- "When virtue is from the inner it can plumb the depths."
"Actions caused by a pure heart are like the life-giving influence of clear spring air."
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Attitude and Flexibility
- 3 The Body
- 4 Centeredness
- 5 Comfort
- 6 Compulsiveness
- 7 Deeper Groundedness
- 8 Diligent Practice
- 9 Discomfort
- 10 Ego and Egotism
- 11 Facade
- 12 A Good Workout
- 13 Great Attainment
- 14 Implementing The Principles
- 15 Intellectualism And Cleverness
- 16 Inmost Essence
- 17 Living, Working, & Practicing With Caring
- 18 Mind/Body Nexus
- 19 Moving Smoothly
- 20 The Naturally Functioning Mind
- 21 Principle And Basis
- 22 Being Sense Alive
- 23 Stillness & Action
- 24 Study
- 25 Tai Chi And Inner Essence
- 26 The Three Vitalities In Tai Chi
- 27 The Unrestricted Source
- 28 Vitality & Openness
- 29 Who We Are
- 30 The Principles
One's Tai Chi is not just about the acquisition of forms and techniques. It is about settling into process -- it is about "being".
The "art" of being in one's Tai Chi is the art of knowing one's Tai Chi deeply and of knowing oneself. It is accepting oneself and existing in harmony with oneself...and of living out in action the highest possibilities of one's inner nature. The art of being includes three basic concepts: self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-assertion.
Self-awareness begins with learning to be more conscious of one's feelings, ideas, and emotions. There is a difference between really experiencing an emotion or feeling personally -- inwardly -- and merely naming it to ourselves -- and this difference is profound. One must learn to feel deeply into one's true nature to have self-awareness. When one has self-awareness one's Tai Chi and one's life can gain authenticity.
Self-acceptance is one's refusal to be an adversarial relationship to oneself. Self-acceptance is to accept and be comfortable with the reality of what and how one is. It doesn't mean ceasing to strive for improvement but accepting what one is while in the process of improvement. When one has self-acceptance, one can relax more deeply into the present, into the necessities of the Tai Chi form, and into life. With self-acceptance one takes life less as something ominous and serious and sees it in perspective...and with a sense of humor.
Self-assertion brings one further into reality as one expresses one's inner life in words and actions. Self-assertion means that one honors one's own needs, that one honors one's own judgments and that one honors one's own values. Self-assertion is recognizing that a successful life calls for translating oneself into action with integrity. With self-assertion one is ready to assume responsibility and the consequences of that responsibility, and one begins to truly do one's Tai Chi for oneself...from the heart.
Attitude and Flexibility ∞
Attitudes are the stances one takes in life, the perceptual filters through which one gives meaning and understanding to all of one's experiences -- and to one's Tai Chi. If one believes that one is a caring and cared for individual who belongs in the world and who has a right to happiness, one's reactions to the vicissitudes of life will be quite different than if one feels one is uncaring, uncared for, and isolated. One' attitude is a direct reflection of one's basic inner state of consciousness. It shows in one's life and in one's Tai Chi.
Negative, inflexible, and rigid attitudes such as pessimism, cynicism, and hurrying decrease one's ability to cope with the stresses of life, and ultimately lead to discomfort and disease. Flexibility is an essential quality inherent in all capable and empowered attitudes. Among other things, flexibility includes the capacity for spontaneousness, forgiveness, relaxation, non-possessiveness, humility, faith, hope, and enjoyment. To be flexible is an essential aspect of Tai Chi. It is to be able -- and willing -- to bend like a soft branch in the wind -- to adapt to difficulty and change. It is the ability to accept reality as it is, while changing what one can. Ultimately, flexibility in body, mind, and spirit promotes both health and healing. A healthy mind means a healthy body just as much as a healthy body promotes a healthy mind. Its almost that simple.
Since change is constant, stress is a given in life. The real question then is how one will respond to stress. One of the greatest discoveries any person can make is that they can alter their lives by altering their inner attitude.
The Body ∞
The body is limited. Yet, contrary to what some people might think, therein lies is power and strength. To accept the limits of the body is to achieve something wonderful. Accepting the body is making friends with its limits. To make friends with the limits of the body is the beginning of groundedness, and knowing groundedness is the source which keeps one from becoming overly ethereal and insubstantial. In Tai Chi we need to know the substantial and the insubstantial.
The mind has difficulty being real when it doesn't see and respect its connection to the body. To seek to separate from the body is to close down the feelings, sensations, and wonders which arise from one's accepting of and sensitivity to the corporeal world. To lose touch with the body is to fall into a limited world. Such a state is inappropriate to the situation of life. In Tai Chi we move the body. We become sensitive to the body. The body gives us important feedback about what our mind and inner feelings are doing. In Tai Chi the body is our connection to the mind.
The body is a wall, but so is the mind. To recognize the parameters of each is to begin to recognize their individual and joined potential; it is also seeing the wonder of nature's vastness.
The body is our voice in Tai Chi. It is our mode of communication. To become estranged from the body is to limit our mind for in the end the two are connected. When one limits one's acceptance of the body one also limits one's capacity in the world. Awareness is the result of a fluid connection between mind and body -- and one can only have fluid connection when one accepts both mind and body deeply.
The Tai Chi practitioner who opens to the wonders of the body can also open to the marvels of non-ego -- for the body is without such surfacy agendas as superiority and status. A person who opens this gateless gate of the body opens to perhaps the only thing we as human beings can know that is truly transpersonal. Accepting the world of the body is knowing the cosmos without egotism -- for the world of the body is neutral and impartial. Accepting it as it exists is acceptance of the universe -- from there one can find the great transformation to impartiality and therefore full potential.
When the Tai Chi practitioner lives at ease with the body and mind as one, accepting the body and its limitations fully, accepting the mind, they can delve deeply into the ways the body and mind work together. If one eschews the body and seeks only mind, one tends to disconnect from the body and its sensations. People who follow such a path may say the body is evil or wicked or some other such fantasy. But that is all it is: fantasy. If one wishes to know reality one must accept and respect the body. From the body comes such wonders as sensitivity, caring, appropriateness, compassion, empathy, patience, honesty, and humility, ecstasy, sharing, and tenderness.
