II. Perfecting Form Through Philosophy…

I do not think there is a more lovely sight than the rising sun in the Midwest countryside. Mother morning is a lovely lass and she greeted me this morning with the beauty of the stars . She was a fetching sight to behold as I drove north for my Wednesday routine and I couldn’t help but smile at the twinkling morning-star as I made my way to the city to meet my instructor.

Such mornings are always a blessing. They make the struggle of waking up easier but they also serve as a foundation for the day, making it easier to maintain a positive outlook throughout the day’s challenges. What’s more, they help a sometimes restless soul to step back, reflect, and just relax for a little while……

It was this beautiful morning which inspired my enjoyment and reflections of this mornings class and I wanted to share….

Today’s class began in the typical fashion. Upon arriving I changed out and stretched before sitting down with my instructor to discuss a bit of the philosophy behind the art of Tai Chi before moving onto forms and applications. For today’s discussion, we reviewed the following passage of the Tao Te Ching 


Twenty-Eight:

Know the strength of man,
But keep a woman’s care!
Be the stream of the universe!
Being the stream of the universe,
Ever true and unswerving,
Become as a little child once more.

Know the white,
But keep the black!
Be an example to the world!
Being an example to the world,
Ever true and unwavering,
Return to the infinite.

Know honor,
Yet keep humility!
Be the valley of the universe!
Being the valley of the universe,
Ever true and resourceful,
Return to the state of the uncarved block.

When the block is carved, it becomes useful.
When the sage uses it, he becomes the ruler.
Thus, “A great tailor makes few cuts.” 


The Tao Te Ching is perhaps my favorite religious book to read due to each small verse reinforces and demonstrates the principles and truths of Tai Chi and life itself. This verse (like so many others) shows why.

In the first paragraph we read,

“Know the strength of man,
But keep a woman’s care!”

Any martial art can serve as both a spiritual and physical discipline. In all of our actions (physical and otherwise) it is good to know the strength of man. Without this strength we cannot stand our ground, we can only yield. Yet without the ability to yield willingly (thus keeping a woman’s care) we cannot hope to survive for long. Even the best boxers must yield to their opponents punches.

“Be the stream of the universe!
Being the stream of the universe,
Ever true and unswerving,
Become as a little child once more.”

A stream is a low place where water gathers and flows. In order for a stream to exist there must be some lower place for the water to go. In the universe this process of lowering is endless. In life there is always another lesson to be learned, some new view unconsidered, some new task to complete. If a heart be pure, it shall never waver in purpose. All who see it will know it for what it is, and it will be as a little child once more. (I cannot recall the exact verse though I think it be in the book of Matthew….there is a story of two men who, upon seeing Jesus and without introduction recognize him instantly as the son of God.)

We see this first verse repeated twice more, each time in different words and with each repetition we can glean some other meaning or lesson if we choose to look.

“Know the white,
But keep the black!
Be an example to the world!
Being an example to the world,
Ever true and unwavering,
Return to the infinite.”

To know the white is to be aware of the perfection. To keep the black is to recognize imperfection and accept it. Those who practice this can find peace. Those who find peace are examples to the world. Those examples who persevere in their quest shall return to the infinite. (This line can be seen in the necessary torturous death, resurrection, and ultimate ascension of Christ. It is also seen in the attaining of enlightenment by Siddhārtha Gautama, the first Buddha, while sitting beneath the Bodhi tree being taunted by demons.)

“Know honor,
Yet keep humility!
Be the valley of the universe!
Being the valley of the universe,
Ever true and resourceful,
Return to the state of the uncarved block.”

If we are to function in the world we must interact with it. In order to successfully do so we must honor certain things in certain ways. This honor must extend to ourselves as well, yet we must keep it in check! Let us leave seppuku to the history where it belongs.

The valley is the meeting place of all things. Animals come to the fertile valley to eat and drink. Humans build in the natural shelter of the surrounding hills. They are full of life and resources, yet in spite of their beauty they remain the lowest of the land; humble and meek, simple and plain. The simple things in life are often the most valuable.

“When the block is carved, it becomes useful.
When the sage uses it, he becomes the ruler.
Thus, “A great tailor makes few cuts.”

When something is given purpose it becomes useful. When the wise know how to use it they become great. In order to use something well, you must learn to use it well.


This is the reason I so love the Tao Te Ching. These verses….so many lessons can be learned from them. With each reread I find myself pondering some new realization and while the majority of the lessons seem exceedingly simple they are nonetheless true. In fact it is the simplicity of the lessons which makes their teaching and sharing so important. In reality, life is quite simple. It isn’t a complicated matter to live a successful life, yet we see many people barely getting by each day and the question arises….why?

We humans tend to overthink things. Sometimes that is okay. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it leads to a denial of the obvious for fear it too good to be true. Other times a little bit of overthinking….is just what we need to sweep off the complexities and reveal the simplicity beneath.

If you made it this far….congratulations and thank you. I hope you enjoyed some of this. Feel free to comment, share, ask, etc.

Dalton.

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