This is a guest post by one of Centered’s therapist-teachers, Matthew Branstetter. We offer that you take one of his classes or book a session with Matt B. and learn more about him, on our website.
This is the kind of question Bob Ernst and I like to discuss. When we do, something seems to happen and 30 minutes later we are wondering where the time went. We get so involved in the conversation that we seem to ‘disappear’ into it. We like this. It’s enjoyable. It’s also one of the things that draws him to farming and me to Tai Chi. We can disappear into them. There is something about both of these activities that invites a kind of holistic, total participation. There are other similarities…
To be effective, both farming and Tai Chi need to be in harmony with the greater patterns of the cosmos. They both deal with the way in which humans are situated in a larger context. They make use of the energy provided by this context. They seek to align themselves with it. To embody it. To transform it into something useful.
The farmer plants seeds in the soil with the hopes that new sprouts will arise and grow upwards towards the sun. In Tai Chi we talk about cultivating Yin to give rise to Yang. By allowing the body to relax, to settle into the earth, to surrender to the pull of gravity we create the optimal conditions for an upward moving force to flow through us.
The farmer irrigates his soil to make it fertile. In the same way the Tai Chi practitioner softens the acupuncture points in the feet called the ‘bubbling springs’ to make the energy which flows through the legs (water meridians) supple and fluid. It is this fluidity which gives Tai Chi the quality of ‘swimming in the air’.
The deepest connection is the spiritual one. When farming is in tune with the cosmos it becomes an expression of the cosmos. Here the world is no longer divided between the human farm and the ‘non-human’ or greater than human world made up of weather patterns, migration patterns, the changing of the seasons and the rising and setting of the sun and moon. Real, sustainable farming is so aligned with these processes as to be continuous with them. Such a farm is ‘seamless’—transparent to the cosmic powers resonating through and within it.
Similarly, the philosophical traditions which give birth to Tai Chi talk about a great, single movement called the Dao or ‘Great Way’. The highest attainment of the art is when there is no longer a division between the human and the universal. No longer a cosmic movement outside the skin and a psychological, physiological movement on the inside. The state of Tai Chi is reached when the inner movement is felt and known to be continuous with the Great Way – the One movement that incorporates both inner and outer and eliminates the distinction between them.
Well, enough from me. Now we’ll hear from Bob via a short article he published called ‘A Sense Of Place’. And here’s an interview with about Bob from the Farm-based Education Network.
If you are interested in these musings please see the info in the flyer below as you might enjoy joining us at Plowshares Farm. Plowshares is a farm and educational center with a spiritual focus. It is a place for work, retreat and dialogue about issues related to ecology, mindfulness and embodiment.