All posts by Jimmy

Jimmy

About Jimmy

Although I am a young guy from the Netherlands, I am often compared to being an old traditional Chinese man from the 80's. Hobbies include practicing Taijiquan and Qigong, reading Chinese philosophy, studying Chinese language and mountain climbing. The comparison is still a mystery to me...

Two Stories to Help Quiet Your Mind

 At work I sit in front of the computer, when I go home I sit while having dinner, and then I sit to play video games or watch Anime. So when I take time to relax my mind I don’t want to be still, I want to move!

Regardless of my aversion to sitting still, I believe that meditation is important and after I got more and more interested in Buddhist philosophy recently I decided to try again. The first step for me was to make it a habit.  I knew that if I wanted this habit to stick, consistency was key. So I decided to start simple, every morning after I woke up I would take a shower first to make sure I am awake and immediately afterwards I would sit for 5 minutes.

After a week I noticed that 5 minutes began to feel too short; every time my alarm would go off I would think, ”Hmm… I’d like to sit a while longer.” So the next day I tried 8 minutes, and now 2 weeks later I am at 20-25 minutes.

quiet the mind

The things I try to focus on are breathing and sound, because to me these are the easiest ones to pay attention to. My mind often wanders off, but I try not to worry about it. Here are some nice stories I read on how to deal with thoughts.

  1. The first one I read in a Dutch Magazine called Happinez: Meditation is like sitting on a bench in a park. When you sit there you will see all kinds of things and people walk by, and in meditation these people are your thoughts. Instead of getting up and shake their hands just keep sitting on the bench and observe them as they pass.
  2. The second one is from Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk in Western Australia: Many people want to still the mind. But their technique is like holding a cup of water and trying to hold it very still and stable so that the water doesn’t move. Instead, it is much easier to just LET GO of the cup… set it down and the water inside will naturally be still.

So where am I trying to get with meditation? And what am I trying to achieve? The answer to these two questions is “nowhere” and “nothing”. I am not trying to get anywhere, I just want to be here… right here in the present moment.

In one of the old Taoist texts there is a verse that says 虽名得道 实无所得, which means “although one has attained the Dao, in reality he didn’t attain anything”. By meditating you are not trying to get anything, quite opposite actually…you are losing things. You lose attachment, desires and expectations…you become a real loser J

Writing about this makes me want to meditate again! What are your experiences when you first started meditating? Share them below!

Four Ways of Letting Go

How often do you think “Why is time going so fast? I still have so much to do!”?

Most of the time this is because we are not really living our life as it happens; instead we are either lingering in the past or worrying about the future, forgetting the most important thing – the here and now.

A few months ago I stumbled across a Buddhist talk given by Ajahn Brahm, the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Western Australia. I was so inspired by his talk and the way he presented Buddhist philosophy in a practical and relatable way that I started to listen to his talks daily from that point on.

In today’s post I will share his view on living in the moment by letting go.

The Four Ways of Letting Go*

1.      Throw things away

Things are only heavy when you hold onto them. Is holding a stick heavy? Only when you hold it; if you can just let it go it weights nothing at all. So grab a stick or a rock and write something that you hold onto and throw it away. In your journey of life, travel lightly…don’t go traveling with a backpack full of rocks. Throw these rocks away (the future, the past, complaints etc.) Have the conviction that it can be done, and it is good to do. Only keep one thing, the present moment…what is happening now.

2.      Learning what freedom truly is

Any place you don’t want to be is your prison. There are many prisons in life. If you are reading this and you want it to end, then this is your prison. If you are in a relationship which you don’t like, your relationship is your prison. If you are in a job that is not giving you satisfaction…another prison for you. But you don’t need to change your husband or wife, you don’t even need to change your job, all you need to do is change your attitude and want to be here. When you want to be here, you are free. It doesn’t matter how painful or uncomfortable it is, as long as you want to be here…then you are free. That’s called contentment. Want to be here, wherever here happens to be.

zen monkey prison

3.      Giving

This is not ordinary giving, but giving while expecting nothing in return. Too often we expect things back in return, and that causes a huge amount of suffering in life. And our expectations never get realized. If you go into a relationship, giving and expecting nothing in return you will get a huge amount of fulfillment. The same counts for meditation, if you do it to get enlightened or to get peaceful, if you do it to expect something, there will never be any peace for you. You meditate not to get something, not to attain something, you meditate to let go. Give to life, give all your energy to this moment, expecting nothing back.  When you have no expectations life becomes so interesting. You are not demanding anything, but life gives you so much.

