Keeping the Water Clear
Listening = tīng 听 (traditional = 聽)
In Chinese, the character for “listening” includes the ear (ĕr耳)，the mouth (kŏu 口) and the heart (xīn 心) . When someone opens their mouth to say something, you have to use your ear to hear what they are trying to communicate. But most important is to use the heart (xīn 心) to hear.
The word “listen” in Chinese has multiple meanings, first is the physical act of hearing. Second is to follow or obey a command. And third is to go deeper to analyze the information that is received. These are three different levels of listening.
When we practice Taiji, we listen inwardly. The question is how does one listen inwardly? It is only when we are physically quiet, when your heart, your xīn 心, is not disturbed then you can allow yourself to really listen.
For example, when you want to find something in a pond and you step in violently, the mud comes up. The water becomes cloudy, and you won’t be able to see clearly to find what you are looking for. The only way you are going to find what you wanted is to move quietly to let the water settle down so it becomes clear. Let it calm down, then gradually the water will become clear and you will find what you wanted.
This is the same as the emotions that go through our mind during our practice. When we practice Taiji, we need to calm our emotions, to loosen and let go of our tension, and then we can listen inwardly to our heart, listen inwardly to our body. In Taiji we say qing tīng 倾听. Which means you listen clearly to yourself. You don’t practice and then become calm, the practice is to achieve that calmness by loosening tension by sinking first and then beginning to move. At the end of every move you will let go of tension, you will readjust your calmness and therefore you can continue to the next frame. Remember, everything starts in the mind; when the mind thinks, the qi flows and then the body moves.
Energy Flows in Twelve Directions
Today I want to talk about the spiral motion that we should engage the whole time when we do Taiji. Only when we can see in our mind that our body moves in a three-dimensional spherical rotation, then the body will become alive.
In Taiji, there are twelve different directions. Because Taiji is based on Yin and Yang, you will always have opposing forces when one of the energies is present.
With forward motion, you will have the opposite backward energy. When you have the left side, you will have right side. These four directions make one plane of two-dimension movement. When you add upward and downward motion, you have a three-dimensional sphere. These first six directions create our three opposing energies, which don’t change its shape or domain. But if you want to change the shape, then next six directions become very important.
For example, the chair you are sitting on is a three-dimensional shape that you can pick up with two hands or even with one hand if you find the center balance of the chair. You can move it, but you cannot affect the shape of it. A person is exactly the same. You can move in all these directions, but you are still the same figure. Therefore, when I know where your center is, then I can disrupt your center and move you.
The next six different directions make you alive and make it more difficult for others to find your center or to move you.
When we can change our frame from big to small, we are expanding or compressing our energy. Additionally, when we can move farther away than normal or make a smaller step, this changes our range of domain. These are the next four directions.
But the last pair of opposing forces is the most powerful one. That is when you can rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise. As soon as you rotate plus all the other directions, you become unpredictable and there is no way for me to know where your center is.
These twelve directions are six oppositional pairs of energies.
The first three pairs of directional energy create a fixed shape. When you add the next three pairs of energy together, you become an unpredictable sphere, which can change its shape, size, and domain. Your body, your energy comes alive. The more you practice, the more you gain a deep mental understanding of these twelve directions.