Quieten the mind sufficient to hear (sense) precisely what needs to be done. Such quiet only comes through disciplined work. Taiji discipline is practice of Form. And this is the first voice we listen to, the one that says: Practice otherwise all is lost. Practice regardless of whether we want to or not. This is the start of the path to the choiceless life.
Mind in dantien. Centre of gravity – point of mass. Body thought as point. In fact, as vector – pointing to the centre of the Earth. Mind in dantien is still mind, awake and centred deep inside a moving body. Inside looking out rather than outside worrying to get in. Without such centred stillness, turning has little energetic impact.
Noh's power and energy emanate from several sources. First, the stylized movement patterns of its actor-dancers are generated from a strong, erect bodily posture which displays a firm yet relaxed tension. This basic posture is centered at the abdomen and suggests anticipation, like an archer taking aim just before releasing an arrow. This strength is further distilled through the delicately carved masks or on the faces of maskless actor-dancers, in both cases frozen in neutral expressions, which in fact allows a variety of expression through the changes of angle by which they are observed.
How do I relate to time? Am I conditioned by the past or beckoned by the future? Do I chose history or destiny? If I chose destiny then I must be acutely aware that something in the future is calling me to a life for which my past offers little preparation. But there are always clues - events still waiting to happen - invitations not yet accepted.
Taiji should be all-embracing. Each principle, cast as it is in language, must be drawn into the physical and energetic body through decades of toil. But also, the poetic and philosophic implications of each principle need to be thought and felt through to stimulate the heart-mind to reach out and touch the whole of creation. This is turning, and why turning is so important. If mind in dantien is point becoming line (vector spine) then turning is line becoming plane, a sweeping slicing plane; the whirling skirt of the dervish.
There are two worlds: a world of energy and spirit, and a world of matter. The principle underlying the first is affirmation - a great big unconditional YES. It is a world of constant creating, where nothing is created because there is no time as such, only pure activity - a seething chaos. The world of matter is born from the world of energy when negativity appears, in the form of time and conditionality. "Yes but..." and "yes if..." set limits (give form) to creation, and things appear, endure and disappear. But these things, whether objects, feelings, sensations, ideas, thoughts, start to obstruct energy and spirit as soon as they come into being, and the world built of things draws a cloak of conditionality around itself and starts to deny energy and spirit. The best that things can hope to be are channels - conduits between the energetic and material worlds. And every thing is such a conduit - whilst it endures it vibrates and pours forth an affirmation from the world of energy, like a bell ringing with a cosmic Yes. Consider for example a flower: if I open to it as conduit it floods me with energy and I rise to the occasion, which is another way of saying that I join, if only momentarily, the world of energy. And this is the point here: things become energetic when they give rise to events, when they connect with other things and allow energy to flow.
What we are struggling with in taiji is not just to become two-way conduits – receptive to affirmation (yielding) and giving of affirmation (attacking), but instigators of events – the smiler, the one willing to leap across that gulf and make connexion. This of course requires a constant willingness to be positive, and a dogged determination to eradicate all negativity from the mind, so that the heart, which is where such events manifest, can remain open. But especially it requires the courage to seize the moment and strike, knowing full well that spirit can only ever leap into the unknown. And this is event – occasion invested with spirit.