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Tai Chi
Steel Mist

13 Dec 2009
"Steel mist" is what I call Houston's weather today and yesterday, and it provides perfect imagery for the segue from autumn (metal) into winter (water). In a week we will witness in the winter solstice a "reboot" into a new year, with the days once again elongating and northern weather patterns slowly warming, allowing eventual rebirth of flora and fauna.

Looking out the window, we see only fog, but walking amidst the fog we see more. The water is so heavy in the air that it appears as points, hence a visible mist that thickens into fog. In Taoist thought (Five Element Theory) we say that metal leads to water by condensing it from the air. Hold a piece of metal in this air and you will quickly see the condensation - ask any swordsman, who would prefer to preserve his blade by training in drier air.

For some people, if their life lacks clarity and purpose, every day may seem like a fog. So many people wander through their lives, good people perhaps but still people who never see their goodness truly realized.

Walking in the steel mist provides an opportunity to work on development of clarity and purpose. Begin by simply walking. Walk well: crown up, chin in, shoulders relaxed, chest sunken, waist loose, hips and back relaxed, moving forward from the dan tien (core muscles). Do not initiate movement with your legs or feet, but simply allow yourself to be drawn forward.

As you raise your crown and loosen your body, feel your qi (energy) rise to your head. It opens your eyes and clears your vision, and with it your sense of purpose. But a sense of purpose is not enough. You need an actual purpose!

True, these purposes involve material desire as well, but at a higher level. We are, after all, living in a material world, but hopefully not at a base level of existence.

And purpose does not always come to the young. You may be well past youth and still in need of a stated purpose to your life. Or, having raised a family or built a successful career, may need a new purpose.

As you walk in the mist, stare at the indistinct fog in the distance, a quarter mile away or more, sorting through your options. Let them wash through your mind, then sort them into a list for individual consideration. If you are harshly realistic with yourself, you will realize that most of your potential purposes are really just fantasies. Each has one or more elements that would spell disaster in real life. A realist has to accept these elements and move on, or live the life of an unremarkable Greek tragedy.

As you sharpen your options, bring the focus of your intense gaze closer, within one hundred yards. As you do this the fog can begin to take on a distinctive shape, like seeing a very slow wind in action. You may see semi-transparent clouds in front of you, with faint outlines to the mist, but that means you are already seeing with far greater clarity than when you saw only a white wall of fog.

Continue to refine your gaze into the mist by slowly bringing your focus closer and closer to yourself. Your sense of purpose should be approaching with greater and greater clarity. By this point you may already know your purpose, and need to focus on the steps required to get there. Or determining your purpose may require more work, especially if you are unable to accept the realities of yourself and the world around you.

Eventually, if you succeed in your quest for attainment of purpose, you are looking at the mist directly in front of you. You see the drop of water hanging in the air as individual particles; you approach the closest drop with a piercing gaze, walking through it and attaining greater confidence with each drop you penetrate. You have the feeling of penetrating molecules, and atoms, and subatomic particles, and the stuff of existence itself. You keep walking, and become the mist.

You may also like this related article: Invest in Silence (125)
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