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Effortless Power

So…. Wow. It’s been a while. I know I’ve said, um, pretty much every time that I’ve blogged in the past year that it’s been a crazy year, but really, it’s been a crazy year. Now that I’ve finished editing Push on the Rock, I figure I should start blogging again–or at least I figure I have energy I could spend on blogging.

So one of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is energy–as in having enough energy to get through the day. Simpson said that he felt younger and stronger at age seventy than age thirty because he had learned to “live using God’s strength, accomplishing fully twice as much mentally and physically as I ever did in the past, yet with only half the effort. My physical, mental, and spiritual life is like an artesian well–always full and overflowing; speaking, teaching and traveling by day on by night through sudden and violent changes in weather or climate is of no more effort to me than it is for the wheels of an engine to turn when the pressure of the steam is at full force or than it is for a pipe to let water run through it.” (Streams in the Desert 9/27)

Reading that made me think about the “art of effortless power” Peter Ralston talks about with Tai Chi. Effortless power comes naturally as a result of aligning oneself with the five principles: being calm, relaxed, centered, grounded, and whole and total. As crazy as it sounds, this is something that I’ve actually experienced in my practice of Tai Chi. It’s amazing to be able to punch without feeling my muscles tire, or to walk and have it take more energy to stop than it does to keep going. I think, like so many things, this physical reality has a corresponding spiritual reality and that’s what Simpson found.

It spurred me to look at the five principles and examine those spiritual realities.

1) Calm: In Tai Chi this means mental calmness, but I think when we look at the Christian life, it’s equivalent is to fully trust God. Like Paul says in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV). That mental calmness can only come when we’re not worried about anything–that doesn’t mean that you’re calm 24/7, but rather that when you worry, you choose to trust God.

2) Relaxed: In Tai Chi this is the reality of being physically relaxed, of letting your weight drain through all your joints and into the ground. My Tai Chi instructor likens it to water draining through a hose without kinks. Spiritually, I would argue this means surrendering to God…. getting rid of any hinderances to relying on God–in every single area of my life.

3) Centered: In Tai Chi this involved moving from the center of your body, rather than where we typically are focused (our heads). Spiritually, I think this translates into living my life from the core of who I am, who I really am; knowing myself and living out of that vs. trying to force something. I have to know who God designed me to be, who I am as a new creature in Christ, and what things are important to me. My husband and I recently cleaned out one of our closets and in one of my old notebooks, I found a story I had written back in third or fourth grade. I wrote myself into the story as a “future author.” I’d forgotten that I’d always wanted to be a writer. It was very affirming to be reminded of how much I love literature and writing–how much I’ve always loved literature and writing. I wrote my first story on a typewriter when I was four (it was about a cat and a rat, just in case you were wondering). It’s part of who I am. I also found some other things–little encouragement cards I used to send to the girls I discipled in high school, different prayers in my old journals. The more things change, the more they stay the same. God made me a certain way. There just are certain things that are part of who I am. And it’s easy to forget those things in the every day crazy of life. It’s also easy to forget the reality of who I am in Jesus, to start believing the lies about being unlovable, or unloved, or worthless, or lazy, or any of the other wrong things people have told me over the years. Being centered means living out of the essence of who God tells me I am.

4) Grounded: In Tai Chi this is being 100% connected to the earth, feeling all of your weight going down into the earth, so that when you push, etc., you do so with the force of the earth. There’s a concussive effect that happens when your body is relaxed, you’re centered and grounded, and you push/pull/punch, etc. It packs a lot of power. Quite painful if you’re the one being punched. 😉 Anyway! Spiritually, I think we can talk about this as being connected to God–being grounded in who He is and doing things through the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you, but I forget who God is. Often. I get these crazy ideas about His character when I focus on my circumstances–like that He’s forgotten me, or doesn’t really love me, or isn’t kind, isn’t patient, isn’t forgiving, and on and on and on. I need daily time in His Word and His presence just to remember who He is, to re-ground.

5) Whole and Total: In Tai Chi, this involves utilizing your entire body as well as being aware of your surroundings. My instructor says that so often we live like we’re all gingerbread men. We have a front and a back, and we forget about the rest. Or I’ve seen people who just have heads, but if you tell them to raise their right arm and tap their left foot, they have to think hard to connect with those parts of their body. We tend to put our bodies on auto-pilot, but being whole and total means knowing where all of me is. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses, and using them both. It means interacting with the whole world around me, not just the three feet in front of my face. And this is where circumstances come in. I am now going to betray my dorkiness, but I love the Vulcan concept of “kaiidith”: what is, is. Being whole and total means recognizing what is because only when you work with what is can you change. You can’t change something that doesn’t exist. I have a relative who is waiting on someone else to fix their anger issues because they truly believe that those issues are the other person’s fault. It means they’re stuck because they have no control over their lives. We need God’s help to see what is. And we need His help to have eyes that are willing to recognize all of ourselves–the things we love about ourselves and the things we hate.

When I’m going through my day, I’ve started asking myself about the five principles. I talked to my Tai Chi instructor recently and he pointed out that you really have to do them in order. You can’t be physically relaxed without being mentally calm. You can’t be centered without being physically relaxed. And I love that. It’s so nice to have a quick and easy checklist to go through in my day: Am I trusting God? Am I fully surrendered?  Do I remember who I am? Do I remember who He is? Am I seeing myself and my circumstances fully and accurately?

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