4 minute read

Lee Burkins Ba Gua

In June, between sessions at Brookline Tai Chi and during master classes with Bruce Frantzis, a small group of students got a special treat. Energy Arts Senior Instructor Lee Burkins was in town to train with Bruce, and on one of the nights off, he offered a special evening course on a topic he calls "Investing in Loss".

What I love about studying with someone like Lee is that he's a practitioner whose art has soaked so deeply into his bones, that it practically oozes out of his DNA. Everything he teaches seems so obviously and natural when he explains it, but you've never thought about it before and never accessed it so effortlessly.

This is the second time he's taught at Brookline Tai Chi. The first time, a couple of years ago, he did the same thing with the Ba Gua Single Palm Change. Lee took a group of people, most of whom had never done Ba Gua, and got them gliding around the room, finding the Ba Gua step, and eventually even spontaneously twisting and turning into the Single Palm Change.

Our topic this year seemed more esoteric at first, so I was wondering if he'd be able to do the same thing. What the heck is "Quiet Awareness" and how do you let that run your physical body? You could see that with many other teachers, this could have been a 2-hour theoretical lecture. Not with Lee. He snuck up on us with really clear and simple physical exercises, just letting go of tension and posture through movements. We let ourselves swirl around and find a sloshing, fluid, sense of internal space. Once people had settled down into deeper internal awareness, he showed us how to shape an internal sense of letting go into a solid physical structure and full, alive, and responsive physical movement. Obviously this is all a little hard to explain in writing....

The funniest moment though, was after everyone began to really get what he was driving at, he said, "ok, ok, you're doing it, so let me give you something to feed your thinking mind too." See, the bigger point he was driving at was that Quiet Awareness is a different mode for your mind to be in, and you need that to understand your body, your mind, and your energy. The internal arts are all about accessing this mode and manifesting it. The problem is, most of us are trained to use a different mode of awareness, i.e. the thinking mind. As a masterful teacher, he recognized that, and with the gentle humor he always uses in teaching, he graciously gave our thinking minds something to chew on too.

Here's the model he shared:

Leaves on riverLee took the classic Chinese medicine phrase, "the mind moves the chi and the chi moves the blood" and formulated it as "the Quiet Awareness moves the chi and the chi moves the fluids inside the body and therefore the body as well". To really get this concept, he explained it like the current in a river. Think of a leaf floating along in the river. That's your body. When the current changes, that's like the chi shifting. It shifts direction (inward to outward, up to down), because your Quiet Awareness shifts first. The interesting part is the lag time between the change of the current and movement of the leaf. Your Quiet Awareness turns over, the chi follows, and so does the leaf, but as you are learning to tune into this process, you can feel the leaf moving along the old current pattern, even as the current is going a different direction. Those are the circular transitions you feel in your form.

I don't know if I quite captured what we did or what Lee was aiming to teach, but if you ever do get a chance to work with him, take it. He's a kind and generous teacher and the naturalness of his art form that pours out is a real treasure. Lee lives and teaches in Colorado.

In his own words:

I followed up with Lee to see if this recap came close to capturing what he was teaching. Here's how he describes the process:

Adjusting the mind's frequency to smoothly transition from the vibration of the intellectual aspect to approach and begin to connect with the vibration/frequency of the intuitive mind. Once you 'experience' this shift in frequency and are able to stay in this mode (a posture of the mind), 'what is hidden will be revealed', ie, the connection of the quiet awareness to the chi to the body (nerves, fluids, and tissues).