You say you practice tai chi – but how are you practicing tai chi?
When my children were younger and every time I would come back from Europe, I’d always bring home a collection of coins from any country I visited. My youngest son would take the coins and mush them around, throw them up in the air and shout, “Money, money, money!”
Now, to someone who was three years old, that was money. At most all of it together was maybe two bucks. Take a person making $20,000 a year and having money means making $100,000 a year income. Go to someone making $100,000 a year income and money is having a million or five million dollars a year. It’s all terribly relative.
So you can do tai chi, but are you really into the game of it? If you are, you don’t really care about people’s external validation because you’re living it. You’re practicing. It’s happening inside your mind and your body, every day, minute by minute. The things mucking up, or even upgrading your mind and body, have to do with your subjective experience. What someone else says is wonderful or poor doesn’t much matter.
People who know nothing about tai chi might say, “Wow, your movements are so beautiful” when the person they’re looking at is more likely than not doing tai chi at a very basic level. On the other hand, you might see someone who does tai chi really well, he seems to have something special about him, yet someone else can’t make any distinction between this person and a beginner. And, you’re depending upon the validation of other people? Instead of taking someone else as a hero, why not make your own life heroic? Likewise, you don’t do it so you can beat your chest like Tarzan, “Look where I’m at!”
I’ve noticed that the people who really get into chi work don’t focus on where they’ve gotten. They look more for what’s missing. They don’t obsess about what they can do because they’re constantly searching for the possibility of being completely connected. When they notice they aren’t connected, they’re always asking, “What’s missing?” And, if you get into meditation, you’re never going to get bored and all puffed up over your “self-promotion.”
Marketers will try to sell you this soap, computer or car. And, if you buy that soap, computer or car, you will be happy-you will effectively have this identity or that. But, soap is soap, the computer is a computer and a car is just a car.
Loving the game-not the ego’s antidotes-is inherent in meditation work. Looking for what you can tell someone you can do or bragging about some mark of accomplishment will not take you to an understanding of the depths of your being. Meditation might.
Markers of accomplishment will help drive you forward a bit, but what really drives people forward is that they actually want to understand the nature of the activity they’re doing. You have to be in it for the game.
Do you think any scientist who receives the Nobel Prize did their research for only the recognition? It might be that they get very competitive, but most scientists who do serious research love the process. When you really get into something you love, it gives you back more of yourself. It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter what the particular context of it is. For some people it’s playing with numbers, for others it’s walking up and down mountains, dancing, tai chi or meditating.
You don’t concede when everything isn’t great. If you have a very old house and you decide to remodel it, every single time you open up a floorboard you might see immense potential and yet at the moment it might be an absolute wreck.
I can tell you from experience that doing inner work is quite a bit different from doing things in the external world where you are continuously prodded forward by validations. When you’re doing work purely affecting you on an inner level, you have to be in it for love of the game. At every new stage another layer is opened up to you, and you open to yourself.