March 17th, 2019

Lesson from Marcus Aurelius

From Sextus Marcus Aurelius learned:

Kindness.

Gravity without airs.

The ability to get along with everyone.

The ability to investigate and analyze, with understanding and logic, the principles we ought to live by.

Not to display anger and to be free of passion yet full of love.

To praise without bombast; to display expertise without pretense.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

    February 25th, 2019

    Tai Chi and Golf

    In about 2005 to improve my golf game I started to study Tai Chi from Master Yang Jun at Yang Family Tai Chi. I have been a student ever since. As well as the Long Form I study Push Hands. Below is a edited version (footnotes omitted but source cited) of an article I wrote for Yang Family Tai Chi on “The Ten Essentials” of Tai Chi and Golf.

    As students of Tai Chi, we recognize the importance of dedication to form. Physical technique and mental focus are fundamental to proper form. We spend countless hours developing technique and focus in slow motion. Slow motion movement demands discipline, as faults become readily apparent. In Tai Chi, we strive to execute even the smallest technique exactly. As we practice the form continuously we work part by part connecting the parts, our mind becomes focused as skill and control improve. We strive to reach the point where we have physically and mentally internalized the form, and have quality repetition.


    In golf, there are “certain actions that must take place during the act of hitting if the ball is to be struck with accuracy and power.” (Bobby Jones). The haphazard uninformed player may occasionally hit a decent shot but he cannot “hope to compete with the man whose sound swing carries him time after time into…[sound] position.” Id. The player with the sound swing – like the sound Tai Chi student- is the player who through countless hours masters movements that result in repeating proper form. It “is utterly impossible to play good golf without a swing that will repeat.” Id. The repeating swing is mastered through the repetition of fundamentals in form that are right because they produce quality shots under all kinds of pressure. Id.


    As with Tai Chi, proper golf form requires specific moves done in a balanced, relaxed, and focused way. The essentials of Tai Chi are the same as the essentials of golf. Through practice and application of Tai Chi essentials, we reach a higher level of physical and mental form. An analysis of The Ten Essentials of Tai Chi reveals fundamentals that, if practiced, will lead to good Tai Chi form and good Golf form.

    Light Energy at Top of Head. This first essential requires the head to be upright and straight. There must be no “strength” used so the neck and back remain relaxed and natural. This allows for the conscious intent to be natural and lively. Likewise, in golf the head must be erect with a feeling of naturalness. This feeling allows the golf player to be uninhibited. Tiger Woods stresses good posture. “One of the most important aspects of good posture is to hold your chin high at address.” With his back fairly straight and a bit of flex in his knees Tiger’s body is “prepared to move freely in any direction…” (Tiger Woods).

    Sink Chest Raise Back. In Tai Chi, this means the chi (life energy) needs to stay in the back rather than flow into the chest which will cause top heaviness. Sinking the chest allows the chi to flow into the spine which creates strength in the spine. This also prevents the upper body from feeling heavy which results in poor form. In golf, for good form we also must eliminate any feeling of top-heaviness. Ben Hogan teaches that proper golf posture lies with the back being naturally erect. “Your upper trunk should feel like it’s an elevator dropping down a floor – the club head descends as your trunk descends.” This, as in Tai Chi, allows for movement and power to occur from the foundation of the feet.

    Relax the Waist. In Tai Chi “the waist is the ruler of the body.” When the waist is relaxed the feet have power, and our foundation is stable. Movement of the waist leads to necessary change from full to empty. A relaxed waist allows for the transfer of power. According to Bobby Jones, the most important movement in golf is “to start the downswing by beginning the unwinding of the hips [waist].” As in Tai Chi, there can be no power or accuracy in golf unless a relaxed waist leads the downswing.

    Distinguish Insubstantial from Substantial. In Tai Chi, the practitioner must be able to distinguish movement and weight transfer from left to right (called empty and full). When we can distinguish empty and full our turning movement becomes light, nimble and almost without effort. When we transfer weight we must stay within the foundation of our stance. Failure to distinguish weight transfer and stay within our foundation leads to an unsteady stance. In golf we must shift from our target side during the backswing to our non-target side before initiating the downswing when we shift back to our target side. When we shift our weight no part of the torso moves beyond the feet. This can only be done by distinguishing between insubstantial (moving away from the ball) to substantial (moving back and through the ball). As in Tai Chi, when we do this our swing is almost without effort.

