Protect your root,” emphasized my Tai Chi teacher. By this is meant to remain centered, to figuratively have feet that are rooted in the earth so that balance cannot be disrupted. It means to manage energy in such a way that energy which might threaten to upset the inner and/or physical balance is redirected away from one’s center, often by the smallest of precise movements.
Although it takes practice to be able to consistently do this, it is not difficult to understand the concept. The natural instinct of most of us if we are pushed or feel attacked is to push back or counter attack. In other words, we become as aggressive as the attacker, even as we insist it is “only” self-defense. We are then open to the attacker’s renewed efforts, and the cycle continues until one or the other is overpowered. Redirecting an attack using minimal energy, and refusing to engage oneself in counter attacking preserves the center, the root. The redirected attacker is the only one off balance. It is a peaceful response, and although if attacks continue or increase, stronger redirections can be implemented, the general principle is the same.
Keeping one’s root is also an immensely useful skill for creating a fulfilled and balanced life. A rooted or centered person is not tossed about by a sea of emotion. He or she certainly feels, but instead of holding on to the distress the feelings create, acknowledges and feels the feelings, and then allows them to pass on, before they create an upset (loss of balance) or interfere with awareness. Again, this is easier said than done, but the concept is easy enough to understand. The great spiritual teachers have all, one way or another, taught forgiveness. In order to forgive, an affront must first be acknowledged (one thinks or perceives he or she has been hurt); then, instead of holding on to the wrong someone else has done, the affront (or the perception of the affront) is let go. There is no counter attack, no revenge, no playing the victim. The affront was wrong, was acknowledged and let go. The recipient of the “attack” has not been thrown off balance, or out of root, and is carrying no resentment.
We are all of us interconnected. We are connected to each other, to the plants and animals among whom we live, to the rhythms of the Earth and cosmos, even to the weather. It is all connected. As such, the energy of each of us has a pull or push upon each other. Is any of us unable to recite times where other people, the environment, the weather have not influenced the calm content of our centers? These others are not enemies. They are simply a part of our world. We can certainly feel pushed by them or pulled by them in directions we do not wish to go. And fighting back, returning the push or pull, succeeds only in adding more energy to the push or pull. We become trapped in the cycle of pushing and pulling the energy. We end up being where we do not wish to be. If instead, we can find the tiniest of responses to simply redirect the energy, to let it flow, and to keep our center, or root, from being undermined, we are then freed from being trapped in an ongoing cycle of pushing and pulling. We are far more likely to get where we think we want to go, and to live more contented lives as well. The trick is in finding the tiniest of responses, and practicing until we are able to consistently use them.
Many of us are now consciously trying to create a world that is more just, more nurturing, more loving. It would seem to me that this passively active way of responding to negative energy, whether from within us or from an outside source, is a critical element in such a world’s formation. It reinforces the often uttered adage that if we wish to change the world around us, we must first change ourselves. Let us ponder this, and may each of us find the way to preserve our roots.