21ST CENTURY TAI CHI
Ideas to bridge the space between thought and action
A WORLD OF DUST
Who would choose to live in a world of dust?
Well, we should all know, because - according to the ancient sages - that's where we’re living right now.
I know about dust. I’m slowly re-inhabiting my home after 5 months of building-works. On every floor, in every room, in every cupboard, on every shelf, in every box, sealed container, behind every book, packet of cornflakes or hairy dog ear, lies a layer - a thick layer - of dust.
Yet it was not this endless cleaning task that the sages of old encouraged us to forgo. It was the moving away from the World of Dust. Moving away from a world of dust was akin to embracing the fundamentals of Taoist ideology, and in particular the quest for immortality.
THE IMMORTAL PATH
The Quest for Immortality. What did the ancient ones mean by this? When they trod lightly? When they stepped softly, yet in an unhurried fashion down that path - that personal way? Was it flesh and blood longevity they sought - I thought - as I dusted another knife and fork, whilst shaking the dog out the window. Was it the search for the elixir of life, the golden pill? The secret recipe for transmutation? Or was there something far more sensible and possibly even attainable that these wise ones sought?
Like so much worth pursuing, an intellectual understanding is never enough. There has to be a physical component to root it down, to connect an idea with action, a thought with a breath. For the Immortals, that physical component consisted of qigong exercises, tai chi and a hearty laugh at adversity. These arts could enhance our appreciation of nature, to synchronise our rhythms with that of the seasons and help put us back in touch with that drop of pure spirit - that hidden droplet inside us - that binds us all to the greater cycles of life and death, of decay and growth, of light and dark of yin and yang.
It seemed to me that this was an attainable goal: to enjoy good health, a nurture a clear and non-judgemental mind, an able body that could dawdle, wander and relish in ‘wilful ignorance’ whilst others stamped their feet in dogmatic judgement and certainty.
But, when I tossed a coin to decide if I were to pursue this path to immortality or download the next Game of Thrones series - I hesitated, and wondered why the hesitation. Something was amiss. Why was it essential to defer this gratification? Surely learning to live well and healthily should include as much play as study? To listen as well as to laugh. Didn’t Chuang Tzu recommend laughter at every stage and didn’t tai chi master Cheng Man Ching sup something more alcoholic than a moon-beam before instructing his classes?
The more I delved, the more I found that the path was indeed wider than I'd thought. Full of intriguing side roads, down which bird song beckoned and sunsets called.
Would it be possible - I asked the dog - to learn and laugh at the same time? Where understanding arose from doing, and the doing arose from the understanding? He nodded. I went back to my dusting. At the very least, It seemed a healthy spontaneous symbiotic sort of soft approach, yet… I still couldn’t get Dusty out of my head.
I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF
Surely, I said to the dog as I combed the dust from his paws and flanneled his nose - if someone wanted to learn Tai Chi they need only search YouTube for endless free videos? Why would anyone want to enrol at the teapot temple to learn to Become an Immortal with the mOnk?
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