    Sink Shoulders Drop Elbows. Sinking the shoulders means relaxing the shoulders. They are allowed to hang down. Dropping the elbows means relaxing the elbows downward. This principle is also fundamental to the proper golf swing. This is what Ben Hogan is talking about when he says the upper trunk needs to have the feeling of dropping downward. Master Yang Jun continually teaches to “keep elbows down.” This essential fundamental is the same in the proper golf swing. The elbows must be down at the initiation of the swing. Hogan teaches the elbows must point to the hips which means to be down at address. The elbows must continue to remain down throughout the swing so the swing stays “connected.” This means the arms do not fly away from the body but are led by the body as they are in proper Tai Chi form.

    Use Consciousness not Strength. Here we come to the higher level of both the Tai Chi form and the golf swing. This “means we must rely exclusively on mind and not on strength.” Superior Tai Chi form and golf form demands that the entire body be loose and open to avoid “the slightest bit of crude force.” Only by being soft are we able to obtain hardness. “No one can do it for you. You have to do it for yourself. It’s a matter of being in touch with yourself mentally, physically and emotionally.” This is easier said than done. This fundamental is mastered by those at the highest level of Tai Chi and golf. It is the ability to move in the Tai Chi form and in the golf swing with fluidity – a natural uninhibited movement done without trying to aggressively hit the ball.

    Unity of Upper and Lower Body. “The root is in the feet; it is issued through the legs, controlled by the waist and expressed in the hands.” In Tai Chi and in golf, rooted feet provide a firm foundation which is necessary for stability allowing movement to initiate from the feet and progress upward.

    The Unity of Internal and External. Here we learn in Tai Chi “[t]he spirit is the leader and the body is at its command.” Thus, when the inner and outer are unified as one we have connection without interruption. This stands for the proposition that in proper Tai Chi form both the mind and the body are unified. The same is true for proper golf form. Years ago, a British golf professional, instructor, and writer dealt with this fundamental in his golf instruction book. As Percy Boomer explains as a young professional he recognized good golf form has both physical and mental components. Initially he struggled to assign percentages between the two until he came to a revelation – “we never act purely psychologically or purely physically … every act is carried out in psychophysical unison.” When this unison is properly functioning there is “conscious control” – a balance between mind and body – which is what is necessary for proper golf form and proper Tai Chi form.

    Continuity Without Interruption. This fundamental continues to emphasize the mind. In Tai Chi, proper form requires the mind to be always present and control the urge to use strength in an external clumsy way. Proper form further requires that there be no interruption. We must be “complete and continuous, circular and unending.” In golf, this fundamental means proper golf swing form requires “Rhythm.” As stated by Percy Boomer, rhythm is “flowing motion.” It is the continuous movement coordinated by mind and muscle to do the right form at the right time. As in Tai Chi, Boomer teaches that slow continuous movement beats force every time. Boomer explains to be rhythmic we must use our mind to control the urge to hit too soon at the ball (called hitting from the top) As in Tai Chi, this early urge to use excess force results in clumsy non-rhythmic form. Continuity without interruption is thus required to achieve the rhythm necessary for proper form in the golf swing.

    Seek Stillness in Movement. This fundamental recognizes that in Tai Chi there is movement but it is a movement in a slow, evenly paced form. Here Tai Chi is contrasted from the outward martial art forms such as Karate. Golf like Tai Chi is a slow moving sport. It is unlike rapid sports that rely on bursts of energy. Superior golf form demands a controlled even pace throughout the “round of golf.” As Tiger Woods says, “my creative mind is my greatest weapon.” Slow paced focused movement in Tai Chi leads to good form. In golf good form requires staying our natural rhythm and routine, and focusing solely on what needs to be accomplished. We do this by seeking stillness in movement.


    I continue to practice and develop in the Tai Chi form and the Golf form. I work on form without worrying about results. The greatest pleasure in both is from the pursuit of the best possible form. This continued pursuit – the means – is a life long quest. The result – the end – will take care of itself. As for golf the pursuit of the best form is enhanced through the application of The Ten Essentials.

      January 19th, 2019

      Wu Wei

      “Literally, Wu Wei means ‘without doing, causing or making.’ But practically speaking it means without meddlesome, combative, or egotistical effort. … Wu Wei  means no going against the nature of things. …

      When we learn to work with our Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around us, we reach the level of Wu Wei.

      Then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort. Since the natural world follows this principle, it does not make mistakes.”

      Benjamin Hoff, The Tao Of Poo(1982).

        January 8th, 2019

        New Year’s Resolution-Connection

        con·nec·tion  (k-nkshn)

        n.

        1.

        a. The act of connecting.
        b. The state of being connected.
        2. One that connects.
        3. An association or relationship: There appeared to be a connection to the group.
        4. Reference or relation to something else; context: With this connection we can work for justice.

