It is not uncommon for my mind to be chaotic even when I am in a peaceful setting. I long to get to the point where my mind is at peace regardless of how much chaos is around me. I have a long way to go to meet that goal.
I am getting plenty of opportunity to work on that issue in my Amritapuri Tai Chi class. Tai Chi, by its nature, is meditative. It slows down my mind and body more than anything else I have ever done.
I would guess that most Tai Chi classes are held in peaceful settings with soft music playing or silence in the background. The place where our class meets in Amritapuri is gorgeous. There are palm trees, views of the beach and the Arabian Sea, eagles flying overhead, etc. As I’ve mentioned before, though, there are also trucks, bicycles, buses and cars that occasionally go through the space where we meet.
With most of life’s lessons, it seems like once you have adjusted to one level, another dimension is added. This year has definitely demonstrated that process. During my first class, I was stung by a red ant. It is amazing how much a bite by a tiny ant can hurt. In fact, the bite was still stinging hours after the class finished.
Soon thereafter, a red ant hill showed up at the perimeter of the space we use for the class, so it has been important for me to stay conscious of that danger, and to make sure new students are made aware of it. (I have stepped on a red ant nest twice in the 27 years I’ve been coming to India, once in the daylight and once at night. It is an unforgettable experience; one I hope never to repeat.)
Starting with our second class, students taking a silent meditation retreat have done a walking meditation in front of us during part of our class. They don’t disturb us but I’m tempted to watch them instead of staying focused on my own work.
In last week’s post Be Like a Bird Perched on a Dry Twig, I talked about the third class when there were even more vehicles in the area than normal. Midway through the class, a truck pulled into “our” space and parked. The workers got out of the truck and started carrying their supplies to the nearby construction site. Since their work had priority, we had to move to a smaller area, one that was bordered by 8 ashram cows lounging in the shade!
Tai Chi is so powerful that it was reasonably easy for me to find that place of peace and contentment even in these circumstances, although I certainly didn’t have single minded focus.
On my fourth class, another set of challenges were added to those that I have already described. (BTW, the cows have not returned to the beach, at least a that time of day, since the third class.) The fourth class was held on a weekend, the first weekend since Amma returned from her European and U.S. tour. The crowds coming for darshan (hugs) were very big that day. At one point, there were 14 vehicles parked on the beach.
Then something new happened. At first, one or two village men started removing carts of sand from the beach to somewhere in the village. Next, two women started a chain. One woman would carry a big pan of sand on her head and walk to a spot next to our class. She would then shift the pan to the head of a second woman who would carry it out to the main road. We often had to divert our path to stay out of their way.
Fifteen minutes before that class was over, a cement mixer started making its piercing noise in the construction area near to us. By that time, the whole situation had become funny.
During the fifth class, a third woman was added to the chain of sand carriers. On the sixth, there were all of the previous challenges, except the cows. In addition, a new layer of sand had been added to our area 0f the beach. The sand was beautiful and felt good on my feet, but it hadn’t been compacted yet, so there was no smooth or level ground to walk on. That made doing the Tai Chi moves much more difficult.
As you can see, doing Tai Chi on the beach in Amritapuri is definitely an opportunity for me to find peace in the midst of chaos. It is also an opportunity to see the humor in the situations that arise in life.
To look at previous posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.