One of the things I’m doing these days is re-reading Wolfe Lowenthal’s ‘There Are No Secrets’, a gem of a little book in which he reflects on his experience of learning taiji with Professor Cheng Man-ch’ing (1902-1975), whom many regard as one of the greatest masters of the 20th century.
Here is an excerpt I’d like to share with you – musings about the Tao and the deeper aspects of learning taiji, thoughts I can relate to and which maybe will resonate with you as well.
“ ‘Tai Chi’ is commonly translated ‘Supreme Ultimate’ […]. A better translation is ‘Great Polarity,’ as in yin-yang, male-female, positive-negative, the abiding principle of the universe. ‘Chuan’ is literally ‘fist,’ or ‘system of self-defense.’ So: Tai Chi Chuan is the system of self-defense based upon the principle of the great polarity.
Tao is indefinable. There is a passage in Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching that says, in effect, ‘the person who knows the Tao does not speak of it.’ […]
The literal, narrow meaning of ‘Tao’ is ‘Way,’ as in ‘road’ or ‘path’. […]
Is there anyone who hasn’t had the experience of desperately wanting something – job, money, lover – and see it further recede the more we want it? But if we can somehow dissolve the desperation, the thing we thought we wanted flows to us like magic. […]
Tao does not seem to be something we need to acquire. We are already part of it. We can, however, do a great job of blocking its manifestation within us. We primarily block the Tao through fear and tension.
To experience Tao we have to be open. […]
If a lonely man walks down the street, longing for a lover to cure the pain in his heart, he will wear out three pairs of shoes without easing his troubled mind. If he can detach himself from the fear that exists beneath his longing, the fear that he is no good and incomplete, he can accept that he is OK right now and at one with all there is and ever will be. Then he will exude positive energy and his smile will be warmly returned up and down the block.
It is the law of Tao that what you put out is what you get back. If I am open, generous and loving, I will experience life as safe, abundant and full of love. If I am tense and fearful, and view life as dangerous and hostile, my life will reflect that fearful reality. […]
The Tao feels good. Are we having fun? Or do we feel angry, jealous, lonely and guilty? If we are in pain, we are not relaxed and we are resisting; we have blocked the flow.
Fear is the source of the blockage; it underlies our painful, negative emotions, even though its presence is usually hidden. […]
Fear blocks Tao by warping our perception. It sends us guiltily into the past or anxiously into the future, rather than letting us relax in the present.”
(‘There Are No Secrets’, Wolfe Lowenthal, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California 1991, pp.72-4.)
If we choose to, learning taiji can be an endless voyage of discovery during which we can become aware of our tensions and blockages (not only physical, but psychological as well), and gradually allow ourselves to LET GO.