How is Tai Ji a spiritual practice?
Simply put Tai Ji’s spiritual practice is purely a Taoist practice. Tao meaning Way, and Taoists focus on the way of everything and no-thing. Let’s start with some quotes from Taoism that will help us frame our conversation today.
To quote the Tao Te Ching “The way that can be spoken is not the eternal way”
Spirituality is the same in this sense… I cannot tell you Tai Ji will give you a roadmap to spirituality. Rather, I can say with certainty that it will give you a way to search physically within yourself to find your own answers, and that it will help you become very intimate with all that makes up this shell you call your ‘self’
The following are direct quotes from Chuang Tzu. Keeping these in mind will help bring clarification for the rest of the post…
“The Tao/way has never known boundaries; speech has no constancy, but because of [the recognition of a] this there came to be boundaries…”
“So those who divide fail to divide; those who discriminate fail to discriminate.
What does this mean you ask?”
“The sage embraces things. Ordinary men discriminate among them and parade discriminations before others. So, I say, those who discriminate fail to see…”
“If discriminations are put into words they don’t suffice. If benevolence has a constant object it cannot be universal. If modesty is fastidious it cannot be trusted, if daring attacks it cannot be complete… these five are all round but tend to be square.”
“Therefore understanding that rests in what it does not understand is the finest… if he can understand this, he may be called the reservoir of Heaven.”
Resting in what one does not understand is resting in non-being or Wu Wei.
Wu Wei is non-being or rather non-purposeful being, similarly it is termed as spontaneous being, being all on its own. This attribute is empty action or no action at all, physical action or even thought. The Buddhists call this attribute mindfulness or being in the moment.
'Being in the moment' is to reach the root of spirituality beyond “God” beyond ‘this’ or ‘that’… To dig deeper than a discussion on spirits, my spirit, or my spirituality is to drop the concept of spirituality all together. In other words, the deepest examination of the spirit or even of all things is to find a supreme utmost nothingness at the root of all things. In chinese this is called wu ji. (wu ji, wu-without, nothing, no, not; Ji- extreme, pole, extremeness, best, terribly, to exhaust). This attribute of wu ji must be sought before any sense of spirituality can be ‘adopted’.
The moment an aspect of spirituality is crystallized, described, explained, etc. it splits us from our very goal, to “be of the spirit”. In short ‘spiritual constructs’ are superficial concepts. “Focusing on things of the spirit or soul” is to immediately separate yourself from that which you focus on… In Tai Ji the view is that we seek to embrace all, therefore, there is no differentiating between our spirit and ourselves… To practice Tai Ji is to cut through all the language and seek “The Way” to unify all paths.
We seek Wu Ji through an attribute we call Wei Wu Wei.
Daniel R. Hyde
Licensed Massage Therapist
OIF, OEF Veteran
U.S. Marine Corps
Tui Na, Chinese Massage
Shiatsu, Japanese Massage
Tai Chi Chuan
Kwan Ying Do Kung Fu