Softness is not just lack of hardness, it is a way of life. In a sense it is protection, not for me so much but for the world from me; an envelopment of energy I create with my spirit, like swathing things in fine gossamer or cotton wool; putting the Other first with real, sincere interest. A mark of respect; a point of honour… Those words again.
Originally I tried to truck it as a scientist, in the tender belief that scientists searched for truth. But, after attending a few scientific conferences, delivering 'learned' papers, and observing the 'truth seekers' in action – in the flesh – I realised that the only thing they really searched for was a pension.
When the physical body is centred at sacrum and the energetic body in dantien, as they should be, naturally, then the head moves, sways, always, in the breeze, so to speak, and the calculating mind, prime ally, prince, of ego, cannot adequately function. So mind, ever contrary, ever controlling, shifts physical centre up to mid-spine so that perceptions, thereby tensely stabilised, can mould a tidy scientific world that can, most profitably, be engaged rationally. But this is not reality, not even close, and to believe so makes you, to me, far more narrow minded and faint hearted than any religious person I've ever met.
"Be soft in your practice. Think of the method as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream, have faith in its course. It will go on its own way, meandering here, trickling there. It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight. It will take you."
If you want to develop and investigate spirit then first you need to wake it up by attempting something that is so difficult it requires spirit to succeed. This, for me, is the value of weight training. Each time you put extra weight on the bar and attempt a lift you've never managed before then spirit naturally enters the fray.
Gregory Bateson pointed out that the ego is so dominant nowadays – we have become such control freaks – that each of us is infected with a degree of anxiety and tension unbecoming to the natural state, and a stiff scotch actually relaxes the mind and brings it much closer to what God intended. That's my excuse anyway…
When the middle-class start getting all liberal and magnanimous then you know it's only because they feel so safely entrenched that they can afford to be. The same with the ego (which for me is symbolized by the bourgeoisie). When it starts expressing intimations to truth and enlightenment (which would require its demise) then you know its only because it feels safe and cozy inside an empire well protected by personal, domestic and social forces. Such people aren't ready to be serious students.
In Taiji we practice an external Form in order to nourish and nurture an Internal life. This won't necessarily happen by itself; I know many Taiji masters whose art has remained largely external and whose practice has had little effect upon their character. The bridge between external and internal is made of those terribly unfashionable words: faith, respect, honour, sacrifice, discipline, dignity, devotion, honesty, sincerity, courage, love, which, even if just voiced meaningfully (from the heart) at the start of each practice session – a little prayer – will direct energy inward and upward.
We live lives built on and of repression, hence the noisy mind – instrument of repression – vulgar veil. Quietening the mind in meditation doesn't bring peace, or not for long. It rather provides a space for those repressed feelings, desires, demons, to surface into and reveal themselves. This is called nurturing the Internal.
A relaxed system requires more energy to sustain than a tense one. This is why students yawn during class – as they relax they get tired because they don't have the energy to sustain the relaxation. And this is why tense nervous energy – coffee energy – is not what we would call energy; it is more a restriction of freedom in order to force action, or what we would simply call force. Energy, for us, is more like an internal motility – a range of possibility and potential – degrees upon degrees of freedom. Energy is basically freedom.