Thai mediation: Wax-on, wax-off

I was a big fan of Karate Kid as a child. I watched all the way to number three. Mark my words; Daniel learned a thing or two over that time. He’d been in a succession of fights, visited Japan, offered various forms of emotional support to Mr Miagi, and saved a bonsai plant. All of this is fine and dandy, but none of it quite compares with that first movie.

Daniel is hounded by bullies, can’t get it together with the film’s love interest, and has generally pretty low self-confidence. It only gets worse when he learns that the bullies are trained in Karate and their sensei isn’t a moderating influence at all!

Things take an upturn when Daniel falls under the teachings of a philosophical elderly Asian Man called Mr Miagi. Now Mr Miagi starts to teach Daniel, but, here’s the thing, Daniel doesn’t realise he is being taught. Mr Miagi had tasks Daniel with painting his large wooden fence and waxing his antique cars. Not very relevant, you might think, and Daniel starts to question things a bit too. Until finally he gets so frustrated, he refuses to wax any more cars.

Daniel confronts Mr Miagi, in the kind of decisive, high drama way, one might expect of an Italian American. No longer content with “waxing-on” and “waxing-off” in the formalised way Mr Miagi had instructed, Daniel demands to be taught martial arts. Annoyed at Daniel’s ingratitude, Mr Miagi instructs Daniel to repeat the motions of applying and removing the wax. Daniel makes his choreographed motions and, as he does so, Mr Miagi lets fly with some sweet martial arts. The results are decisive, Daniel’s odd jobs have taught him the to repel attackers. He is on his way to Karate mastery, and he didn’t even realised it.

I have been learning yoga for nearly a year now. Generally I’ll practice at least once a week, it could be Bikram Yoga, it could be Ashtanga; I’m not that fussed. I find it complementary to weight training. It releases the strain from sore-knotted muscles. A good yoga session is like hitting a reset button on your body. It was physical reasons then that had driven my interest in yoga. It was not until I returned to the Thai Temple in Wimbledon that yoga’s other much-touted benefits became apparent.

It had been about a year since my last meditation practice, before which I had been a regular at the temple. A monk would lead the meditation for an hour or longer. It demanded an intense commitment. I had worked up to the full service over time, starting with shorter ten to twenty minute meditations. It is demanding on the body. Sitting immobile for long periods causes the muscles to ache, posture to sag, and the mind begins to wonder.

It’s a challenge, and one to be respected. I had no expectation then that I would return to the temple as I had left it, but here’s the thing: I was better. I was engaged, my posture held, and my breathing was smooth and deep. In fact, it was as though my body was hungry to re-engage. Mindfulness came easily, like a fish keen to return to water. I drank in the moment.

I had been conditioned with out realising it. The accumulated months of Yoga had hardened me to it. The Ujjayi breath came with ready ease. Just as Karate Kid could balance one legged on a tree stump, so too had I experienced the application of yoga.

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