A friend of mine with whom I enjoy an occasional lunch, a prolific writer and author, recently gave me a book of his poetry. He had inscribed it to me with: ?In search of universal truth.?
A week or two later, we ran into each other at a social gathering, and he took me aside to ask about my thoughts on his book.? I?d read a bit of it, enough to have a little taste of his wit and humor, both occasionally acerbic, and I told him I was enjoying it.? I mentioned its pace and cadence, both of which I liked.??
When I got home, though, I came to decide I owed him something of an explanation that cadence and pace held significance to me and to my teaching. I wanted him to know I had meant to compliment his work.
In the teaching of taiji, I tell my students to let the pace of their movement be determined by their breath . . . inhale on the transition, exhale on the exertion . . . and to make adjustments in their speed, not their breath, when they became out of sync. Taiji is a moving meditation, something not to be hurried. It should be smooth and fluid as a stream in the mountains that moves along at its own steady pace.
In a taiji class last week, I asked my students to consider their walking as a part of their homework for the next class. How many actually think about their walking, consider it as they are in the midst of it? One foot in front of the other, shoulders squared or not, an even and steady gait or not, taking notice of their speed, the length of their stride, the awareness of their immediate surroundings, how sure of foot they felt?
A daily taiji practice strengthens our legs, enhances balance, and teaches us to focus on the moment, to be aware of its presence. It?s a moving meditation, as I have said, the pace of which is determined by our breath. An even, steady and flowing movement. We stand, body relaxed, mind clear, becoming aware only of our breathing, aware of its pace, and then we begin.
But anything and everything is a meditation if we focus on what we are doing to the exclusion of everything else, including walking. Slow, steady, balanced, fluid, relaxed, in the moment. In this way, there is stillness, inner stillness, even in movement. One does not need cushions and classes to meditate.
There is a pace, a cadence, to walking, to taiji, and to life. That pace is important to me, and to my daily practice of cultivating stillness. I set that pace each morning with my sitting still doing nothing, with my qigong and with my taiji. I encourage my students to find their pace, too.
So when I told my friend I liked the pace and cadence of his writing, I was speaking from the importance they hold in my life each day. It was a compliment and a recognition that he had found a cadence to his writing, letting the words flow at a pace that came from his inner being, his core. When he wrote, he was just writing.
Take a moment and observe your walking, be aware of all its aspects. Just walk. Bring yourself into the moment, and then stay in each subsequent one that follows. That is the stillness we should be cultivating with everything we do, including walking.
And I say to my friend, well done.