The concept of Central Equilibrium – at its most general and expansive – states that peace and quiet exist as balances rather than absolute states. Everything, whether object, event, concept, feeling is operated upon by, in fact exists as, a manifold of forces. Life itself when lived correctly – daringly – is a process that constantly threatens disequilibrium, and the living of life is a continual struggle to retrieve equilibrium – to equilibrate. In taiji the name we give to this struggle is yielding. It requires, above all, awareness and sensitivity, and an immediate engagement with life so that adjustments can be made as quickly as possible – pre-consciously; consciousness always comes after the event of yielding. To yield intelligently I must be aware of the forces operating in all situations I find myself in. The one I’d like to highlight here is the event of confronting the Other – face to face with another person – heart to heart. They exist as a force in front of me – their energy blasts me, their expectations draw me. To respond adequately and appropriately I must become aware how their presence – their demands upon my attention and energy – cause my being to reconfigure itself. If I can remain relaxed (and this is the key) then their presence, instead of moving me, either physically or emotionally, will instantly and unconsciously illicit an energetic response: my energy will reach out behind me and connect with what my teacher called the guardian, to balance the necessary connecting with their presence before me. The guardian is an aspect of energy that allows me to remain free and vulnerable whilst interacting with others. I exist always suspended between what’s before me (what threatens) and what bolsters (supports and protects) me.
Death is the subject we try our best to avoid, especially when young, and it is something our culture encourages us to avoid. Nowadays we can go through life never having seen a dead body, let alone been present whilst someone is dying. The average person fears death because they perceive is as an end – an end to their identity, their ego, their specialness, their existence, so cultures invent all sorts of comforts – heaven, an afterlife, reincarnation – anything to avoid contemplating the unthinkable – non-existence. For the spiritual person death is the final release, the last stage of the process of dissolution they started when they picked up the reins of spirit from their teacher. The only thing that frightens them is the real possibility that death may not be the end.
Any continuous repetitive activity (practice) has three phases – a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning is the commencement and the establishing of the activity. It is a change from not-doing to doing – a shift in balance. Like most change it is stressful and exciting – involves tension. The length of the beginning phase depends upon my ability to relax into the activity – the more quickly I relax the shorter the beginning and the sooner I enter the next phase. This middle phase is marked by stability – I am now fully doing the activity to such a degree that energy begins to manifest and gather within the body – the doing is no longer just the using of energy – it becomes the development of energy. We say that this phase appears when I forget the not-doing – when I am fully consumed by the doing – comfortable and content. Gradually though, I begin to tire, physically and mentally – the stress of doing begins to kick in and I start to get tense. This marks the beginning of the end. I can extend the middle by consciously relaxing the developing tensions, but once the end phase is established it is doubtful how much, if anything, is achieved by continuing with the activity. The more experience I have – and experience is only useful in that it helps me relax – the shorter the beginning and ending phases. I would like to become all middle. Strength and stamina accrued through practice extend the middle, and the problem I am then faced with is not starting and reaching energy – but how to stop – what is it that makes me stop – and do I in fact ever really stop. Then the beginning and the end take on a very different character – bleeding borders – shadings from one relaxed process into another – connexions.
