Mumbo Jumbo

What is a spiritual practice?

I'm not going to focus on the etymology. The term spiritual may mean different things to different people. I think most people would agree that meditation is a spiritual practice, at least it should be. Traditionally, meditation isn't something you do for the health benefits. Any benefits you get are merely a by-product of following the path.

But what is the goal of meditation? Is it Enlightenment? Do we meditate to transcend suffering and somehow change ourselves? Much has been written on this by those far wiser than I, so I'll keep quiet.

How long I can stay quiet may depend on how much I practice.

There's nothing I can say about meditation or spirituality that means anything at all and perhaps that's what I'm trying to say. A spiritual practice is wordless. Stop talking and just be in your body. How long can you stand still without doing anything?

My spiritual practice is Tai Chi. When I practice, my mind is dispersed throughout my body and for a while, I'm in the moment. I have found that these moments slowly grow and I can be present for longer. On the rare occasions that I am completely present, when all thoughts are gone and I'm at one with it all I'll probably be interrupted, either by my daughter, my neighbour or my own thoughts.

Not every Tai Chi practitioner considers it spiritual. Tai Chi is a martial art and the meditative aspects are just a part of that. In the '60s when Tai Chi arrived in the west it may have become entangled with the mystical mumbo jumbo of the time and so today there's a big move away from that. There are still plenty of hippies moving clouds around with their Qi but on the flip side, there are many serious martial artists for whom body mechanics and fighting applications are more important.

What Tai Chi is or isn't only matters when we're talking about it. When you are doing it you are not conceptualizing, you're not thinking about it. That's not quite true, my mind often wanders during the form but when it does I'm not really doing Tai Chi, my focus has gone and I'm no longer in my body.

I think Tai Chi is a particularly good form of meditation for 2 reasons. It is highly complex and requires utter concentration. When you are focussing on 3 or more things your chattering mind becomes very quiet indeed. It is also a very good meditation practice because it isn't a spiritual one. You don't practice to become enlightened.

When I do standing meditation it's not to transcend my mind. I stand to develop relaxation and whole body connection. Liberation from the mind isn't the goal and is, therefore, perhaps more probable.

The biggest ego trip going is getting rid of your ego, as Alan Watts famously said.

When your Spiritual practice isn't really a spiritual practice then is one!

I guess any activity could be meditation but some may be better than others. Tai Chi is very good for bringing one into the present moment and maybe that is all a spiritual practice is.

I'm no longer so interested in the fantastical. Hallucinogens will shake things up and out of body experiences will change your world view but for me, the real path is through the mundane. I don't want to get out of my head or out of my body. I want to be more present in it.

Tai Chi Beginners Course starts May 25th!