Are your days balanced? Do you apply the principles of your Tai Chi to your life outside of Tai Chi practice? Do you allow enough time for exercise, renewal, communion with nature, and cultivating your spirit, or are you too bogged down with work or rushing here and there? Ask yourself how much of the rushing is truly necessary? What difference does it make to rush out to the car when taking a small trip to the store? Why not slow down and take an extra minute or two? What difference does it really make if you hurry like mad when going to work? Why not slow down and enjoy the world around you? Why not use the principles of Tai Chi to raise your consciousness and relax your spirit. It could mean the difference between having peace of mind and being a bewildering mass of stress and confusion...between health and non-health.
Sometimes one loses one's center of calmness and simplicity when one gets caught up in a flurry of daily activities that leave no time to catch one's inner breath of calmness. When one does this, all too often one's schedule clashes with one's inner more natural rhythms. One feels stressed...and loses touch with the reason why. One becomes out of sync with one's own inner sense of peace and calm, often for long periods of time -- some people forever. Of course, those who practice Tai Chi regularly can maintain their center easier, since they make connection each time they practice. But, what about those who practice only once a week at class, or sporadically? How is keeping one's centeredness for them?
What is more important than one's peace of mind...than maintaining one's center of inner peace -- one's sense of well-being? Isn't one's health and well-being more important than all one's needless hurrying and scurrying?
All that's needed is that one take some time to stay in touch with that center of relaxation. Daily Tai Chi practice can help. Yet, sporadic practice does very little in most cases. Remember, if one wants to get the benefits of eating one must eat...if one wants to get the benefits of Tai Chi one must practice.
If one has a hard time slowing one's mental and physical hurrying and scurrying, perhaps the best course is to set aside a some time every day to find one's center and relax? Isn't one's psychological health as important as anything else in one's life? In fact, doesn't the quality of all the other things depend on the quality of centeredness and calm one has within?
Comfort is very important in the Tai Chi process. Going at one's own natural pace, slowly and evenly, is necessary in order to reach the depths. One must overcome the habit of coming from bursts of energy, from hysterical and out-of-control states of mind. One aspect of knowing the depths of Tai chi is knowing tranquility and ease -- about living inside of comfort -- not just touching comfort occasionally. Achieving Tai Chi is when one has achieved "comfortableness" and can act with non-hysterical energy as one's inner source and place of guidance. Living inside a frantic and erratic attitude is not suitable -- and not comfortable. It is dangerous in terms of one's health. Yet, one must first see that one is living inside discomfort, then one can find the path of moving beyond that discomfort. This is not so easy since much of the time, many of the things one feels as safe and valuable are the very things which are causing the very discomfort one feels within.
One of the biggest secrets of life is taught by the Tai Chi process -- the procedure of "gradual and slow mutation". "Gradual and slow mutation" refers to the way we as human beings change over time. It is such a slow and gradual way that we ourselves rarely even notice the changes that take place. When this happens, we grow accustomed to new energies, to changed mind-sets, even if they are inappropriate or destructive. Sometimes it takes a major intrusion in our life, some sort of shock, to make us aware of the adaptions needed. Even then, we often do not want to believe, because we have so much of a vested interest in what we have become.
The process of self-cultivation which Tai Chi offers can help us to see the need for adaptation and adjustment and to do some housecleaning. If we practice on a regular basis, we can become more and more aware of our own discomfort -- and comfort -- and follow the proper and appropriate path to an empowered, comfortable, and healthy mind/body state.
Breaking free from compulsiveness and the stress that it evokes is also breaking free from preoccupation with the future and the past. One of Tai Chi's main positive attributes is that it offers a format for dealing with such concerns. Such breaking free demands that one be aware of what one is doing -- what one is feeling, in the present moment. In practicing the Tai Chi form one concentrates deeply, working on the details of the postures, the movements, and the energies. Doing this helps to bring one into the present, and all other concerns can drop away.
Tai Chi helps one break free from compulsiveness because it requires that one move smoothly and slowly, settling into the movements deeply. This process helps one see what "slowing down" is comprised of. It provides a comparison point by which one can see the ways one rushes through one's days in perpetual pursuit of moments that may never arrive. It brings up issues of "real-ness" and of "personal satisfaction", and guides one to rediscover the actual and existent situation in one's being and in one's life. If one is truly observant and takes initiative in implementing the principles of settling into the moment, one can bring higher qualities to one's life and overcome much of the difficulties which arise from negative attributes such as compulsiveness.
Deeper Groundedness ∞
In Tai Chi one must come to recognize the importance of being grounded and connected to the earth, with balance and solidity in one's steps. Yet, there is a deeper kind of groundedness that is also important. Don't forget that there is a groundedness that has power over fantasies and illusions. When studying Tai Chi it is good if one can trust this other groundedness to carry one beyond fantasies and illusions. This other groundedness has to do with knowing the earth, but much more, for to obtain the truth which Tai Chi can give one must renounce illusions and see truth. The end of fantasy is the beginning of peace and tranquility, for then one begins to truly see oneself and one's practice.
Every fantasy one holds about Tai Chi is diversion from truth, and each diversion from truth, whether positive or negative, deprives one of the security and tranquility which truth offers. To lift the veil of fantasy, one only needs to value truth over fantasy. Doing so takes one toward comfort for every fantasy belief or illusion one holds, whether one realizes it or not, carries discomfort. One's inner being, that part which comes from the natural source, knows the difference.
Any illusion cherished and defended above the truth creates a fog which dulls one's vision. In Tai Chi this fog keeps one from the depths. To perpetuate illusion about what is outside is to perpetuate illusion about oneself. Holding fantasies about oneself keeps one from true seeing of what is outside, for the two are co-joined and interactive. Until one knows, accepts, and respects truth one cannot realize the advance it has over fantasy.
To attain truth, one must trust that it is the way, strip away all fantasy, then accept what remains. This requires that one see directly from one's own eyes -- not through the eyes of a master or some external doctrine or dogma. It requires that one let go of any egotism or personal agendas which would color reality. One must know one's purpose, for there can many more than one, then from that purpose the truth can emerge. Seeing truth requires that one move beyond words, definitions, and concepts that one has lived with all one's life. In a millionth of a second of complete absolute freedom a vast gateway can open that allows one can see the boundless objective impartiality of truth.
With illusion there is the specter of doubt and fear; knowing beyond illusion eradicates doubt and fear. Without illusion there is no discomfort -- simply clarity and peace.
