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Life presents us with countless situations that test our mettle. We have the opportunity to behave in a variety of different ways and make a whole range of choices.
How and what we do stem from who we are. Our actions reflect what sort of person we are.
We shape our reality relative to our perception of it. In essence, we see the world that our mind generates for us. People forget that our eyes are not windows or cameras.
Our eyes receive data and the brain shapes the information into a format that we can comprehend and interact with. This inevitably distorts what we see.
Seeing what we want to see
We smile at a stranger and they respond according to how they interpret the smile. A person with a generous, kind spirit will most likely smile back.
A mean, greedy person may well be suspicious and uncertain. A shy person may feel self-conscious. An angry person may see a challenge or a threat.
Yet the smile is constant. How it is perceived is what changes.
The sensei is not a therapist. The goal
of the dojo is to make healthy people healthier, physically and
psychologically and spiritually. It cannot be expected to repair badly
damaged human beings. As so if a member exhibits serious personal problems,
the sensei's job is to get rid of him, gracefully if possible, forcefully
and definitively if necessary.
The art is shaped to represent how you are - friendly, aggressive, superficial, a show off, practical, studious... It is a mirror of our inner self.
If you are impatient, the tai chi form and application looks hurried and flighty. If you are aggressive and macho, the tai chi reflects this too. There is no hiding who we are. It shows through.
Studying Taoism and Zen is very useful. It has the potential to promote change. Our fixed, narrow ideas soften and relax.
We become more expansive and receptive, open to the unknown and eager to explore. Our outer behaviour mirrors our inner self.
If you go through life struggling with other people, constantly encountering conflict and resistance, then something may be wrong. It may be possible to let-go, to flow, to move more smoothly through life.
Instructors should carefully avoid becoming embroiled in the lives, egos and idiosyncrasies of their students. It is simply not their job.
The teacher teaches the art; they are not a guru, personal trainer or life coach.
Occasionally, a student's demon needs to be addressed - for example if a student wants to do something that is inappropriate/unsuitable - and the instructor is obliged to act.
This is unfortunate but necessary for the welfare of the student. Such incidents are best avoided.
Ultimately, the instructor has very little scope to help a student to deal with their demons. Assistance is usually resisted and resented. The instructor must leave the student to sort themselves out.
Taijiquan serves as a wonderful mirror that echoes the demons of the student. The 'talker' will find themselves incompetent and therefore ineffectual in combat.
The lazy student becomes exhausted. A greedy person chokes on their own ambitions. The egotist hinders their own capacity to be without self and is incapable of being receptive to the moment.
Those who boast will falter.
The instructor has no real need to take any personal interest in the student's demons. Their role is just to implement the syllabus, and watch. Students often try to drown themselves in shallow water.
This is unfortunate, but what can you do? This is the path the student has chosen for themselves.
The rare student becomes introspective, physically aware and emotionally attuned to themselves. They take an active interest in their own development.
Instead of being self-indulgent and gratification-seeking, they recognise their own shortcomings and undertake the challenging task of working on these.
Tai chi becomes a mirror. It reflects the truth of who the student is and how well they are doing. A mirror has no bias or agenda; it simply reflects.
A punch in the face is a punch in the face and no amount of reasoning can obfuscate the truth of the impact. Being thrown on the floor cannot be explained away.
The art trains us to deal with what is actually taking place and to work with who we really are. It is a sword that slays fantasy, illusion and lies.
18 April 2001
Last updated 13 January 2020