Do we ever really see each other? Foundering in the night. Guarding and regarding. Listening to the quality of the gaze. The time of life. Tallied by turning. Beheld by the other. A strange deportment. Exchanging glances. Touching blindly. The consent of contact. I dared your lids and lashes. Tirelessly inhabiting an interval. A dark circular opening. Tiny reflected images. Not enlightened but dawning. A pupil receiving light. A tongue touching the eye whilst lips pray because I'm afraid. God Bless. One last navigation. You'll outlive me my child. The promise of no longer. A sublime indecency. The tact of touch. Invent a fact, however unlikely. I deciphered the desire. The shores of pure and simple. Nocturnal expositions sidestepping unity. Take me by surprise. No matter the cost. Outstrip me and take me into safekeeping. Give me an advance. Urgent silence. This obligation to insinuate. Leave me free for the brink. Pressing that original impulse into stone. Focusing on an element of eternity. Ruined chapels and antique dealers. Tower of signs. Monumental mind. I risk being present. Vestiges of telling. Memories to meditate upon. Keeping vigil. Tenderly
The ego is a tricky customer – the trickiest – a veritable trickster. A master of self-repair – whatever I do to diminish, erode, reduce it, it quickly not only smooths over but turns to its own advantage: any attempt to weaken it ends up strengthening it. I see this a lot with students and colleagues (I would like to say 'comrade' but since so few people really battle nowadays I will refrain): the ones who have 'amazing' energy experiences, either through their own practice (rarely), during a weekend workshop of whatever variety (what I call the 'weekend workshop syndrome' – commonly) or during a drug trip (most common of all). One cannot deny that the experience was strong and real, but I generally despair at their neurotic need to assimilate the experience by talking about it. As soon as it is voiced the ego has claimed it. Not only claimed but discovered a way to ensure that any similar experience in the future serves it and not spirit. So how should we work? Is the case against ego not hopeless? Well no, it is not hopeless, it is just hard work, hard featureless work. All spiritual discipline of any value will tell you that the work at hand, the only work worth engaging, is to become quiet. This is how we battle the ego – we just do our taiji until that is all we are doing. And yes, it is often boring and often grim, at least until you have really committed to it. Once that commitment is made – once you realize that there is nothing else to do – once you understand that you have no choice – then the work is beautiful and nothing else in life quite compares.
Remove everything possible so that all that remains is essential. Work then generates excess – the delicacy of occasion – a play of light dancing on surfaces – a quality that never quite achieves the vulgarity of manifestation or actuality – a shimmer of memory that never quite breaks into presence.
When you are lying on your death-bed, teetering on the brink of life and death, your energy will have dwindled to nothing, but your heart can be immense. This is destiny which the good student feels so strongly that it is always present. True spiritual work is tempered by an ever-present death, and sharpened by a willingness to die.
Any teacher will tell you that the only way to proceed is through practice – to establish a daily practice regime – a sacred time where work gets done and energy flows. The quality of the work will depend largely upon what motivates it, and ultimately there is no better motivation than love: the student practices because they have fallen in love with the work. Even when the work is difficult, which it inevitably will be on occasion, the student is unwavering – they have the honor to do the work regardless.
Attentiveness is the heart's stillness, unbroken by any thought. In this stillness the heart breathes and invokes, endlessly and without ceasing, only Jesus Christ who is the Son of God and Himself God.
This quote shows that Jesus Christ is primarily the personification of that tiny part of God that can be directly experienced by man. Secondarily he may or may not have been a historical actuality. I guess the Romans in the story personify the rational machine, that part of us that rejects God (heart) in order to pursue knowledge (thought).
This quote shows that Jesus Christ is primarily the personification of that tiny part of God that can be directly experienced by man. Secondarily he may or may not have been a historical actuality. I guess the Romans in the story personify the rational machine, that part of us that rejects God (heart) in order to pursue knowledge (thought).
Ultimately taiji is simply something that gets done, free of ideas (about how it should be done) and free of feelings (Wow, this feels great! : I wish I wasn't so tired). It has the same goal as all meditation – immediacy of being – to approach pure existence undistracted by anything. Pure being cannot be spoken about – words neither appear nor stick; it is to the distractions that language cleaves. So the meditative mind is one clear of language, including the possibility for words.
According to the Jewish faith, sometime in the distant past God withdrew from man – he stopped speaking to him – which is why the Jews must content themselves with what was written long ago. I suspect it was not God who withdrew from man but man who withdrew from God – when man started to use the divine gift of language to protect himself from reality (God) rather than to engage with God (reality). It amounts to the profound but subtle difference between speaking the head and speaking the heart.