The driving force of illusion is a closed and narrow mind. Groundedness is truth and truth is the stabilizing force of reality. True Tai Chi begins when one finds this kind of groundedness -- when one accepts truth.
Diligent Practice ∞
If one practices one's Tai Chi diligently, one can naturally reach a point where one is not startled by thunder so powerful it could split a mountain...upset by lightning so sharp it could pierce to the center of the earth.
If one practices one's Tai Chi diligently, one can come to see that fame and fortune are fleeting, that external judgments are shallow, and that living with quality, caring, and integrity is what truly counts.
When one practices one's Tai Chi diligently, one comes to see that when the will and intention are exercised undividedly, then the spirit becomes raised up and solidified -- and the intangible subtlety of the mind becomes profound.
When one practices one's Tai Chi diligently, one can learn how to overcome all obstacles, great and small -- and find that which is the source and foundation of all existence.
Sooner or later everyone who practices Tai Chi, if they wish to reach the depths, must engage their own discomfort. It is rare, indeed impossible, for anyone to be without discomfort. It is part of the human condition.[ 1 ] See fnord If we are largely without it one day, we may have plenty at another time. Discomfort comes and goes, waxing and waning like the tide. It is natural. Some discomfort remains constant, or returns again and again. This is the discomfort Tai Chi seeks to address.
Such discomfort is a signal that one has misunderstood reality. Discomfort of this order is a signal that one has given up one's own natural and inherent power. When one lives in discomfort, it can be a sign that one is trying to hold life in place -- insisting that life conform to one's own personal expectation that happiness be found where you insist it is...in contention; in manipulation; in grasping; in impatience; in dishonesty; in cleverness; in narrow-mindedness; in insensitivity; in distrust; in inappropriateness.
Recognizing discomfort is sometimes easy. It slaps us in the face with great obviousness. However, sometimes seeing it is not so easy. Sometimes we may think we are comfortable, yet are actually still living inside discomfort. Seeing one's own discomfort sometimes takes great scrutiny and persistence.
In Tai Chi, one can find signs of discomfort in both the body and the mind. At times the body tells us before the mind, at other times the mind's insistence brings light to bodily insensitivity. Yet, the signs are there, if one is willing to listen -- if one is willing to accept.
Dissatisfaction is a sign of discomfort -- it accepts unhappiness. Depression is a sign of discomfort -- it asserts that nothing has value. Tension is a sign of discomfort -- it asserts a constriction on life. Lack of caring is a sign of discomfort -- it accepts separateness. Guilt is a sign of discomfort -- it asks for punishment. Powerlessness is a sign of discomfort -- it asserts the fear of control. A frantic mind is a sign of discomfort -- it accepts speed and confusion. Irritation is a sign of discomfort -- it accepts lack of ease.
Only one's own attitude can produce these things. All discomfort stems from a loss of what is natural, honest, and compassionate. All discomfort stems from imbalance and estrangement.
Ego and Egotism ∞
When one does one's tai chi it is good to be clear about the concept of ego. While many people think of the ego as a negative force , in fact, it is actually a positive thing. It is having and overly-inflated "ego", or "egotism", which is not good. There is a difference.
The fact is that a healthy ego is a source of empowerment when one practices their Tai Chi, while egotism, which is having an unhealthy ego, creates many difficulties. When one accepts oneself and has a healthy ego one can accept their strengths and capabilities and use those strengths and capabilities toward a good end. When one has a healthy ego one can do one's Tai Chi with confidence and implement the principles of Tai Chi from a base of clarity. One's unhealthy ego, however, overstates a person's power and misuses a person's real inner identity, confusing it with fantasies and illusions of one's own importance.
When one has a positive and healthy ego one knows control and confidence -- simplicity and wisdom. One doesn't need to be afraid of a healthy ego. A healthy ego makes it possible for a person to use them self. It gives one the strength to take on responsibility, personal assertiveness, and authority in life. The healthy ego is a natural power. It is a positive force which one can use without fear.
However, when one's inner essence is egotistical one is in an unhealthy state. When one is caught up in egotistical behavior one is grasping and forcing -- not following the principles of Tai Chi. This happens when one invests too much into their own way; when egotism is one's fountainhead one is in an unbalanced position of having arrogance and using over-control and manipulation. When one is in the unhealthy state of being egotistical one is acting aloof and against the universe. One become a know-it-all, and one's mind becomes closed to growth.
One's surfacy external side may find such a position attractive at first -- because it seems to offer strength -- but, in reality, such a mind-set makes one a slave, distancing the individual from life and people. By seeking too much power, egotism creates an attitude which is gross and hungry. It takes one too far -- to where one is burdened with power instead of being able to use one's own personal strengths in humane and appropriate ways.
For some people, letting egotism rule is often being stuck in judgementalness. When they do this they think of their way of doing Tai Chi as the only way, judging all other approaches to Tai Chi as wrong. In a healthy ego, on the other hand, one is able to function without judging. Such an attitude accepts one's own particular way as the way that person prefers, while at the same time seeing other ways just what they are..."other" ways. With a healthy ego one can know calm inner stillness and even learn from other methods and approaches.
With a healthy ego one can be responsive, free-flowing, and without the contentiousness which an egotistical mind always engenders. Egotism offers the petty gift of illusionary authority, while a healthy ego offers me the treasures of truth, poise, and sharing.
Those practicing Tai Chi who come from surface and facade will generally have a vital spirit which is scattered. Such people's intellectual ruminations ramble and they cannot govern themselves. Their understanding of the inner principles of Tai Chi is weak. They do not look deeply enough, tending to skim the surface of the philosophical and meditation concepts or just focus on the fighting aspects. However, when sincerity[doesn't exist] and integrity are used, when one is founded on direct knowledge and on open impartiality, one's spiritual energy can be great and one can know deeper reality. In such a case, one is capable of looking at all sides of one's Tai Chi practice...the philosophical, the meditative, and the martial.
The path in opposition to this more well founded way is when one depends solely on external guidance for direction. When this is the case, it is difficult for the practitioner of Tai Chi to know the real. When such people are only influenced by others and purely by historical doctrine and dogma, they are acting from the surface. This is known as "not truly knowing" the real, "partial knowledge", or "surface knowledge". Their Tai Chi will be based on others knowledge and will hence always be shallow.
