|Following the Way/The Science of the Essence|
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Taijiquan is just one method of finding and feeling the Tao. Many ways have been found that help people to attune to the Way of things. Zen poetry. Japanese tea ceremony. Observing the 'natural world'.
The Tao cannot be 'found' as such, as it is not lost. It is us who are lost. Studying the Tao is about developing your awareness and sensitivity.
Taoism is concerned with not only finding the Way of things but in capitalising upon what we learn from their nature, their character.
Alan Watts described it as not simply floating down the stream like a leaf but of sailing with the flow.
By balancing 'the three crucibles' - intelligence, emotion and instinct - a person can move through life in a calm, confident, positive manner.
Rather than feel like a victim of life or a passenger, a Taoist feels integrated within reality, a part of everything else. As existence moves, you move. As it flows, you flow sensitively with it.
This book has questions that cannot be answered and answers that cannot be given.
The enigmatic nature of the Tao Te Ching is due
to Lao Tzuís realisation that we make sense of living by entering into it directly,
not by trying to understand it as detached observers.
We cannot escape ourselves.
To use a Zen metaphor, the sword cannot cut itself.
Neither can we make sense of living through a haze of intellectual constructs;
living is larger and more elusive than the systems we invent to explain it.
So we never quite understand ourselves and the universe in which we live.
The Tao is the freedom that comes with not-understanding.
Taoism must be thoroughly examined, explored and understood. An extensive and prolonged period of study, research, contemplation, meditation and application is necessary.
Taoism informed taijiquan and Zen. Omitting this study from your training is a major error. The principles and practices of Taoism represent the foundation of your art.
Taoism has a long history of mystics, alchemists and magicians. There are many colourful accounts of oddball recluses who studied arcane practices in order to gain great skill and wisdom.
A Taoist sage is a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the absolute.
It is someone who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truth that is beyond the intellect.
At the heart of the teachings is the desire to attain an altered state of consciousness. To see the world through different eyes.
Taoists aim to become a 'real human being'; in-touch with reality is a tangible, earthy way. They avoid fame, worldliness and repute; remaining in the shadows, in secret and aloof.
A sense of perspective
An inexperienced student thinks of the martial art first, and Taoism as an afterthought. An advanced student is the other way around. Taijiquan is an expression of Taoist principles and insights.
Taoist principles must be utilised in all aspects of your life, not just in the training hall.
What is a 'Taoist'?
Simply a person concerned with feeling the nature of things. A Taoist is aware of their relationship with every living thing and the environment around us.
There is no 'religious' component to Taoism in the Western sense of the word; it is not a belief system or faith of any sort. It is about oneness with all things. It is about wholeness.
Taoists try to appreciate, learn from and work with whatever happens in life, rather than impose order on a chaotic world.
One of the purposes of Taoist literature is
to help to develop this special sensitivity and responsiveness to handle living
Taoism is not about belonging to a group or identifying yourself with some concept. It is concerned with removing the barriers between yourself and everything else around you.
The danger of using a word such as 'Taoist' is that names are misleading.
If a person considers themselves to be a 'Taoist', in the same way that other people call themselves a Buddhist or a Christian or green or vegetarian - then they have missed the point.
Loss of ego
Zen and the Tao are about losing your sense of 'self'. It is not about you, your ego. Seeking to be somebody different or special is one way of hiding from the reality of yourself.
Strictly speaking there is no such thing as a Taoist, nor could you consider yourself to be Taoist. Taoism is not an approach, method or doctrine - so there is nothing to actually identify yourself with.
A person who can intuit the Tao is just ordinary, natural and genuine.
Taijiquan is a vehicle for exploring the many insights offered by Taoism. It is a hands-on approach to spirituality.
There is plenty to read (if this is something you enjoy) but the emphasis is mainly upon doing rather than reading, thinking or talking. Life is lived through action, not words.
The art of taijiquan is a physical journey that will lead to an inner search for meaning and understanding within the student.
It is quite easy to spot phoney Taoism.
Instead of the earthy focus on real phenomena, the practitioners light incense, worship ancestors and tell bizarre stories of dragons, elixirs and other superstitious imaginings.
They wear colourful costumes and participate in rites and rituals.
This decidedly spurious, confused approach has nothing whatsoever to do with the pragmatic, grounded focus of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu or their wisdom.
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18 March 1997
Last updated 29 April 2021