Taiji – often presented as the pursuit of perfection – can be demoralizing. It is at these moments that we need to remind ourselves that taiji is not idealistic but in fact very practical; it is not about performing the perfect Form but about winning the fight. In other words it is fundamentally about spirit, and spirit is never formal or ideal. Spirit is all about transformation – yielding – becoming whatever I need to be to get the job done, and it rises when challenged. The teacher must remember this – he must teach with lightness, and not make heavy demands that the students can't honour. The teacher uses his spirit to make the impossible possible, not just for his students but for himself and everything he encounters.
It is 6:07 on a Sunday morning – the beginning of the working week here – and I am practising in the local park, having started just before 5. When I arrived it was barely light. A few minutes ago my exertions were interrupted to jot down an insight that idly entered my mind. On resuming my work I distinctly felt my mental activity shift from front brain to back – my mind relaxed out of thinking and back into meditation.
Students often complain that practice is difficult (as if that were a worthy excuse for not practicing). Practice is not difficult, once you get into it. What is difficult is starting – making the switch from the slack flabby living we are used to, to the biting immediacy of physical, and especially energetic, work. Our normal daily lives are mediated to the brim by endless clutter – habits, routines, thoughts, feelings, opinions, sensations, experience, expectations, language, memories, and then the material nonsense : gadgets, appliances, books, wardrobe, friends, family, colleagues, things in general. People feel this madness gives them freedom of choice, but really it just stresses them out with having to choose – they live lives full of choosing and little else. Mediation, which is meant to reconcile – to bring things together, ends up keeping us divorced from reality. This is a general principle – when something becomes habituated over time it has the opposite effect to the one originally intended.
Not long after I arrived in Israel a reputable therapist told me that I needed to become strong. When I asked what she meant by that her reply was "To know what you want, and to know how to get it." Surprised by such an ego-driven and short-sighted definition of strength, I remained skeptical. Recently, reading Nietzsche, I came across his definition of a "strong and durable will" : "a will that can make and keep promises." That's more like it.
Central equilibrium is a universal principle at work everywhere in everything. Simply put it states that any situation of relative stability or stillness is in fact a dynamic equilibrium of at least two, and generally many more, opposing forces or tendencies (vectors). In taiji we try to become aware of as many of these forces as we can, and relax the body and mind so that they can operate unimpeded. When I stand still gravity is pulling my body down, so something must be thrusting up to balance this force. When I relax thoroughly, this is from the ground, rising up the bones of my legs, and permeating the whole skeleton. Up through the bones, down through the flesh. The reactive force – the one balancing the main one – is finer, more subtle, and more true, because independent of any intention or intervention – unsullied by mind – unmediated. One of the (many) difficulties in taiji, and meditation generally, is how to find one's true centre without becoming self-centred. We recommend putting the Other first: that is, by directing our mind and attention towards the Other, a reactive tendency is set up in the opposite direction, straight into my true centre – or at least the centre which is true for me at this particular time in my development. Try and find the centre consciously – with mind – and we always miss the mark, because the mind, no matter how pure, is always swayed by habit, thought and feeling. The same mechanism with opening – the more I open unconditionally to otherness, the more something focuses and hones into my centre. This is the rationale behind any act of charity: the more I give, and the purer this giving (the more unconditional), the closer I become to my true essence.
Forget self and become one with the Tao. If we have a mantra in taiji then this is it. The Other, broadly defined as whatever is not me, and more specifically in taiji as the person I am about to engage, is, for us, the representative of the Tao. So what does it mean to become one with another person? When I am alone I am with myself, so in that first instant of confrontation with the Other this needs to change. This is a time of rupture as my attention shifts from my own thoughts and feelings to them – I attend to them – I put them first, if only momentarily, in the interests of conviviality – in the hope of a good connexion and a meaningful exchange. Once that connexion is established, which may take less than a second, my attention subtly shifts from them as other, to the togetherness and the energy it engenders. We are now one – I have become one with the Other.