The sincerity of more highly developed people is clear and comes from the inner. Such people think and speak in ways which reflect reality; they give advice in ways which clarifies inner truth. They investigate the classic Tai Chi principles and practice their own Tai Chi and in ways which are in direct accord with their inner senses and with the reality they experience for themselves. They are not afraid to question existing dogma and are not afraid to accept it. They are open to the truth and verify all concepts through themselves, with their own experience.
When virtue is from the inner it can plumb the depths.
Actions caused by a pure heart are like the life-giving influence of clear spring air.
A Good Workout ∞
A good Tai Chi workout is one that is appropriate. It attends to the needs of the body, the needs of the mind, and the needs of the spirit. When one has a good practice, one vitalizes the body, one activates and stimulates the mind, and one raises the spirit.
A good workout circulates energy naturally and vigorously without over-stressing the body or over-straining the mind. A good workout clears out stagnancy and dissipates negative inertia. A good workout creates openness, vitality, and fluidity.
You know you've had a good workout when you feel exuberant and cleansed afterward; when both the mind and body feel alive and free of blockages. You know you've had a good workout when, during your workout, you have challenged the body and the mind and yet not discouraged it. You know you've had a good workout when the air all around seems light and buoyant and the body has a sense of ease while at the same time being rooted to the earth.
You know you've had a good workout when there is no doubt -- no doubt that you have just exercised, that you have done enough, that you have just affected the body and the body.
You know you have had a good workout when it takes you away for a while. When you forget time, place, and petty concerns and become the exercise completely. After a good workout you realize that you have been away in another world -- a world of total concentration and mindfulness -- a world of wholeness and unity.
A good workout is balanced. It realigns the edges of one's soul and integrity. It joins one to that split off part of oneself and reaffirms the whole. A good workout unites oneself with the completion and beauty yearned for deep inside. It touches the healthy aggregate one knows one is but too often misses.
A good workout gives the body what it needs to be vital, alive, and healthy. A good workout satisfies one's craving for substance. A good workout offers one's spirit a chance to soar.
Great Attainment ∞
Be positive and the spirit is not burdened. Consider the myriad things as one simplicity and the mind is not confused. Consider life as wondrous, with all people as peers, and the intellect is not afraid. Consider changes as sameness and clarity is not obscured.
The principles of Tai Chi rest on a pillar that cannot be shaken, come from a path that cannot be blocked, are endowed from a resource that can never be exhausted, and are empowered from a teacher that never dies. Tai Chi practitioners who know and follow the source of the principles make success in whatever they undertake, and arrive at a destination where ever they go.
What is this pillar that cannot be shaken, this road that cannot be blocked, this resource that cannot be exhausted, and this teacher that never dies? It is the Tao, the gateless way -- the path of inner essence. When the principles of the Tao are the principle behind one's Tai Chi, one can proceed easily and naturally, with assurance, and without confusion.
Those who let their Tai Chi act in tune with these principles know optimism and positivity. Such people can use humanism, and are not threatened by status. They can be corrected by integrity, and are not influenced by false masters. They may die for truth, freedom, and caring, and consider egotistical power as unworthy.
Rank, power, and wealth are things some people crave, a mind which follows the inner principles knows that compared to health, tranquility, and a positive spirit, such things are petty and insignificant. Tai Chi people strive to be developed people, and therefore act to manage the energy of their body, mind, and spirit; they adjust to conditions and refuse excess; they do not seek gain and do not grasp possessively at anything they have or know.
Such people clarify their inner vision and strive to look beyond the surface. They do not speak needlessly or out of sync with the time. They let their minds relax, and do not intellectualize too much. They rest their spirit and let go of ideas of being clever. They are open and clear.
This is called great attainment of inner principle.
Implementing The Principles ∞
It is one thing to understand the principles and concepts of one's Tai Chi intellectually -- and another to put those principles into practice. If one doesn't put the principles into practice, there is no way for one's Tai Chi to mature. If the principles are just something understood with the mind, no matter how well one can explain them with words, then the principles of the art are just in the mind, and not in the body. When one's Tai Chi is not using the principles in both the body and the mind, it is incomplete. Just as when one is hungry, one needs to actually eat food instead of just talk about it -- in learning one's Tai Chi, one must both apply the principles and understand the principles, getting them into the whole being -- body and mind. This requires diligent practice.
When one practices, one must strive to implement the principles as clearly as possible, not just go through the motions. Just practicing without applying the principles accomplishes little -- but applying the principles of Tai Chi in practice, always yields deeper, more profound results.
When one assiduously implements the principles, one touches domains which are about quality, nobility, and essence. Implementing the principles with vitality and sincerity makes one's Tai Chi about self-cultivation and empowerment, and raises the caliber of the endeavor to a higher level. implementing the principles makes one's Tai Chi a spiritual quest and an event which develops one beyond simply bodily strength, coordination, and stamina. implementing the principles makes the endeavor an "art", and brings zest and character into play. One cannot just go through one's movements sloppily with little care. One must pay attention, focus the mind and body together, and be deeply conscious. One must apply oneself with every fiber of one's being, instead of being only partially involved. One must raise the spirit. implementing the principles can expand one's being, raise one's consciousness, give purpose, and take one to new and higher levels of existence.
Practice well. Practice...and implement the principles.
Intellectualism And Cleverness ∞
Those who intellectualize about their Tai Chi sometimes forget that intellectualism is not the ultimate way...that one can intellectualize too much, to the point of becoming unbalanced. Intellectualization is thinking about knowledge, and knowledge comes from the inner source -- the fundamental essence. The overly "learned" are those who grasp onto "learnedness" as the only way; they become "clever". Such people come to the same impasse again and again. They forget the source and lose the real inner elixir of nature. It is better to put an end to over-intellectualization and embrace balance.
Balance is the origin and anchor for all. When the mind is disconnected from the perspective of balance, likes and dislikes arise. When such likes and dislikes arise, "real knowledge" is seen through a distorted perspective and the natural celestial design is destroyed. Therefore practitioners of Tai Chi who wish their Tai Chi to reach its ultimate do not replace the celestial by distorted human biases and personal preference. They balance their intellectualization with connection to and action in the real world. Outwardly they evolve, yet inwardly they do not lose the true state. They remain rooted to the earth and test their theories in the manifest world.
Those who know the inner state that is beyond just intellectualization alone are without contrivance. They nurture intelligence by calmness and remember that intellectualization without groundedness in the real world is false. They unify the spirit through positivity, and find reality in relation to actuality. They know that it is important to test intellectual theory by doing.