        For my New Year’s Resolution I am working on “connection'” as in connecting with others. Connection is accomplished by listening in the moment.

        To successfully listen I clear my mind to facilitate openness to things as they are. To connect by listening I give up preconceived ideas and opinions. I listen and observe the way of the speaker.

        I accept the speaker without emphasis on good or bad. I feel things as they are with the speaker. I find common ground through the humanness of the situation.

          December 10th, 2018

          Stanislavski on Adaptation

          Every trial lawyer knows a trial takes a life of its own with unexpected twits and turns. Preparation is essential, yet to succeed the lawyer must keep readjusting so the jury accepts and feels the changing circumstances and emotions. This ability which actors and trial lawyers must have is called “Adaptation.” Constantin Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares (1936)(Routledge -Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood).

          In trial we must “adapt” to circumstances, to time, and to witnesses.  “Adaptation” means the inner and outer ways we use to adjust to the variety of witnesses, court rulings, surprises and breakdown of plans that occur in any trial. As taught by Stanislavski the key to successful adaptation is to be true to our inner feelings. We do this by trusting our inner sense of our theme.

          According to Stanislavski, adaptations are made consciously and unconsciously. Conscious adaptation occurs when things do not go as planned. In preparing for trial we plan on the order of witnesses and when and how documentary evidence will be introduced. With planned preparation we go forward as planned unless something happens to prevent the plan. For example when a witness is unavailable, conscious adaptation is necessary to continue the trial without a gap. A different witness is called or a DVD witness is played. When this is done it is important to “practice law like a duck.” On the surface the jury sees an unfazed, cool, calm and collected lawyer continuing the case uninterrupted. Below the surface the lawyer is furiously paddling to stay afloat.

          Unconscious adaptation is what Stanislavsi concerns himself with. The highest level a trial lawyer reaches is during unconscious adaptation. Unconscious adaptation is not planned. It occurs during direct and cross examination as we “are in unending contact” with the witness. To reach this level we must trust our preparation. We must be a connected and focused with the witness. We must allow our  emotions to emerge in our voice and reaction to the testimony. “The only approach is through intuition and the subconscious.” Id. Our response is then “created naturally, spontaneously, unconsciously, at the very moment when emotions are at their height.” Id. In trusting our unconscious adaptation we make “an ineradicable impression… on the memories of the [jury].” Id.

          The only way we can reach this level is through an internalization of the facts before trial. An internalization so deep it is in our subconscious at an emotional level. This allows us to forget who we are, forget about the possibility of failure, live in the trial moment and project our unconscious reaction which will unprepared, natural and powerful.

            December 3rd, 2018

            The Varieties of Religious Experience- le point vierge

            Thomas Merton says he cannot define le point vierge so he describes his sudden “realization” while on the corner of 4th and Walnut in Louisville with people in a shopping area:

            Then it was as if I saw the secret beauty in their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. … Again that expression, le pointe verge, (I cannot describe it) comes in here. At the center our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God. … This little point…is the pure glory of God in us. …It is like a diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in every body.

            Merton discusses “the secret beauty” as being in the hearts of the people in the crowd. Thinking of this makes me realize:

            1. My heart and brain developed progressively as a fetus in my mother’s womb, and they are my connection with  God or “The Universal Mind.” 

            2. My heart has its own nervous system with electromagnetic energy greater than my brain, and my heart’s electromagnetic energy is a source of communication as it can be detected as an energy wave.

            3. Through my heart’s rhythm I can connect to the point in my heart of soulfulness, higher consciousness and spiritual rythmatic energy which entered my heart while I was a fetus in my mother’s womb.

            Meister Eckhart teaches- St. John says: “See how great the love the Father has shown us that we are called  the children of God.” Eckerd tells us we cannot be God’s child without having the same being as God’s child.

            My connection with God- “The Universal Mind”- is found in my heart. By connecting my heart’s rhythm with the universal rhythm  I can get to the point in my heart Merton refers to as  le point verge.

              October 21st, 2018

              Offensive Innovation

              I am practicing Offensive Innovation:

              Offensive Innovation means knowing myself and trusting my ability to know what is right. Then I act on it. I take action going with what I feel is right without defensive thinking meaning worrying about how I will be accepted. As the Nike slogan says I “just do it.”

              Several years ago I was at a lecture by the great painter, William Cumming. During the question and answer session a young man asked Mr. Cumming if an artist can learn by studying painting at an art school. William Cumming answered “the ability to create art is not taught. It comes from inside the artist.”

              In essence the artist knows inside what he wants to paint and he paints it without regard for how it will be received. The artist is painting with “offensive innovation.”