In my experience the best quality students are martial artists. There is something about the discipline and hard work involved in training as a fighter that focuses the mind and spirit in exactly the right way, especially if they have practical experience of sparring or fighting rather than merely practising forms and push-hands. I have a good student who has over 20 years experience in aikido, and he calls aikido and taiji “intellectual martial arts” as opposed to “fighting martial arts.” One of the big problems with taiji is that it quickly becomes too arty. By this I mean that as a student opens up to energy and becomes more sensitive they develop an aesthetic approach to taiji – reveling in sensation and appearance – developing refined taste – all mere snobbery. This approach is selfish and repulsive – like watching someone masturbate. What we should develop is an ethical approach – one that puts the other person first, but again, it is very easy to mess this up too, which is why so much “sensitive” partner work looks like mutual masturbation. Martial artists, as long as they're not downright evil, develop a naturally dispassionate and unselfish feeling for the other person, an involuntary sense and presence – pre-sense – that simply acknowledges and connects without show or display.
One of the metaphysical assumptions our Western culture is founded on is that beneath the complexity of life there is a fundamental simplicity – at the root of the many is the One. On studying taiji we find this is not the case at all, in fact we find that beneath life's complexity there is an ever greater complexity. It is not our place to plough through Nature's mess and find the simple principles or axioms it's all based on – that is the mind and the ego struggling to find safety and maternal reassurance so that it can happily disconnect and attend to its own fantasies. We should instead open the heart and let it fill with that complexity. Simplicity is then the fact that I have only one heart, which fills as much as it can with as much as is there. The work is not a struggle to understand but a willingness to grow and thereby contain more and more, not more experience but more being, more life.
The are no rules in taiji. Instead we have principles. These are like little boxes containing secrets – they have an external and an internal aspect. The external, usually couched as an imperative: turn the waist, sink and relax, sacrum forward and down, is where we start – how we approach the principle. The work though, once it begins, will stretch and squeeze, twist and turn, vibrate each principle – pull it apart if necessary – to uncover that elusive internal aspect. The thing about the internal is that it is always different, in a similar way that I am different and that the day is different. The work is the play of these differences, and this is what makes it creative – the intersection of these multiple differences can only be new and unique – a singular experience – never to be seen again. When I repeat the practice (repetition is the whole point of practice) then I repeat the procedure, but the outcome is always different.
Imagine you are being hunted by someone or something wishing to kill you. Hiding is useless, your only hope is to stay on the move. In such a situation complete openness is paramount – you cannot afford to be locked in your own thoughts or feelings. Total fear keeps you vigilant and awake. Self-consciousness, anxiety, guilt, are all absent, as are compassion, love, kindness – these are all luxuries for those with the space and time to indulge them – they are ways of using or abusing that fundamental openness – that ground of being.
The head is a place of retreat – it's where I go when I would rather judge and calculate than connect. It is fundamentally a cowardly place. The heart, the bold heart, is our place of connexion and openness. When it is full and well I have no need for judgments, and am unable to tolerate the distance that judgments require. The world is there to be embraced unconditionally, that is, openly, and not to be subjected to calculation and opinion, which I only make because I lack the courage – the heart – to be truly open.
To be comfortably in my head it must be still, or at least stable. We use the eyes to lock the head relative to its environment, and tension in the neck, shoulders and jaw to keep it where it wants to be. Whilst it controls me in this way the body cannot function energetically – energy and spirit are locked up and can neither flow nor express.
