A paradox is not a conflict with reality. It is a conflict between reality and your feelings about what reality should be like. Richard Feynman, physicist
Taijiquan is by its very nature pardoxical. It is a martial art (quan) based on the Taiji (the supreme pole, the great ultimate). I understand the Taiji to mean All-That-Is in its unified, undifferentiated state: an infinite, unknowable ocean of infinite potentiality. Whenever consciousness meets some small part of What-Is, the One becomes Two: yang and yin, the birthplace of relativity. It is only through comparing something to its opposite that we can understand anything. And there is a constant interplay between unity and duality. It is the interplay of polarities that gives taijiquan it’s power.
We see analogies in the quantum world, while certainly not equating the two. Before interacting with an observer, quanta exist in multiple places and various states of potentiality. You don’t know which of the potential states will manifest. Even after it becomes ‘real’, you can’t observe or measure its yang (wave) aspect without obscuring its yin (particle) qualities. Once linked, quanta remain interdependent no matter how far they separated, always complementing each other.
It is only through embracing paradox that we can appreciate the wisdom and power of taijiquan.”Yin is yang. Yang is yin. First, separate the two.” I heard this first from Master Abraham Liu twenty-odd years ago and didn’t get it then. I was still looking at taijiquan as a ‘thing’–something I could know about and use. But I didn’t forget it. In the unity of the Tai Ji, ‘yin IS yang’. It is not possible to distinguish this from that without leaving the unity. And while Unity-Consciousness is a swell place to visit, well, forget living there. We can only function in a duality. “First, separate the two.”
How do we return to unity? Not by contemplating unity, but consciously holding opposing poles. We get to unity through duality. That is also how we generate energy. Poles in opposition, separated by a neutral…consciousness. Yin and yang. Insubstantial and substantial.
All taijiquan, no matter what style you practice, has this in common: unity through conscious awareness of duality. The One through the Two. We are at our best when in a heightened state of coherence: wholeness. But we must contrast and compare to be able to learn anything. So we have to get comfortable with both. Not as an intellectual exercise, but integrated into the body/mind. That requires gongfu. Gongfu is something you practice diligently over a long time–long enough to have a sense of what NOT to do. You develop a feeling sense for what is effective or not.
I am excited to be teaching a seminar at the the New York Open Center August 12 from 10 a.m. til 5:30 p.m. It’s called T’ai Chi: Embracing Paradox. Jonathan Bricklin at NYOC asked me to share some of my insights on how to get the most from your practice, even if you don’t practice. Some people in attendance will have no prior taiji instruction and others will have decades of experience. Both are welcome.
We’ll be examining a few moves from the Yang style and going in DEEP. Taijiquan is an amazing tool for body/mind/spirit integration, yet for many this is only a vague ideal–even after decades of practice. It is only by embracing its inherent paradoxes that we learn to embody this integration and carry it into our lives. When taiji is done correctly, you have access to effortless power, calmness, openness, and fluidity. Fear is replaced by love.
We’ll balance theory and practical and have a bunch of fun. I’m open to all questions and will do my best to demonstrate stuff in a way that forwards understanding and application.