4.      Don’t allow things to stick to you

If you have a beautiful moment, enjoy it now and know it is going to go so you can be free for the next moment to come, not allowing the last moment to influence this one. Do not allow the past to stop you from enjoying this moment. This also counts for your prior knowledge — let it go. This way you can see things as they are, rather than see things as you are told that they are.

*Source: Ajahn Brahmavamso Mahathera, Buddhist Society WA, 9 April 2010 – Four Ways of Letting Go

Watch the whole talk here:

Letting go in Taijiquan

After practicing many years of Shaolin Kung Fu I built up a lot of tension in my body**. My Taijiquan teacher always told me to relax more and once asked me “Do you know what letting go is?” I don’t remember with what kind of answer I came up back then, but I’ll never forget what he said: “Letting go of something is simply to stop holding onto it”. So simple, but very profound.

In the Taiji classics it is said that “When you move you need to be light and limber”.  To do this you need to let go of any physical but also mental tension. If you are thinking about what happened the other day or what you need to do afterwards your mind is not relaxed and your body will not be able to relax either. Instead, feel what you are doing right now, experience the moment. It is not the starting point or destination that counts, but the journey.

**Note: The Key Principles in the Online Academy will help you structurally release tension build up in the body.  Register today if you haven’t already!

Subway Tai Chi

In my last post I wrote about practicing Tai Chi on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, now I am bringing it closer to home….the subway!

No, I am not practicing my forms in the subway or at the station, but I am applying different concepts and different techniques. Below are some that I practice the most:

Peng – Expanding Energy

Anybody who has ever been in a subway in Beijing knows how busy it can get; it’s always fully packed, and even then people still try to get in. This is not only annoying; it is also not safe for children and the elderly. So this is where your Peng energy comes in! I usually stand with my back to the door and when I notice that the subway is already full enough, I breath in and then when the door opens I breath out and expand…making my body round and leading my energy outwards. Believe me, nobody is coming in anymore and the grandma that is standing in front of you can keep on smiling.

birdseye zen 1d

Balance

With any luck you are in a subway, bus or train that is not completely packed. No matter if there are free seats, I always stand during the trip without holding onto anything. Buses are changing speed and stopping all the time, so this is an excellent opportunity to practice your balance. Stand with both feet shoulder width apart, just like your Neutral position in the Kinetic Concepts and slightly bend your knees. Then try to sink your energy into the ground and root, like a tree. Is it getting too easy? Try standing on one leg!

Daily Zen

This is the most obvious and least visible practice. You can try all the meditations in Level 1 to 3, just make sure you not go stare at people when practicing your Meditation on Sight, people don’t tend to like that ;) I most recently meditated on sound and was surprised by how many different sounds there are that I never noticed.  Small beeps, people’s clothes rubbing against each other, breathing… there’s an infinite amount to explore.

Willow in the Wind

Not everybody will be familiar with this, but this is a game you will learn in Level 2 where you practice waist flexibility and body sensitivity. Great for when you want to go out of the subway and others are fighting to go in. Instead of going against them, be like the willow in the wind and let them move around you by staying relaxed and moving your waist.

General tips:

  • You might be thinking…. standing in the middle of the subway, with your Taijiquan pants on*, trying to maintain balance…. doesn’t that look silly? Won’t people stare at you? The answer to both questions is… yes! But who cares, this is your practice, this is you improving your Taijiquan!
  • Make sure not to hurt the people around you, if you have already learned Level 2…don’t go out to give people shoulder or elbow strikes in the subway. Stay nice ;)
  • Be mindful and really experience what you are doing. Leave your cell phone in your pocket, it will still be working after your practice… try to focus.
*Editor’s note – you don’t have to wear Tai Chi pants to practice these exercises.  Jimmy just really loves his Tai Chi pants.