Life, the way it has come to be lived in a culture that insists on privileging the external over the internal, matter over energy, selfishness over selflessness, is dominated by seeing – the eyes have it, so to speak – and this sense of sight has come to serve the external, matter, selfishness, etc. The eyes dominate our navigation of the day, as the hands dominate our physical interactions: eye/hand coordination. When this happens the other senses become marginalized – relegated to roles of mere supplementation. Taiji, being the art and science of balance and equilibrium, pays little attention to the over-developed sense of sight. The only instruction I remember receiving regarding the eyes was to hood them so that barely any information gets through, and later in my training to concentrate on the peripheral vision, an instruction that became “Seeing with the white of the eye.” Taiji talks instead of listening. Such listening is generally interpreted as a metaphor for feeling or touch – listening with the hands or listening with one's energy. But on a simple and direct level it means actual listening – with the ears. So we need to privilege the ears and the sense of hearing, over the eyes and the sense of sight. Practising in the dark; ensuring head and eyes don't move independently of the waist; averting the gaze; peering with the ears. Blindfold.
The Other possesses something in their character/experience/energy that is invaluable to me. This is the fundamental law of partner work. I will learn this quality only if I acknowledge this law and respect the Other. It is not necessary that I understand what it is I am learning, I don't even need to be aware, but I must be open and respectful; then I learn physically, through osmosis or resonance, rather than through the mind.
We want a mind overwhelmed or underwhelmed – a mind stunned. Overwhelmed by detail, by sensation, by exteriority, unable to filter sufficient to objectify reality and therefore unable to subjectify self. Underwhelmed in the sense of drawn into a suspended silence where the slightest movement in the mind crashes like breaking glass. A silence all the more real for being impossible to sustain.
I am then a tension – an intensity – an intense point of focus within a field of relaxation (energy). Such tension – more life than spirit – is the string of unconscious decisions I incessantly make to let go and/or hold on, decisions that mark the unfolding of time and allow the gradual making of a life.
Relaxation – far from a drift into drowsiness – should be an opening of the field within which I am centre. Relaxation stimulates me to become acutely aware of the infinite complexity of the event I am relaxing into. In fact, it is such relaxation – a relaxation marked more by its rising spirit than its flaccid muscles – that transforms this state of affairs into an event – into something special – something destined – something able to wake me (and therefore make me) more than ever before.
Communication is more resonance than information transfer. Everything vibrates, has energy, and everything resonates, with all it contains, all it touches, all it has touched, and all it will touch. The connexion, the relationship, comes first, existed first, before the entities that connect. Those entities just occupy a destined space. This is the sense in which we serve the connexion. Reality is just a fluid structure of arbitrary connexions indifferent to the connected; and meaning is only in the connexion.
Holding on is tension : letting go is relaxation. Inhale : exhale. Inspire : expire. Tension should always be ready to relax, and relaxation should always be ready to tense; ready to work, effectively. Consciousness is a tension which relaxes into sleep. Life is a tension which relaxes into death. Sleep is a letting go of consciousness. Death is a letting go of life.
One of the important principles of our taiji, the one my teacher admitted to being most troubled by, is Natural Way. What on earth does Natural mean, for a human being? Is it “natural” to live in a city, drive a car, shop in a supermarket, etc? Is it not natural to be tense, given that we are all traumatized to some extent? Arguments can always be constructed one way or the other. For the ancient Daoists we were most natural whilst still in the womb, before being sullied by consciousness, experience, language, etc. and it was their contention that that original natural state is still in us, as trace or memory if nothing more substantial. So a life devoted to Natural Way is one beckoned by this memory. Everything that has been plastered on top of our natural state is in one sense a resistance to that natural state, and resistance, in taiji terms, is hardness. So a more natural life is one in which on the one hand I am harking back to a time before I became unnatural, and on the other hand, one in which I am softening and releasing (advancing) into life.
Generosity needs to be kept in check, at least until we have the wisdom to distinguish need from want. It is problematic for two reasons: firstly, it feeds self-image, and secondly it releases us of the responsibility to use our energy more wisely. When I see a sweet person “taken advantage of” especially by a partner or family, I also see a person pleased to be considered good, and relieved to be too weak to amount to anything more than mere cipher. Our prime responsibility is not to others but to our destiny. Others are vital because that destiny cannot be achieved without them, but to sacrifice that destiny for their sake is tantamount to spiritual suicide.