Some people blindly intellectualize on written dogma or the dogma of celebrated masters. When such people act without testing the theories in the real world, they are guided from without; they mix with the gross and coarse world which is founded on something other than on their own real knowledge. They forget that all intellectual knowledge if it is to have validity must correspond to how the real world works and that all dogma and knowledge from masters must be tested and verified through one's own experience.
Therefore, it is best if practitioners of Tai Chi who wish to plumb the depths and reach their maximum potential do not let theory and dogma obscure the true and do not let intellectualization without rootedness in "real world" actuality create misperception. One must follow what is appropriate without scheming, learn without manipulation, and achieve knowledge within the context of balancing intellectual concepts with the real world experience.
Inmost Essence ∞
Having clarity and raising the spirit is the attainment of the inmost essence. When practicing Tai Chi it is good to realize the inmost essence, then one's inner sense can be calm, one's thoughts can be even, one's eyes and ears can be lucid, and one's sinews and bones can be without blockage. To attain Tai Chi of such a level is masterful. One who can do this is firm and strong yet never contentious or overpowering. Such a person is not overly excessive in anything, nor are they lacking in anything.
All things have a source -- only original essence is the deepest source. Actions and thoughts disconnected from the source lead to misconception; only original essence is the way to non-illusion.
Therefore practitioners of Tai Chi who understand bring their Tai Chi to life. They carry out their business according to the times and accomplish works according to the resources available. They keep to the way of positivity and are faithful to the principles of the natural inmost essence. Because they know the source, they can go along and respond to changes easily; they do not rush about compulsively. Such people are flexible, yielding, and calm. Such people are peaceful, easygoing, and inwardly secure.
Practitioners of Tai Chi, indeed anyone, who relies on closemindedness, contention and duality for stability and empowerment will be lost; those who rely on openness, caring, and wholeness can know the peace and satisfaction of inmost essence.
Inner Sincerity = #inner-sincerity
When pure sincerity forms within, it shows in one's demeanor and can be outwardly realized in people's hearts. It brings clarity and genuineness to one's Tai Chi. Such a path of sincerity is not visible in words, but informs one's actions and spirit.
The correspondence between one's spirit and one's inner energy is direct. This correspondence might be called "unspoken explanation", "unarticulated guidance", an " inner means". When one has clear and explicit sincerity within, one's spirit is honest and full and these qualities bring authority to one's outward actions and to one's thoughts. When one strives to develop oneself one does not take wantonly and selfishly and does not seek with a quality of forcefulness; one can respond without concealing anything and without contrivance. When one acts in this manner, one is in agreement with universal harmony, and so can be calm and serene; one can roam freely in both the inner and outer dimensions, and one's Tai Chi can be deep. When one never leaves the bottomless fundamental source of all things, this can be called great communion.
Such a way is called being developed and self-cultivating, but to one who practices it, it is simply natural; such a person rests in non-grasping, and their Tai Chi evolves easily and constantly. When one can do this they may seem inexpert and unknowing, but can plumb the depths. They may seem distant and oblivious, but they do not miss a thing. When they can found their being with sincerity, that sincerity lends firmness and indestructible security to all they do.
Living, Working, & Practicing With Caring ∞
True and deep success means something much deeper than making money and obtaining material possessions. One's Tai Chi is the same way. Achievement doesn't come from what one owns -- from what one does -- but from what one is within. This is a truism, but it is also the truth. It is a real life fact. One's sense of achievement and success in life -- and in Tai Chi -- are both only genuine when they come from within. Achievement is only authentic when it is based on one's inner life. If it doesn't come from within, but from without, accomplishment tends to be lacking; it tends to be surfacy and shallow -- a foundation built on insubstantiality.
Satisfaction and true success is going to sleep at night knowing that the talents and abilities one has cultivated or used during the day were or could be used in a way that will bring happiness and positivity to the world and caring and kindness to others. These are worthy goals. They mean putting caring and kindness first... in everything one does -- in business, as well as in everything else. Bringing caring and kindness to business is especially important since such qualities are so often not brought to in that arena. One's restaurant could spread caring; one's agency could spread caring; one's business letters could have humanity. Indeed, in any endeavor, one is working at a higher level when that enterprise is an extension of one's inner life -- when humanity and caring are used. Any career can be a vehicle for spreading positivity and kindness. No business -- no situation -- is outside the domain of thoughtful caring interaction. When one's Tai Chi practice can have caring and kindness it is known as softness.
Of course, it is important to do what one loves...to do what makes one's heart sing. If one's job is not in line with what makes one's heart sing, make it in line; if one's Tai Chi doesn't have those qualities of humanness and softness, it could. Such a situation is an opportunity. One can bring one's own identity, goodwill, and inner caring to any job, any endeavor -- no matter what it is. It is always possible. Don't go to work to make money, don't practice to achieve; go to work to spread caring and humanness -- practice to know and use inner vitality. Don't go to work to get something, go to work to make contact...to touch others... to share. Practice Tai Chi with genuineness. Because deep down, behind everything else, when people go to work they want warmth... they want human enfoldment. Tai Chi practice will only evolve and continue when it is genuine and has caring.
Why not use caring, kindness, and joy.
Mind/Body Nexus ∞
The mind/body nexus is a wonder. Thinking of the body as separate from the mind can cause difficulties. Thinking of the body and mind as intimately linked can be a blessing. To some people the body is a curse -- not coordinated enough, not pretty or handsome enough, too fat or too thin, too stiff, too weak, too tired, etc. It is easy to separate the body off and blame it. Yet, if one really takes the time to consider, can one really divide the body from the mind. When one defines pretty or handsome, is it purely external? If one looks at coordinated, too fat or thin, too stiff, too tired -- do these things exist solely in the body?
Of course, the answer is that they are characteristics that have origins in both body and mind. Consider the qualities which seem to have their source in the body. In fact they also have origins in the mind -- in one's mental attitude. Believe you are not pretty or handsome and that will certainly affect the way you look outwardly; buying into the idea of being uncoordinated and doing nothing about it will certainly propagate awkwardness.
The point is that our attitude plays a part in how we look and feel...our mind affects our body -- and whether we take real steps to improve those aspects which we wish were different can determine what happens. Take away the body, and how well will the mind do? Take away the mind, and how long will the body live? The mind and body are each part and parcel of the same union. They are linked together -- connected inseparably in one living, breathing, thinking, feeling nexus. Denying one is denying the other. Using them as one creates empowerment and understanding.
