Thinking is like television: not so bad in small doses, but a real pain if you forget how to turn it off.
Stability requires integrity to a system, a story. This stability gives me the confidence to gather the energy necessary to modify, if not disrupt, the system, the narrative, thereby becoming unstable, becoming-vulnerable. This is life: ever tipping the balance, for the sake of an open heart, an open mind, an open book. Allowing, nay encouraging, the unimaginable to change the programme.
Why is it that I insist upon repeating a past that never served me in the first place? Because that past made me something, even if that something is far less than it could have been, it's better than nothing. And yet, as a student of the internal, 'nothing' should be what I desire above all else. I must learn to yearn that which I fear most.
The first stage to opening the heart (for love to flow through) is opening the body (for sensations and gravity to flow through), and opening the mind (for perceptions and affections to flow through). We call these the loving heart, the passive (relaxed) body and the open (non-dogmatic) mind. Heart can, of course, precede – lead – body and mind, but the work still needs to be done.
"Meditative practice actually encourages effort and determination. Just the fact that each day you're going to sit down and spend whatever time you've decided to commit to it takes effort and determination. At the same time, it also teaches acceptance of what is coming up in your practice even if what is coming up is not acceptable – for instance unwise, destructive thoughts. The first step is to simply accept that."
Affirm life not self. A touch of serenity during meditation; the momentary death of self. And what destroys this serenity is the panicked resuscitation of self in the childish need to communicate experience, if only to ourselves – the fearful need to be something. Enlightenment, if there is such a thing, is simply a stage where you no longer reject nothingness for the sake of petty attention-seeking.
The biggest misnomer in Taiji is probably 'Single-weightedness' because whilst the term means that the body weight is always in one of the legs and never equally distributed, the effect is that my being always contains a double aspect: I am always both full and empty, both matter and energy, body and mind, yin and yang. The novice finds this double aspect, this Taiji, difficult and confusing because we are all taught, from childhood, that when confronted by a duality we must make a choice – we must not only privilege one over the other but we must eradicate the undesired one; the principle of non-contradiction. But Taiji is the art of managing duality, of ensuring that we always remain single-weighted, in other words, with double aspect. We call this 'A Sense Of Humour': always being open to the Other, never being so serious or so controlling that we manage to block other possibilities, always remaining aware that reality operates on many dimensions, even ones we will always remain unqualified to know. This is why Taiji is a matter of faith as much as knowledge – having the courage to operate spontaneously, from intuition rather than reason.
Without a root none of it makes sense, and none of it settles – sediments. The root (chakra) is the foundation stone upon which all else is built, naturally. Without a root it's just a house of cards, a sentimental structure that pays lip service to beautiful principles but achieves nothing of lasting value.
Development, growth, progress only occur through encounters with the Other, through what we call events. Otherness, anything independent of me, distracts me from myself, and inspires me to become other than what I am/was. Without events I will not change, my stubborn inertia is too great: change always has an element of force and violence.
As practitioners of an Eastern art, we must ensure that our practice does not become tainted by the fundamental axiom of Western culture: namely the biblical arrogance that because we are made in God's image and likeness we therefore have a natural affinity for the truth; the assumption that it is man's destiny to think the truth. In the Eastern arts truth is not an a priori condition of reality awaiting discovery but an authenticity of spirit waiting to be enacted, realised. We don't uncover external truths but realise internal ones: we become the truth and we become true. When I operate from this axiom life becomes terribly exciting and joyful – naturally exuberant.
Events, and the experiences gained therefrom, are sacred, and any attempt to repeat them defiles them. Events are serial singularities, each designed to unsettle, if not contradict, the experience and interpretation of preceding ones. This is why reason, with its built in demand for consistency, is inherently unreasonable.
Softness expresses as an absolute willingness to face and look deeply into the multitude of psychological issues that force me to engage critically rather than lovingly. This is where we need space; and time – lots of it. It is difficult work that the perennially busy never seem to get into; the feminine side of our work.
Taiji teaches that the efficacy of action, what we call power, is a matter of timing rather than thought. My teacher said: If you ever get into a fight just hope you have no time to think. Thinking requires, and demands, the luxury of time: time as space, space to think, slack flabby time. Power is about achieving maximum intensity from limited energy: squeezing, reducing, disrupting the domination and denomination of time. In a word: spirit. This is the masculine side of the work.
Visited Liverpool Museum on my recent trip to England and was fortunate enough to be shown around by the retired curator of Chinese and Tibetan antiquities. It was fascinating to hear the true provenance of the beautiful artifacts on display, which had all been basically pillaged, contrary to the official descriptions, and it helped me understand just how much the British live in absolute denial of their bloody and murderous colonial past. It also made me realise that we really are regressing as a race.