In my experience, taiji draws good people. If I were to somehow calculate the goodness per capita in one of my classes I am sure that figure would be much higher than the same statistic for the general population. Such goodness is generally expressed as respect and consideration for others, that is, unless put under active demand, is generally passive. One of the functions of the partner work we do in class is to activate this goodness and let it flow as energy within the group, so that we all leave the class enriched by the goodness of each other. It is simply a matter of learning to be more active – more present as a generous energetic being – more spirited and more joyful. It happens naturally when we stop resisting.
Science fiction often portrays space-time travel as stepping through a portal – leaving one world and immediately entering another, strange and unexpected. The image is apt. For most of us the unfolding future is a smooth continuation of the past-present, or at least that is what we hope for. But for those with courage and heart, a quality of spirit called abandon forces a portal to appear, through which they rush, into a singular animated world full of astonishment and danger. Nothing, ultimately, is better for the soul.
Understanding – comprehension – is retrospective, a looking back at the past. We understand (or think we do) what has happened whereas we live what is happening. To proceed with understanding is to effectively opt for safety by repeating the past. This is why, within a taiji class, it is the relative beginners – those who understand least – who are most open and therefore most ready to learn and change.
The future, when entered whole-heartedly, that is naked, having shed the baggage of preconceptions, is by definition new and strange, and an honest, curious, engagement with it is always shocked – unbalanced – by such strangeness. Openness is always a risk that can leave one floored, or worse still, dead, but without which we simply write what we know onto the unsuspecting future.
When I read, whether it be text, situation or Other, I also, inadvertently and inevitably, write myself into that experience – interpret – force the event to reflect myself. This cannot be avoided. So what is recommended is enough humility to allow myself to be read and written upon in turn. This humility is what we call softness in taiji – the courage to encourage whatever I venture into to transform me.
The problem with taiji, and any other regular practice for that matter, is that unless we are very careful it just becomes more of the same – the practice entrenches us deeper in ourselves. This is because that part of ourselves that we are accustomed to calling mind is always self-serving, and the more we concentrate that mind, even upon something as other as the Other, the more embroiled we become in our own selfishness. The Other, and eventually even the Self, must be approached and engaged with the heart and not the mind. This requires us to de-concentrate (deconsecrate) the mind – draw a veil over it – and allow the reaching forwards of the heart to drive our practice, and indeed our life. If we manage this then we need nothing more. Everything – progress, destiny, love, meaning – stems from this simple attitude. And that is all it really is – right attitude; an attitude of mind that withdraws the mind and allows the heart to advance.
Vigilance, otherwise taiji quickly becomes the opposite of what it is meant to be. The inspiration and motivation for taiji should be "Forget self and become one with the Dao" and unless we constantly remind ourselves of this – refresh our memories at least daily – it tends instead toward narcissism – self-cultivation.
Taiji recommends unity of mind and body, but like all binary pairs, they first need to be fully distinguished, which means pulling them apart and getting to know each one, because most Western taiji students – bourgeoise, reasonably well-educated, eminently domesticated, that is, shitless – only know their bodies through their minds, and only know their minds through thinking and feeling. We want a body, and a mind for that matter – a body-mind – animated by spirit rather than thoughts or sensations. Spirit liberates whereas mind enslaves. Paradoxically, as always, we can only truly know such liberation by enslaving ourselves to a regime of disciplined work over decades if not a full life.
Taiji is about managing equilibrium, balance. This means searching out weaknesses and bringing them up to strength: always difficult, at least to begin with (weaknesses are usually that way because we're reluctant to face them) but eventually, if we persist, we find that the work is enjoyable, as ever.