              I am doing my best to practice Offensive Innovation.

                August 5th, 2018

                Walk Toward Fear

                We all have fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of success. To have fear is to be alive. To have fear is to understand risk. To have fear is to know something is at stake.

                As a trial lawyer I have fear. Most trial lawyers have fear, especially going into trial. Accept fear as a good thing. When we lose fear we lose a valuable emotion. An emotion that makes us better. Better assuming we continue to walk into our fear.

                While at Trial Lawyers College I wrote this poem for my son:

                Walk Toward Fear

                Is not fear my friend.

                For without fear my life should end.

                All that is unknown brings fear.

                Facing fear makes the unknown clear.

                The fear of failure causes stagnation.

                But to venture forward brings origination.

                Nothing new happens without walking toward fear.

                And growth comes from moving near.

                So embrace fear as a gift.

                A gift that gives life its lift.

                 

                  June 22nd, 2018

                  Imaging the Case

                  Constantin Stanislavski taught his actors to image their part, and the circumstances of the play. In his method the actor has imaged his part  and how it will play prior to taking the stage. This imaging concept also holds true for for trials. Edited for trials Stanislavski teaches:

                  First, we must have an unbroken series of supposed circumstances in which our trial will develop. Second, we must have a solid line of inner visions bound up with the supposed circumstances, so we have a picture in our mind of the trial playing out. During every moment of the development of the trial, we must be aware of either the external circumstances  which surround the trial, or of the inner chain of circumstances which we have imagined to illustrate the case.

                  Through imaging we arrive at an unbroken series of pictures of the trial- our personal movie. As long as we trust ourself the trial will unfold similar to our inner vision. As the trial unfolds our  inner vision creates a corresponding mood which arouses emotion in the jury.

                  Constantin Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares, (Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood) (1936).

                  What this means is  before the trial begins, we image every phase of the trial. This includes pre-trial motions,  jury selection, opening statement, direct and cross examination, introduction of documentary evidence and closing argument. By doing this we internalize each phase of the trial. We feel each phase  of the trial because we create the inner vision (personal movie) of  the trial.

                  We know from experience the trial may take turns different from our inner vision. Stanislavski recognizes this when he teaches we must always be aware of the external circumstances of the trial. Here we must trust our case preparation, believe in ourself, accept the turns the trial takes, roll with the turns, and never quit on our inner vision.

                    May 26th, 2018

                    Stanislavski and Inner Forces

                    To Stanislavski  the “inner forces” which we must draw upon to try a case at the highest level begins with our feelings. But our feelings must be directed and the master for proper direction of our feelings is our mind. Constantin Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares, (Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood).

                    According to Stanislavski there is a third force that must accompany our feelings and our mind to create our “psychic” trial life. This third force is our “will.” To try our case “freely” these three forces must cooperate harmoniously. Id. at 268.

                    In acting and in trial there is a danger of falling into a pattern of reading lines. For the actor this means repeating the script. For the trial lawyer this means repeating pre-written questions. To Stanislavski this is seen all to often in theatre, and it is fatal. The lawyer must “speak in his own right as one placed in the circumstances created by [the trial].” On good days we are naturally harmonious meaning our feelings mind and will are coordinated. Id. at 269.

                    At times there is a lack of feeling for the case, and/or a kind of dread. This may cause us to struggle with imaging the case, preparing with enthusiasm, and/or trying the case naturally. Stanislavski recognizes these times exist. He teaches two steps to jump start our inner forces.

                    Feelings. To Stanislavski our feelings is the most important member of the triumvirate of feelings, mind and will. The first step to jump start our inner psychic is to call upon our feelings. Here we go inside ourself and remember how we felt in a similar situation as presented in our trial. When our emotions respond we feel the tempo-rhythm that underlies our emotions and gives rise to our external reaction. When this happens we are back on track.

                    Mind. When we are stagnant we may be unable  to draw on feeling to jump start the triumvirate. The next step is to call on our mind. Here we use our mind to contemplate the facts and circumstances at issue in our case. In calling upon the mind we read depositions and review exhibits as we imagine the factual circumstances. Ideally this will jump starts our feelings and the emotions flow.

                    Will. Stanislavski does not teach calling on the will to jump start the psychic triumvirate. This is because the actor does not create the script. The actor is at the mercy of the play writer, but we as the trial lawyer are the play writer. Our will is seen in our preparation for trial. Our will is evident in our immersion into the facts. Our will manifests in the initial plastic drafting of the lines for trial. After total immersion and completion of drafting we are able to believe in ourself and our cause. Once this is done we can trust ourself as our mind and emotions respond and we try our case freely and naturally.