A TCC student describes how gradually this moving meditation practice became easier, softer, more grounded, and eventually effortless at times. As TCC originator Justin Stone recommended, “the effort of no effort.”
By DD, Arizona
“A marionette is a puppet controlled from above using wires or strings … a marionette’s puppeteer is called a marionettist.” (In our culture, we often refer to someone who does not think or act for him or herself as a “puppet,” and that word creates quite a doubtful impression. For purposes of this metaphor, we’ll put down that negative connotation.)
T’ai Chi Chih is my marionettist. When I first came to TCC, I watched as my teacher slowly, gracefully and with intent, positioned her hands, arms, waist and feet. I marveled at the ease with which she moved. How could one as tense as I come close to proper practice? How could one as stiff as I create a path for vital energy to renew my body and my spirit? How could I?
I watched. I waited. My feet stumbled and my muscles ached. I put my left foot forward and pushed my hands as best I could, teetering as my body rocked front to back, side-to-side.
I studied. I practiced. My neck and shoulders refused to yield. I held fast to the lifelong rigidity that kept me upright – that kept me out of balance.
I began to heed my teacher’s counsel to pay attention to the soles of my feet. I felt the earth under me, keeping me stable, focused, stronger than before. Then it came to me: “I will let you be my marionettist; I will be the puppet.”
The very next practice I set my feet firmly on the earth, and set my eyes completely on my teacher’s hands and feet. I imagined a string or wire reaching from her hands and feet all the way to mine. When my marionettist softened her hand or angled her foot or bent her knee, mine had no option but to follow. (The strings, you see.) When my marionettist pushed the air or pulled the energy, I kept in constant rhythm. (I had no choice because of the wires, of course.)
Time passed. Classes came and went. One day in practice, as taffy stretched, clouds passed, and joyous breath inspired – it happened. There was a shift … a passing of the torch … a subtle change … a sudden awareness.
Someone else, something else, controlled the strings. My eyes, my hands, my senses no longer fixed on my own thoughts or connected to my teacher, TCC was now my marionettist.
“One day … suddenly I realized nobody is doing anything. I had myself out of the way. T’ai Chi Chih is doing T’ai Chi Chih and it’s a very, very ecstatic feeling.” – Justin F. Stone
Reprinted with permission from the May 2015 issue of The Vital Force, the TCC journal.