No Practice

Sometimes my morning qigong practice consists entirely of sitting and gazing out the window.  I used to feel guilty about this, as if I were dodging my commitment, succumbing to laziness, just plain goofing off.  But my dog, a Chinese Pug whose ancestors lived in Tibetan monasteries and who knows a thing or two about these matters, is teaching me the value of simplicity. She is a master of the Taoist meditation practice called “sitting and forgetting.”

With the quietude of an old monk, she spends some portion of each day sitting by the window watching life unfold in the yard outside. One morning I took my tea and joined her instead of immediately starting my daily qigong exercise. We sat on the landing halfway up the stairs (her favorite spot,) where there’s a view of the garden from two corner windows. Squirrels dashed about; the neighbor’s black tabby cat sat quietly watching the fish pond; woodpeckers dived at the feeders; a few falling leaves, harbingers of autumn, traced a lazy path through the air. We just sat and watched. I sipped my tea. I thought maybe I should get on with my morning practice instead of wasting time staring out the window. But then I poured another cup of tea, my gesture as simple and natural as the drifting autumn leaves.

Sometimes our practices become self-improvement projects. It’s not easy to notice when this happens.  At what point does commitment become drudgery, discipline a lifeless and repetitive routine? How do we stay true to the living moment, the ever fresh and spontaneous movement of the qi?  Surely daily practice is important, you argue. We couldn’t just go along doing whatever we want like children at play. After all, we have to show up for work every day. How will we make progress, stay healthy, achieve our goals, if we don’t practice every day?  Well, yes. I know these arguments well, and I agree. My daily practice creates a sturdy vessel for me. Anchored by the consistency of that container, I’m better able to handle life’s unexpected and unpredictable events with some measure of grace.

On the other hand, perhaps the ultimate mastery is the practice of “no-practice,” just doing each thing as it comes up. Yes, like a child. Right now, I’m gazing out the window.  My dog leans peacefully against me. I reach for another cup of tea.

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3 Responses to No Practice

  1. Wilson says:

    First off I would like to say wonderful blog! I had a
    quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not
    mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts
    prior to writing. I have had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.
    I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems
    like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost
    just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or
    tips? Thank you!

  2. Debbie says:

    Hi,
    Good question. I just use that first 10-15 minutes to let my fingers fly along on the keyboard spewing out whatever random stuff is hanging about in my brain. I don’t usually get to the treasure until I’m about half way through. So dumping the first half of every attempt is just part of the process for me. Also I do a lot of morning journaling where I’m permitted to rant and rave about any old thing. Thanks for appreciating the blog!

  3. Victoria says:

    Absolutely love this! Once again, thank you for sharing your insight 🙂

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