The most important thing in relationships, and hence life, is timing – knowing when to make a change. This cannot be a matter for thinking – a luxury that commodifies even time – but for spirit. Spirit disrupts notions and concepts, especially those of linear, partitionable time. In the hands of spirit time is malleable – squeezable and stretchable – and everything becomes magically propitious.
The other demands attention, and it is our contention in taiji that this demand is the only one able to break through the cocoon of self – to rupture my isolation and shock me to join. And meeting the challenge of this demand has nothing to do with understanding or knowledge, both of which give me the skill to deal with the anticipated other rather than the actual other. It has much more to do with openness and humility, and a willingness to play.
A simple exercise. I stand, relaxed and willing, before the other. They take hold of my hand and lift. I have three choices: to assist – making my arm easier to lift; to resist – keeping the arm in place, even if momentarily out of confusion or mild panic. (Assiting and resisting are both ways of staying in control – having things on my own terms – and both involve tension.) The third choice is neither to assist nor to resist but to relax, allow my arm to be its full loose weight, and allow the other the effort of lifting it. This third way we call yielding, and is a guarantee that energy will manifest.
As I practise my taiji, slowly, inexorably, but above all willingly, the past of tradition opens up before me and I sink down and forward (never back) into its deep dark recesses. This is a past I can absolutely trust to give endless support and nourishment, a past brimming with secrets which the faint light of my sincerity illumines just long enough to catch glimpses – whispered clues as to how to proceed. A past that requires the utter respect of endless revisiting and constant reinterpretation. Each visit adjusts not only my energy but also my karma, aligning me with destiny as I humbly accept and accede to its demands. In taiji we mine the past in order to better yield to the future.
Taiji is a method for awakening and developing energy. Relaxing the body and mind frees energy usually locked up in tension and anxiety, and the gentle movements – turning whilst shifting the body weight from leg to leg – stimulates the energy to flow and grow. As my energy refines and strengthens over the years of practice, it becomes clear that the character of this energy has far more to do with my ancestry and cultural traditions than with anything Chinese. That ancestry and tradition goes back a long way – thousands of years (certainly before Christianity crippled my people with guilt and sin) – pre-history. So, as I practice my taiji, which I do because I love it, I have to be aware that my spirit needs to reconnect with that ancient knowledge, which, in the domain of spirit, is still very much alive, and not become captured by Chinese theory, be it ch'i, five elements, I Ching, or whatever. Yin & Yang I consider to be a sufficiently universal and fluid concept, as old as night and day, which can be interpretted variously, that is, however I chose.
As soon as a feeling or idea (is there a difference?) becomes verbalized it is set as utterance, and this fixity, far from obliging me to stay true to my word, in fact liberates me from the sentiment and allows me to change. As soon as I voice "I love you" is all I can be sure is that I no longer do, not in the way those words were meant. That love may have grown stronger, may have weakened, may have deepened or may be bored and wanting to move on. Is all anything can do is change, so I must understand that any document or report of a state of affairs, be it photograph, video, utterance, diary entry, memory, is past, a past to which the absolute future bears little resemblance.
The old story: a great Master receives a talented apprentice whom he subjects to a strict regime of training – restricting the prentice's life and experience to that of the work and only the work. After many years of devoted labour the student acquires enough kung-fu to understand the world from within his art – he achieves mastery, and necessarily leaves his master's tutelage to make his own way in the world. After many more years of work – teaching, training, and above all, living, he acquires the wisdom and humility to fly free of the art itself. At this point he becomes a Master of the Tao.
One of the deepest metaphysical assumptions to modern civilized life is the binary opposition of life and death – they are assumed to be mutually exclusive to the extent that the more alive I am then the further I am from death and vice versa. Any experienced warrior (in short supply nowadays) will attest to the lie in this assumption, and will also stress that to be really alive one must not just face death but evoke death – call upon it to attend and witness ones actions, thereby lending them the power and gravitas of the choiceless life.