Tai Chi helps us to know our body-mind nexus intimately. The feedback one receives during Tai Chi -- of tension or ease, of calmness or frenzy, of poise or non-poise, of fluidity or stiffness etc. -- are signals about oneself which can guide one toward a more capable, more appropriate humanness.
One is not getting the most out of one's Tai Chi if one is not unifying mind and body. One is not using one's Tai Chi if one is not letting that unity guide one toward higher capability.
The classic writings and the words of teachers can help us begin, but only by knowing oneself intimately as a whole being can one go beyond.
Moving Smoothly ∞
Moving smoothly, feeling naturally, sensing fully: this is what real is; this is what normal is. To find Tai Chi's easiness, one needs to stop living with negative, non-nurturing messages and agendas. This means that one's inner feeling can rest and just allow. One doesn't need to be affected. One doesn't need to impress. One doesn't need to have status. Just be your own quiet inner self.
Pay attention to the smoothness of the movement, so that you can release and open the inner energies. Soften the joints. Find open roundness. Connect with any discomfort and transform it into ease. Stop holding ways of being that cause harm, in muscles or mind, and let things transpire with natural flow. Relax the body and let effort drain from the shoulders -- the arms -- the eyes -- the lower back. Breathe naturally... in tune with the movements.
Focus the mind and let a sensitive but calm spirit of vitality fill the whole body, from headtop to coccyx...from feet to fingertips. Nurture and nourish yourself with inner tranquility. Let your external bodily positions have structure, vitality, and fullness, and let that structure, vitality, and fullness support the intent of the movements. Don't be un-vital. Don't force. Be poised..
Feel good about yourself. You are acting to move toward health and the prevention of negative mind-sets. Feel your inner satisfaction deeply. Don't rush. Feel content to flow within the process. Feel at one with each small fraction of the movement. Feel the larger movements as well. Don't over-do. Don't under-do. Know the balance of being precise... the precision of balance.
Move caringly with yourself and in tune with all the masters of the past. Feel your deeper humanity. Know that you have all you need to access the more profound levels. You don't need anyone else...their information is theirs -- your information is yours. Let the mind/body have the truth of unification. Move inside harmony and consolidation. Let the spirit have the mood it wants to recover from trauma. Accept the natural antidote to disharmony. Let your inner and outer being have what it needs.
The body movements are empty, the spirit and intent makes them live.
The Naturally Functioning Mind ∞
When practicing Tai Chi, or simply just living, it is important to abide in the unbiased, unconditioned mind that one has innately. If one acts with contrivance or forcing, then one will be less appropriate and real than if one had remained in the unconditioned mind.
If one hopes to accumulate merit or to gain egotistical outward reward, one will only be changing the clear natural and autonomous mind for an inappropriate and clouded mind. Seeking some special kind of awareness is to misguided. It is only putting some new perception on top of what is already there, and in the end such action is simply creating more illusion.
All one has to do is acknowledge with profound insight and realization that without resorting to any cleverness or shrewdness, everything around can be naturally recognized and distinguished. This is due to the fact that the marvelously illuminating unbiased mind is inherently of its own right unclouded,
In practicing Tai Chi, allow the mind to function naturally, and do not add excess to what is already perfectly functioning. Don't seek great mysterious frames of mind...seek reality. To add more is like adding legs to already existing legs or hands onto already existing hands. All one has to do is take away all excess and delusion, contact reality, and use the clear mind that already exists.
Principle And Basis ∞
Principles have a source; actions have a basis. If one loses the inner principle and fundamental basis, even if one's skills are many, it is just surface and of no avail.
What harms is to have just external skill and cleverness without principle... and principle without basis. Therefore practitioners of Tai Chi and people of the world who value going deeply connect to inner principle and govern through fundamental basis, not by cleverness, coarse energy, and surface knowledge. To have inner principle is to have direction and integrity. To follow fundamental basis is to act in accord with reality.
Those who practice Tai Chi, governing themselves and dealing with the world by forcing and going against nature are victims of their own misconduct. They must change or they cannot evolve further. Those who govern themselves, dealing with the world while being in touch with nature and nature's principles, are acting in tune with the inner way and will evolve. Their Tai Chi can develop. Their actions are supported by inner essence.
Those we call sages, masters, and cultivated people rest calmly in the present. They act according to perfect appropriateness, enjoy the world, and are appreciative in it. They follow inner principle and basis.
Such people know that contention, mechanical thinking, and judgementalness are all based on a misapprehension of what is important. They know that depression and complacency are deviations of true seeing; negativity and dreariness are burdens to the spirit; egotistical pride and held anger are excesses which harm and delude. The arising of such things is a turning from the path of the Tao; their passing away is a returning to inner basis.
Being Sense Alive ∞
Vitality is one of the most important qualities in one's Tai Chi. It can be viewed as one part of the idea often known as raising the spirit, and is brought about by being in and of the senses and awareness completely. It is brought about by existing fully in the now without a judgmental or a categorical mind-set.
Vitality involves having a inquiring and spirited outlook, and has to do with cherishing every bit of life all around. When it comes right down to it, the senses are immediate. They are right here where we are. They define the boundaries of our consciousness just as, in like fashion, our consciousness defines the boundaries of our senses.
It is a treasure to be sense-full and capable of appreciating the wonderful attributes and textures of life. One's Tai Chi can be a vehicle for achieving this. Yet in the modern world many of us spend too much of our time out of touch with the textures of life. We allow ourselves to fall into stark "all business" routines that have very little sensuous zest. Everyday we pass myriads of wondrous and amazing things without even realizing or noticing. We speed to and fro without appreciating the very things we are experiencing. Perhaps we like to think that we are evolved creatures, yet many of us do such things as living in overly tight and confining clothes without even recognizing we are uncomfortable. We drink poisonous chemicals which erode our health insidiously and dull our awareness. We imbibe alcohol and drugs which distort our naturally wonderful perception. We suck on burning plants in a habitual manner which robs us of our true vital awareness, takes away our sense of free will, and clogs our lungs with disease. We think of our mind as controlling our life, yet are more times than not, slaves to unhealthy habits and patterns of action.
