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Humility means 'to be humble'.
Modern culture is obsessed with celebrity, fame and self-importance.
This is not the tai chi way.
"But I am humble..."
Thinking of yourself as being humble is one sure sign that you are not.
In Taoism, you are encouraged to set aside ego and vanity. You see the world and its complexity in perspective.
Measured against the universe, nobody is significant.
Realising the scope and scale of reality, it is quite easy to be humble.
What is special?
Ask yourself: what is 'special'?
What does the word 'special' actually mean?
In tai chi there is the realisation that everyone and everything is special and unique.
Consequently this means that if everything is special, then no one person is more important than anyone or anything else.
Tai chi people do not seek to put themselves first or be in charge, they are happy to step back and let things proceed in their natural way.
Measurements and standards have no actual meaning in reality because they are created by ideas, rather than being factual.
Students of the Tao and tai chi do not compare themselves to other people; nobody is better or worse, because everyone is different.
People seek security in an ever-changing world.
Material goods like houses, cars, mobile phones may be necessary in today’s society but these things cannot offer security.
By embracing change and moving with things, a student becomes more at ease with their life.
We do not really own anything, nor can we.
People invest so much time and money buying, protecting and insuring possessions.
In our desperate drive to possess we find ourselves possessed; our passions are turned against us.
In modern culture it may be necessary to own things and to have a job; but these have only a limited purpose.
It is important to let go of things.
One day we must let go of our own life, for we cannot even keep possession of that.
Imagine not having a mortgage, a job, or responsibilities of any kind?
Consider the freedom of wind and water.
Tai chi does not offer this degree of freedom, but it does encourage students to consider their relationship with the world and put it in perspective.
Taoism encourages people to accept their own nature, rather than try and be somebody or become something.
Ideas try to distort reality.
Trying to be somebody is the denial of who you are.
Realising that we are weak, vulnerable, and insignificant - yet an integral part of everything that exists - gives an immeasurable sense of freedom.
It is common for tai chi people to dress plainly and seem completely unremarkable; to fade into the background.
By remaining anonymous, the tai chi person does not attract attention.
This is essential in our violent culture.
High level tai chi looks like nothing special, the powerful moves are folded within and the instructor does not attract attention; they are nobody.
Humility in relationship
Lao Tzu emphasised the importance of not putting yourself before others.
He saw great value in yielding and being flexible.
Asserting yourself requires force and force is the product of resistance.
The tai chi way is to avoid conflict.
It is easier to be quiet, unnoticed and subtle.
Adjust rather than crumple
Humility does not mean that you should let people push you around.
Move and change as the situation requires but keep a firm root and do not be backed into a corner.
If they push, you yield.
It is possible to disagree with somebody without emotion or animosity.
Let the other person wear themselves out whilst you remain courteous and composed.
Those who lack wisdom are convinced that they are truly awake;
they think they understand what is happening;
they think that the king is really the king,
and the servants are really servants.
27 June 1997
Last updated 17 September 2019