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A Teacher’s Gift

For several years, I have been seeking the way to be more and do less, to abandon my deep-rooted need for super-achievement and perfection. Yet like a workhorse at the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby, I simply did not know how to proceed.

And therein is a key: Not knowing.

Not knowing is a being place, a place of acceptance, peace, presence…possibility. I thank my Tai Ji teacher for this reminder.

Although I’ve studied with Chungliang “Al” Huang since 1988 and practice my Tai Ji daily, I entered the August “Diving Deep” course with eager enthusiasm to learn how to perfect my form. After all, my gymnast son taught me years ago, “Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

My teacher had something different in mind. He read poetry and played music that heightened my emotions. He encouraged us to recite poems, sing songs, tell jokes and dance the essence of our Tai Ji. More interested in our inner awakening than our outer motions, he led me to deeper and deeper levels of awareness. Yet my mind’s stubborn need to know how to hung on for dear life.

One day, I boldly revealed my burning desire to my esteemed teacher, “I really want to go home knowing the “Third Circle” so that I can add it to my daily practice.” Chungliang was quiet for a moment, and while I don’t remember his exact words, here’s what I heard: “No, Marian, what you need to do is to go home knowing that you don’t have the Third Circle.”

In that instant, the build up of music, poetry, dance, seeking, and my teacher’s challenging response collided within me, and I burst through that starting gate like the thoroughbred I – and all of us – are. As I surrendered, my pen captured the moment in a poem I later entitled “Transformation.” I invite you to read it aloud, slowly:

Sweet imperfection follows years
of studied perfection;
Not knowing arises from decades
of met expectations;
Humility yearned for seeps through
bold expression;
And love blossoms from the
seeds of fear EXPLODING.

Weeks later, while hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park, transformed by the magnificence of dancing waterfalls spilling into alpine lakes and craggy mountains towering over sweet meadows of multi-colored wildflowers, a friend asked about my life purpose. “In the past,” I said, “my purpose was to be Love in Action.” After a moment of contemplation, I could share my newly awakened purpose, “simply, to be a loving presence.”

To be or not to be – that is no longer the question for me.

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