Anticipation is a form of investment, a gamble, an informed guess, an angle on the future. And this is precisely what we must give up if we wish a richer life. The only investment we make is in loss.
One of the cardinal sins of Taiji is anticipation. We have all experienced a Pushing Hands partner who yields before we push, and we have all been guilty ourselves; it is difficult not to anticipate especially when we know what's coming next. It is a bad habit that we indulge during our Form too: the mind runs ahead of the body, seemingly clearing the way but effectively inducing a mild anxiety that lightens the load on the legs – a load we should be endeavouring to intensify by stilling the mind and being quietly in the body – the dantien. The mind is such a tricky customer, with so many dimensions, some wonderful but some not so good. The ego of course is the part we battle with, not to destroy but to bring down to size. It is the part of me that thirsts for constant affirmation, even to the extent of belittling all around so that it can shine all the more brightly. So beware those so called spiritual teachers who promote some brand of positive thinking: it is often just a glorified technique for bolstering the ego and making one feel full of oneself. The ego, and the mind generally, needs reducing with a regime of discipline and sacrifice. Only then will it become quiet and still enough for energy and spirit to manifest in life.
Yielding is a technique that loops energy intent on my imbalance either back into itself or down to Earth. Physical attacks are relatively straightforward, at least to visualise if not engage: this is one of the functions of our Form – shadow boxing. Attacks on the mind or the energy are more subtle.
Students would often ask my teacher how much practice they needed to do each day. He would usually give some flippant reply such as: As much as possible, or, All the time, knowing that they would inevitably not heed his advice anyway. But every now and then, when the student was serious and ready, he would tell them: Two hours minimum. And the only students he ever worked privately with were those who practised well in excess of that. Practice shouldn't be a chore or a bind, something you push yourself through out of a perverted sense of duty, it should be a joy, even though it's prospect may daunt. And if it isn't a joy then your mind is blocking your spirit. My advice is to get into a habit of practice, at least twenty minutes a day – time for three Short Forms or one Long Form – and see where that takes you. If the student can't even do that then they are not a student, and if they find that twenty minutes gradually increasing as the months go by then Taiji, and its internal incommunicable delights, is likely for them.