.
When you're meditating bolt upright, slowly drifting off to sleep, then if you fall forward you're a closet Muslim, and if you fall back you're a closet Christian. If you repeatedly nod off then you're a closet Jew. Fall sideways and you're a Buddhist. But stay awake, beautifully poised in the middle, and you're a Taoist who, naturally, understands Central Equilibrium.