Standing with head gently erect, eyes straight ahead. Why is it so hard?
Most of the time, you won't see anyone like this on the streets. If you live in New York, or in any older City, you have the pretty good excuse of old, cracked and uneven sidewalks. There are tree roots pushing up whole sections of sidewalk and you need to look down so as not to go flying! my students tell me. Hm, maybe, I think to myself.
What this means is that many of us in densely populated areas look anywhere but into the eyes of a stranger when we cross paths. Rather than holding our heads up and greeting the person who’s walking towards us the way they do in rural parts and in smaller cities, like New Orleans, we look down. We look sideways. We look through the person, we gaze vaguely in the direction of their solar plexus.
But I bemoan this custom. I never felt happier than when walking out of my little room onto the street in New Orleans, where I lived briefly, to be greeted by someone I'd never seen before with “hi, babe, how are you?” accompanied with a large smile. Wow! I wondered, why don’t they do this in Brooklyn?
shifting one's culture: proceed with caution!
out on a limb
So, going out admittedly on a very slender limb -- maybe because of this, when we're inside the studio, our urban habits make it hard to hold our heads up and aim our eyes like daggers, fiercely , yet calmly enough to slay an opponent ( Hawkes, my erstwhile teacher, would tell us, you can kill with your eyes!) Instead, within less than a minute, as we go through our qi gong exercises, I watch as heads begin to droop and face the floor as though there are jewels enbedded in the floor boards. In addition to some ill-defined concerns about their t'ai foot positioning, my students are engaging in a gesture that says don’t bother me!