In Search of True HappinessMay 10, 2007
T’ai Chi, yoga, asana practice – find your true nature: happiness
It had taken me five years to get to this moment, and I was elated. I had found my center. It is located approximately two inches below the navel and one-third the distance from the front of the body to the back. It felt like a thick rubber band stretching slightly as I stood in the preparatory position of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. As I moved through the T’ai Chi form, it became slowly filled with internal breath, known as Chi, and the rubber band swelled like an expanded balloon. I tried to completely relax my body, especially concentrating on the lower abdomen. The right posture, along with just enough muscular strength to hold the position correctly, allowed my body to sink to its center. At first, I didn’t believe this place existed. My instructor often spoke about my center of gravity, but I had given up looking for it. While other classmates spoke about it, I was not sure that they had truly discovered theirs, and I thought that my center of gravity must be hidden so deeply that I would never find it.
My teacher said, “With your head held high, reaching for the heavens, with your feet firmly anchored in the ground, and your mind in your center, what else is there?” At the time, I did not understand what he meant. That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was full of myself, I was unique, and I was special. I was one of the chosen few. With this newfound internal body part, I would rise to the top of the T’ai Chi world, and for that matter, to the top of the larger world in which I lived. My ego surveyed my domain, huffing and strutting around, like a pumped up body builder full of himself.
As the weeks went by, realization set in. Unfortunately, I was not so unique, but rather someone just willing to search for an elusive goal. My center was always there, just as everyone’s is. It is part of the plumbing we are all born with, and it lies deep within, waiting to be discovered and explored.
That was thirty years ago. I continue to practice, and occasionally taught T’ai Chi for fifteen years. My beloved instructor passed away, and so came the end to my formal lessons. However, my quest was just beginning. While I was not sure for exactly what I was searching, I hoped that the answer was already there. Then, ever so naturally, I started my practice of yoga, almost not realizing that my practice was my search. For me, T’ai Chi was a stepping-stone to yoga, and both provided different means to arrive at the same end. My first eight years of yoga were mostly self-practice with some instruction along the way. I was used to practicing alone, as I did throughout my years of involvement with martial arts. Unknowingly, I was planting the seeds, which were to manifest when I finally found my yoga teacher. Like a plant pushing out from the earth, I was ready to bloom with beautiful flowers. All that I needed was the right garden.
It manifested so slowly. At first I didn’t quite know what it was, this yearning deep inside for a need to connect. Along with that came the desire to learn my true nature, which was unfolding itself to me, showing me what I was made of – who I really am. Even now, as I write this, my chest opens up almost like placing a smiling face in my heart’s center. This is a feeling that no external gift could bestow, and no money could buy. My being fills with the happiness that was always there, waiting patiently, life after life to be discovered. It is a desire to become one with the universe, to be an intrinsic part of nature, and to be connected to humanity. Total connectedness, total acceptance, and total peace enable me to give all that I can, and to be thankful for all I have received. Happiness is always there; all that is needed is the desire to unlock it. As I tell my classes now, all you need is your toolbox. It is filled with some amazing tools like your body, mind and breath. Take out these tools and put them to work. Peel away the layers of emotional scars long buried as you flow through asana practice. Open your heart center and unlock true happiness.