21ST CENTURY TAI CHI
Tools and Ideas for updating your practice
21ST CENTURY TAI CHI
Tools and Ideas for updating your practice
"Maybe you are right”, I said. "Conventional notions of revolution may not be applicable, but I believe that a Revolution, is not something made, it resides in the individual spirit or it is nowhere. It begins not in the storming of the Winter Palace, but rather in the moment we accept that things don’t have to be the way they are."
"And what way should they be then”, said sifu, donning a beret and adopting a suburban Che Guevara posture?
"Who knows what form it will take," I replied, "We should not get stuck in trying to define the final expression, but instead focus on dismantling all those things that no longer work."
"Ah ha" he said, "But you forget one thing Mr mOnk, people today only want things, not ideas."
Things -v- Ideas
It's the summer of 2015 and it's hot in my kitchen. In fact it's hot full stop. We've been experiencing the highest temperatures on record this summer, so to cope with these conditions - on goes the air conditioning, on goes the fans, turn up the fridge, store more frozen produce in the freezer... and yes, this means more hot air being blown out into the street, into our public media, into our minds and yes more fossil fuels being burnt to provide the extra power for us to cope with the rise in temperature, provoked by our increasing reliance on fossil fuels....
Its an old story now, a little tired, a little worn at the edges. We collectively mutter concern, pledge to watch another documentary on melting polar regions, pledge a paypal micro payment to some green cause, but change little, if anything, of our habits that are expressed in Sifu Simon’s most famous martial Stance: that we are doing as much as we can.
But this article is not about global warming, it's about change and our relationship to the threat of change. All change has the inherent capacity to be disruptive, and it is the threat of disruption that generally encourages us to flee. But what if we learned to see disruption as something positive, and we had the tools to convert its force into something better?
The chasm between Mind and Body
How we see change, has something to do with the chasm that exists in our culture between mind and body, between theory and practice, between thought and action. It is chasm that is maintained for "good" reasons.
We know smoking kills and we know passive smoking kills, yet still people are permitted to smoke, in public places. We have known since the 70’s that refined sugar causes umpteen diseases, premature deaths, destroys teeth across the globe and has created sweetened addicts wherever fizzy drinks have been put on sale. Ahhhh... the glorious benefits of an unfettered market…..
We know we are killing ourselves and the planet, so why do we find it so difficult to stop? Are we all so weak or are we being given the wrong tools?
Why it is so difficult to change anything
To change this passivity, we must go beyond knowledge. Ideas must be rooted in some form of practice, otherwise they remain as just probabilities - projected on to the back of Platos cave - discussed, debated and argued over endlessly on FaceBook forums, but rarely lived with a quiet and gentle force.
To a make an idea live, to allow it to breathe, we must exercise it, but how do you exercise an idea? Can you take it to the gym, can you take it out on a lead for a walk? Can you swim with it? Facts, like grains of sand blowing in the wind of our minds, seemingly scatter when we attempt to act upon them, and before you know it, the next thought has entered our head and dislodged the first.
Outwardly conform, Inwardly sabotage
We get to explore notions of yielding, adaptation, resistance, grounding, we get to test the effectiveness - or not - of using force, of not using force, opening and closing, hard and soft, to be tense or relaxed. We get to interact, to engage, and, most importantly we get to play, for it is in play that we experiment, test and probe without fear of losing.
Complacency in and out of the Dojo
When people ask me: "Hey TeapotmOnk - how effective is your tai chi”, it is often a rather sneaky way to relegate the discussion to that of martial technique. Yet, for most of us, daily combat does not take the form of an attack by multiple ninjas, but rather the ideological barrage of nonsense that gently, subtly, encourages us to channel our frustrations via Amazon or in the shopping mall.. Consume your way out of depression.
Want to change the world? Well, that's simple - we have the best voting system in the world, the best representative democracy that shines like a beacon for others to follow, all we need to do is vote for change. Failing that, we can all do our bit" - to turn down the air conditioning a little, to recycle the tea-bags, to drink low oat milk, to plant some basil and pat yourself on the back that you're doing all you can.
The problem with Tai Chi
Tai chi shows us another way. What that way is depends on you and your path. It's not the same as mine, or my dogs. The revolution will ultimately be your personal expression, for although Tai Chi gives us the tools to challenge ourselves, our habits, and our conduct with others it doesn't tell you what to do with them. You are at the mercy of your teacher, the school, the lineage. To make Tai Chi yours, you will need to break with these things.
Tai Chi gives us the tools to reshape our world, recognising that in soft-ness and adaptation, in yielding and letting go we find a better world: A world that is more just, more honest, more egalitarian. And, like any revolutionary practice it requires neither uniform, no certificate, exams, nor incense (put away that Che Guevara beret, and put away that David Carradine flute, they are tools of another age). And much to the frustration of Sifu Simon - this revolution requires no gurus either.
No Gods, No Gurus.
So don't take my words for it. Read, but don't just read. Dismantle knowledge. Throw it away if you like because, remember this, Data alone can't do it. It never could. Knowledge needs to link to:
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