Yet with the proper attitude, one can fully partake in the spectacle of life. One can relish the natural world, cherishing the smell and touch of rain or the profoundly delicate feel of snowfall. The awareness one evokes through one's Tai Chi can be a touchstone for such attitudes. One can be transported by the feel of the wind or the scent of summer grass. The sky, earth, or the stars can be mediums which could take us into depths of sensing and feeling. Full connection to one's perception simply requires that one slow down and pay attention -- as in Tai Chi --and one can tingle with buoyant alive energy and inner spectacle. Sensitivity and subtlety can be watchwords instead of just mouthed words and concepts.
One's senses are capable of wondrous perception, if we will just allow ourselves to use them. The mind-body partnership is ready to do its part. With curiosity and sensitivity in the now, one's vitality can be full, sense-aware, and luscious.
The path is open. One can travel however one likes.
The choice is up to each of us, ourselves.
Stillness & Action ∞
When one is active, one should hold onto inner stillness.
When one is still, one should maintain outer vitality.
Being balanced, one merges with the active inner essence of nature.
Mindfulness is the jewel of action; inner essence is the jewel of understanding.
It is good for practitioners of Tai Chi to remember that when the body is worked without rest, it is weakened; when the mind is used without rest, one's chi is scattered and one becomes exhausted. Therefore, those who practice Tai Chi in a proper manner are heedful of this. They act to cultivate, not to deplete. Their goal is gradual unfolding, not haste; slow refinement, not rapid gaining of outward showiness. Such people pass their lives in caring for peace, serenity, and inner repose. They do not cling to biased preferences and are not possessive of anything.
Embracing sincerity, integrity, and the virtues of naturalness, proper Tai Chi practice cultivates a warm and harmonious attitude toward the world. Following the Tao, Tai Chi practitioners are near to life. They do not guide their lives in relation to profit or through initiating anything to cause harm. They cherish life and foster all that is life enhancing. Their actions are guided by inner repose. Their inner repose is balanced with outward action.
Proper Tai Chi practice fosters the spirit; it does not make people aggressive, loud, and overbearing. It fosters humility, caring, and the ability to assert oneself appropriately when necessary. With a spiritual source, practitioners of Tai Chi are optimistic and anything that is done is done fully.
The way to study Tai Chi requires that one avoid interpreting the information with personal bias and that one not jump to conclusions. It is important to pick out the ideas which resonate with one's heart/mind -- the wholeness of one's inner being. Think diligently and deeply about the ideas for a time. Allow plenty of time for one's quiet subtle body to mull through the ideas in order to reach the deep-seated principles and core. Then study the principles and theories in action and in mind in order to know the reality and actual effect. When you get the reality and effect, give time to absorb what one has learned into one's whole being -- body, mind, and spirit. Let logic and intuition blend with sensitivity -- and all be used.
After a time, if one is completely sincere, the light of one's mind will naturally shine through all the Tai Chi actions and energies, principles and verbiage, and the spirit of inner clarity will permeate everything. Then the knowledge, principles, and inner core will be penetrated, and all will be understood in its proper perspective. Then, once one reaches this point one should continue to persevere in order to deepen, nurture, and refine the effects and the principles.
If one does not find out the essence and real meaning behind the ideas and principles, but merely wants to have a large repertoire of information or techniques so that one can show off to oneself or others, one's knowledge will not help one to cultivate oneself and the practitioner will end up with just empty facade and surface knowledge. This will injure one's energy, one's thoughts and opinions, and one's spirit and all previous studying will be in vain. One must concentrate, look closely with openness, take in the proper amount, allow time for the knowledge to settle and deepen, and persevere.
This is the way to study.
Tai Chi And Inner Essence ∞
Self-cultivation and evolvement in Tai Chi has nothing to do with governing others, but is a matter of ordering oneself.
The way that leads to empowerment and clarity is even and easy -- calm, flexible, and non-forceful. Inner essence must be impartial and un-reified. One's opinions cannot be adulterated and cluttered with biased personal agendas. One must be plain, simple, and fully open.
Tai Chi is noble. Its nobility has nothing to do with outward power and rank, but is a matter of self-realization and inner-character. Tai Chi is about inner happiness and has nothing to do with status or hierarchy, but is, rather, a matter of harmony.
The essential inner nature of Tai Chi practice offers no delusions or defilement, but after a time, with long immersion in and contact with things, it can change; one can forget the root and conform to various acculturated ideas which are estranged from naturalness. One can end up losing one's real nature by putting too much faith in outward guides. When this happens one's actions are never authentic. People who follow this path are facade-oriented and have oftentimes lost their ability to know them self and come from their own inner being as their source. . They do not understand things inwardly -- and in relation to original essence of nature -- and so cannot be clear, centered, and grounded.
The Three Vitalities In Tai Chi ∞
One must learn the physical side of Tai Chi if one wishes to learn Tai Chi at its deeper levels, and get the most from Tai Chi's rich lessons. The physical side of Tai Chi includes the postures. These are body positions and actions which attend to the establishment of proper energy use and structure within the mind/body/spirit partnership. Correct stances and movement dynamics require appropriate use of energy and an aligned structural integrity which opens up and orders the body's energy pathways for that use and health.
Proper energy usage is set by the combined and unified efforts of the body, the mind, and the spirit. These might be called the three vitalities. The unified interconnection of the three vitalities should not be underestimated for it is through and of the union of these three aspects that the profound aspects of the art of Tai Chi are attained.
In the Tai Chi body there must be relaxation and softness. Sensitivity and looseness are really more appropriate terms than relaxation, since to many people, relaxation is often misinterpreted as lacking energy. Sensitivity, vitalness, and looseness all together better describe the kind of energy which should be found in the Tai Chi body/mind. Like a hand reaching for a glass of water, there is intent and there is energy... yet there is not stiffness or inappropriate limpness; if one wants to use the body, one's chi must be lively.
The Tai Chi mind should be active and vital, concentrated and sensitive. A mind which is dull and spacy is not the Tai Chi mind. The proper mind in Tai Chi should have curiosity, determination, receptiveness, alertness, and focus.
The Tai Chi spirit should be full and whole. It should not be negative and gloomy. The spirit should be raised up, with optimism, positivity, and non-division. A spirit which fosters life and is caring is the Tai Chi spirit.
