Thursday, June 23, 2011

Consider the Depth of the Source

During the earlier years of my study, I would browse through books on Tai Chi in the martial arts section of local bookstores. There I’d usually find about five to fifteen books on the subject and thumb through a number of them. To me, it was always difficult to know which one would best accompany my practice. Usually I walked out with one that spoke more to me through its writing style than illustrations or photos, and was sure to avoid anything that went on too much about immortality or eternal happiness. Call me practical (which is not necessarily the best approach).

Today there are quite a number of Tai Chi books available to anyone reading this blog right now. For example, at the time of this writing, can deliver almost twenty-four hundred different books on Tai Chi to your doorstep by the weekend. Pretty cool huh? And I don’t believe this includes the DVD content.
Knowing that, I just have to wonder how today’s beginner would go about making a choice (or two) on their own. I’m sure writing style is considered (thanks to the preview capabilities of some online stores), but ultimately how does one separate the wheat from the chaff? Which will deliver the most benefit?
I would suggest picking up Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and, like your practice, digest it very slowly. Considering that Tai Chi Chuan (Supreme Ultimate Fist or Form) is an investigation of movement based upon the nature of complementary opposites, no practitioner should be without this collection of esoteric writing.
As an exercise, take a chapter (draw it randomly, or choose one that speaks to you) and keep it in mind while you practice the form. Ask yourself how this applies to your practice. Try to soften and feel what is meant in a particular passage. Take a look at Chapter 40 (I’m using a translation by John C. H. Wu):
The movement of the Tao consists in Returning.
The use of the Tao consists in softness.
All things under heaven are born of the corporeal;
The corporeal is born of the Incorporeal.
Whoa. That’s deep.
If you don’t own a copy, pick one up (there are many translations, editions and flavors); you will not be disappointed.

Poetry in motion, indeed.

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