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It is important to realise that Tao and Zen are not speculative studies or in any way philosophical. They are about the immediate, spontaneous experience of reality.
Consequently, your study of tai chi must be as real as a slap to the face.
A tai chi student must be careful to avoid speculation. Philosophising and metaphysical debates will not further your understanding of the system. Root your training in the real, in the tangible.
Asking questions is not always such a good thing. The flaw may lie in the motive behind the question.
Speculation is relative to knowledge. If your knowledge is limited, your determinations will inevitably be flawed.
Knowledge is the consequence of information, context, experience and insight. Assumptions are foolish; many things are not as simplistic as they first seem.
Tai chi is sophisticated and rich in detail. A cursory grasp of the syllabus will not yield fruitful insights.
What qi can and cannot do is a speculative subject, and a student is unlikely to gain skill by talking about it. It is important to ground your training in the real world.
Learn skills that you can use. Skills that work. Skills you can prove in practice.
Thinking too much
Students are often guilty of thinking too much when they start to study tai chi. They imagine that the entire system will unravel, with its secrets laid bare if only they think a little harder.
This is not Taoist at all. Thinking, pushing, trying and forcing are not the way. You must calm your agitated thoughts and feel what is happening. Be in the body, not the mind. What is your body telling you?
Our advice is simple: be patient.
Do not attempt to intellectually grasp tai chi. If you want to think, turn your mind to something worthwhile: koan, Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, Miyamoto Musashi, Sun Tzu or Krishnamurti.
If you cannot fathom "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" there is no way you can hope to unravel our syllabus.
Students are expected to explain koan, and research books from our reading list with a view to completing assignments. Your skills need to be rounded and complete.
Speculation is an indication of restlessness; and a restless mind, however gifted, destroys understanding and happiness.
Modes of thinking
Once, people thought in terms of magic and superstition. This was later replaced by religion and then eventually science. Yet, this model of progression is simplistic.
Taoism and other ways of thinking existed alongside superstition, religion and science. These alternate modes of thinking were often based on loss of self/ego. Not implicating oneself in everything.
Scientific thinking has its merits; especially when people talk about qi (superstitious thinking). However, we don't need to know or understand in order for something to work.
Just avoid jumping to conclusions? Not knowing is fine. If you can discover the answers, then do so. If not, be okay with that. Ground your thinking in what is, not in what you already know.
18 April 1995
Last updated 29 September 2019