For those who have a daily practice, it is useful to think about refining their time spent on the Way
In concentration, which is useful early on to avoid distractions, a “tunnel” type of focus is created, nothing else exists except the object of our concentration, even though it only lasts two or three seconds.
This “confinement” over our action automatically reduces our other perceptions: for example, a motion will be the focused center of all our perceptions, and of our compulsive thinking, during the time of our effort.
This works fairly well, but in general, the concentration can not hold for a long time … and when it stops, everything disappears. The explosion of distractions can even make us forget the original object of our concentration.
Although it is important, concentration is a “tension”, a way of doing by “strength.” No way of doing by duress has sustainability, it is impossible to live in these conditions because it is not “natural.”
When we learn a physical movement, without having gone through the acquisition of the “gong fu”, we need to focus not to forget. We also need to repeat the gesture often enough to make it “enter” in us. For most people, a movement done with a certain amount of tension will be felt more easily: the tension gives a stronger feeling.
In general, an unknown movement will create a tension and ask us an effort that is not really related to the required physical demand: we push to successfully copy the gesture, in resistance against our problems of flexibility and of coordination. When the motion is acquired, we should normally use the right “amount” of strength for the required effort.
If we keep the same physical tension at each execution of the learned movement, we hurt ourselves, we tense ourselves. But it will never actually happen because the physical pain calls us to order and we fear it enough to avoid it and not to push ourselves too far.
For the mental, emotional and intellectual part of learning, we use a form of “tension” to acquire the gesture: it is concentration.
Moreover, it is easier to stay “focused” throughout our practices, throughout our lives, while injuring ourselves, as internal difficulty creates another form of pain than physical pain. It’s a pain that we are able to keep and accumulate precisely because it is less physical and at the same time seemingly less serious.
Concentration, while useful for the entry into a practice, can become a source of tension and stiffness in the Shen (mind) and even be harmful for the health (at least it can prevent from reaping the benefits of a practice oriented towards health…).
A practice that requires too many details at the same time, that seeks the perfection of the gesture, can not bring relaxation. In the learning phase, it is very important to make progress slowly but constantly. If the research is that of perfection, that does not exist, we work in a vacuum: it never bring anything, except a certain morbid rigidity.
On the other hand, unable to focus, feel and reproduce a movement, the tendency is to seek a mental satisfaction for compensation: we watch videos, we search for the “advanced levels” and the secrets of the hidden arts… forgetting at the same time the most important: distinguishing right from left.
This text is not an encouragement to say that you just have to relax (do nothing!) And that “it” will come by itself (well of course!) … This is not the case. No confusion possible with the beginning of this text “For those who have a daily practice, it is useful to think about refining their time spent in the Way.”
“Attention” is relaxed concentration
We find in “attention” the benefits of concentration, but in a more open way than in a “tunnel vision”. It is obvious that in the beginning the problem lies in this opening which is likely distracting.
In a daily practice, the learned gesture requires a minimum effort. It requires concentration to “understand” and a certain amount of tension for the first executions. By contrast, it must quickly take less effort, and to enjoy our practice we have to stay in this economy.
We must do the same for our practice: it must be integrated into our daily lives, but must reside in the usual attentive than in the concentration. And we reduce the adding of tensions to gain relaxation.
It’s easy to wallow in tension, because it allows to better feel. It is a form of laziness of the senses that develops easily. Strong feelings, strong emotions, buggy jumping, weight lifting … all these ways to “feel alive” can prevent us from enjoying the simple perceptions of everyday life.
In our Taoist approach, relaxation in practice leads to a kind of mental silence and physical relaxation that allows us to really enjoy our life. The simplest perceptions amaze us, the constant attention is growing and we really live.
Training in concentration, in an overall stiffness, annihilates the benefits of our physical practice and condemns us to flatter our ego to receive an intellectual satisfaction: but we are here in a illusory and harmful practice.
Attentive to what we have learned and accepting the need for concentration necessary for our growth, we must move towards relaxation and the simple: body and mind can not remain under tension under penalty of increased suffering. We have to accept the structured letting go of the Way and practice.
If we can not resonate with the Practice, isn’t there most likely a chance that the problem comes from our understanding of the Wayrather than from the Way itself?