Finding the Dao of Flow ~ Seeking Balance Using Eastern and Western Methods

The stillness in stillness is not the real stillness. Only when there is stillness in movement can the spiritual rhythm appear which pervades heaven and earth. Ts’ai-ken t’an

In taijiquan there is stillness in movement and movement in stillness. You can enter the quiet through movement.

Taijiquan is generally translated as “Supreme Ultimate Boxing” and is a Chinese internal martial art. In “The Way of Qigong,” Kenneth Cohen wrote that the name also means “Undifferentiated Unity” and also “Polestar.” Chinese philosophy and medicine see the cosmos and the body as having the same form. The Polestar, or North Star, appears to be still in the sky and other stars move around it. In our body, the crown of the head, or baihui, is the North Star and the other six stars of the Big Dipper are the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle on each side of the body. Humanity is between the yin energy of the earth and the yang energy of the heavens.

Taiji is a philosophy based in Daoism, which is based in Nature. In the beginning is Wuji – the void, stillness, no differentiation of yin and yang. Taiji is the force that brings yin and yang into being.

In the foreword to Chungliang Al Huang’s book “Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain,” Alan Watts wrote that “Taiji exemplifies the most subtle principle of Daoism known as wu-wei. Literally, this may be translated as ‘not doing,’ but its proper meaning is to act without forcing – to move in accordance with the flow of nature’s course which is signified by the word Dao, and is best understood from watching the dynamics of water. Wu-wei is exemplified in the art of sailing, in which one uses intelligence, as distinct from rowing, in which force of muscle is dominant. In such arts of sailing, gliding, surfing, and skiing there must be no turns through sharp angles, for in such sharp turns human muscle would have to defy the environment of water, wind, or gravity instead of using it.”

In taijiquan, softness overcomes hardness, flexibility overcomes rigidity, and we flow and join with energy instead of forcing. There are no straight lines in the moves – just circles and arcs and curves and coiling and silk reeling. Rather than try to force flow or wu-wei, we relax into it and let it happen without trying – effortless effort. We focus on posture, balance and breathing. Every movement in taijiquan has a philosophical meaning of yin and yang, a health component – all taijiquan movements are qigong or energy work movements – and a martial intention. It can bring us to what underlies all Chinese philosophy – harmony and balance.

I have retired from teaching, but will leave the website up so folks I have worked with will have access to the videos.

From the fall 2015 class at the College of William and Mary’ Rec Center –