The Unrestricted Source ∞
What are Tai Chi's actions are based upon? What is it that forms the foundation of Tai Chi's principles of movement and energetics? Perhaps it is a particular philosophy -- a particular world-view -- but just what is this world-view...this philosophy all about? Where does it come from? What is its basis and beginning?
Whatever it is, this thing which is Tai Chi's particular perspective is also its fountainhead -- its source. It is this viewpoint which should guide one in all one's endeavors in Tai Chi. This fountainhead, this source creates all of Tai Chi's preferences and biases...or the lack of.
When one is closed-minded one's source is small -- or lost all together...this is not the Tai Chi viewpoint. When one acts with open-mindedness one's source is large, and the basis of one's judgments and actions can be guided from the most unrestricted place possible...this is the Tai Chi source's way.
The Tai Chi perspective seeks to comes from the most wide and open perspective possible. Such a source is not parochial, matriarchal, or provincial, but is based on that which is not coming from a particular cultural point of view or timely fad. This perspective is founded on universal truths which transcend limited individual or single cultural concerns. Such truths come from "what all cultures have in common" -- from what all humankind shares. They are nature's principles and are what has always and will always work in manifesting action in the world.
The Tai Chi source's outlook transcends partisan partiality in favor of a more far-seeing, more all-encompassing rationale. When one acts from such an universal and unrestricted origin one acts from the wisdom of nature and nature's principles. Whether in action or in belief, when one operates from such a source one's actions and beliefs are founded on an undistorted clarity which is the common spring for all of humankind's wisdom.
Such an origin's roots lie in that which is the essence of humankind, not the periphery -- the depths, not the surface. To utilize this source one needs to come from the most empowered, far-ranging, and universal perspective possible.
Such an unrestricted source is about being artless; it has no cleverness or wile. It is simply the broad-based and unburnished truth beyond any culture. It is the truth which comes from the ages. When one can act from this kind of source one acts without any partiality or agenda except to be appropriate and natural, poised, centered, and true to the inner essence of life.
Vitality & Openness ∞
One's Tai Chi is always changing, always subtly refining itself. This is only natural, for the skills of one's Tai Chi must be vital and alive, and one of the qualities of alive vitalness is creativity. One should inquire deeply into the meanings of Tai Chi, study how it can be used, and keep an open mind at all times. The practicality of the postures and movements in terms of martial application and in terms of health should be questioned and investigated. This is natural and right. Refinement comes from taking nothing for granted.
The traditional and standard meanings are truly marvelous and important and should be experienced. Without exploration of the traditional approaches, one might miss the richness and the fullness of the heritage of Tai Chi. Yet, if one follows that path alone, how can the art grow? After all, where did the founders of the art get their knowledge? Was it given to them on a silver platter or did they have to struggle, investigate, and find it for themselves?
One must diligently study the traditional approaches, this is clear. The traditional ideas have much to teach and great depth. Yet, without an alive awareness and open-minded about how one's art actually works and relates to one's own real life -- directly -- one's understanding will always be limited and lack authenticity, wholeness, and appropriateness.
Through striving to keep one's art vital and real for oneself, one can truly experiences the art directly, and this, in turn, keeps the art alive and growing for those who will follow.
Vitalness and openness are important. They are how one actualizes one's art. They are what makes one's art a living breathing thing as opposed to a rote exercise in mechanistic copying. With a body, a mind, and a spirit which are unified in vitalness comes the luscious experience of awareness and growth -- this is the deeper value of having vitality in one's Tai Chi.
Who We Are ∞
Tai Chi helps us to know what we "are" versus what we want "to be" or what we have 'been". All things that one seeks must be weighed against a realistic look at what one is. All things that one "is" must be weighed in light of what one "has been". An un-realistic look at what one is can hide one's real worth. Getting a clear picture of what one is and what one wants can open doors. Tai Chi is an invaluable path for doing this.
Sometimes one's acculturated self -- the side which comes from one's culture -- stands like an impenetrable wall...a silent barrier...before the truth, canceling potential and obscuring one's wider capacity from sight. How one expresses oneself in the present -- in one's Tai Chi -- is often an admixture of one's past actions and one's future hopes and dreams. When one can find the amalgamation of past influences and future visions, harmonizing the two, one's present can be more realistic -- and more open to potential.
There is no conflict or endeavor that cannot benefit from asking the simple question, "Who am I?" Often our Tai Chi is asking us this. Every decision or action one makes is directly influenced by what one believes and represents the value that one puts upon oneself. Only fictions and illusions separate the real person from what one can be.
One who perceives oneself as weak and frail, with little hope and little will, suffers the discomfort and negativity that such thinking engenders. Yet, there is nothing one cannot achieve, within the bounds of reason and vision of course, if one's spirit is open, raised, and positive. Identifying with negativity will cause one's life force to shrink and inevitably reaps negative energy. Identifying with positivity and one's life force will expand and one will eventually reap positive energy.
When one practices Tai Chi, one may realize the truth and reality of how one is affected by one's culture. Such negative traits as hurrying, insensitivity, grasping, lack of discipline, low self-esteem, closemindedness, impatience, a tendency to complicate, pessimism, an inability to relax the spirit, competitiveness, a tendency to over-compartmentalize, lack of perseverance, and manipulativeness are all qualities which can arise in one's practice which might be direct influences from one's culture. Often, Tai Chi can show us see these negative traits and we can then strive to move beyond them.
The Principles ∞
In learning and practicing Tai Chi one must learn the physical postures. These are the body positions and movements that are related to the martial activity as well as energies which are related to opening the body and creating vital and alive pathways of energy in the mind/body/spirit totality.
In order to fully achieve Tai chi and its benefits one must practice. It is also important to understand that Tai Chi is to found as much if not more in the principles of Tai Chi. It is the principles that make the postures and body movements of Tai Chi function in the correct and proper way that opens and activates the energies of the body and mind. It is the principles which make Tai Chi work.
One should make use careful consideration and study of the principles if one wishes to understand and do Tai Chi at the highest levels. Take nothing for granted. Investigate for yourself what the cryptic phrases and terminologies of classics and past masters mean. Look at the words deeply, and explore their meanings...along all possible avenues. It is unwise to assume one understand too readily. It is also unwise to assume one can never understand. Strive for an open and inquiring mind that can accept as well as search, utilize as well as struggle, and actualize as well as visualize. It is the principles which are the key. Studying them is studying the inner workings and depth of Tai Chi.