Today my Tai Chi instructor talked about change. That's what life -- and Tai Chi -- is all about. When we stop changing, that's called death.
The yin/yang symbol beautifully embodies this truth. White (yang) flows into black (yin). There's yang in yin, and yin in yang. To exist, lightness and darkness need each other. Where one ends, the other begins.
Taoist philosophy finds a concrete expression in the physical movements of Tai Chi. My instructor likes to emphasize how transitions are central in Tai Chi, as in life. How you move between movements is as important as the movements themselves.
Meaning, there's no wasted space in Tai Chi, as in life. There's no Big Important Movement that you frantically rush to, because every movement is equally important.
In a Tai Chi class, you feel this as the practitioners move together much like a school of fish or a flock of birds do. There's a harmony, but not a lockstep. People are sensitive to how those around them are moving, yet everyone has their own individual style and mannerisms.
Rigidity is a no-no (yet even that rule isn't an absolute). Flexibility, softness, acceptance, blending -- these are key Tai Chi principles.
Life isn't predictable. Neither is the next movement in a Tai Chi form. You might lose your balance. You might forget what you're supposed to do. You might be impeded by the motion of someone else.
It isn't possible to accurately anticipate what hasn't happened yet. All you can do is be aware of what is happening now. And respond to that now as spontaneously, harmoniously, and appropriately as possible.
There are no rules. Yet, there are principles. A rule demands that we do X rather than Y. A principle invites us to look upon X and Y in a certain fashion, then decide which is the preferable way to go.
We can wish that life would flow along in a different fashion than it is, just as I often wish that I wouldn't lose my balance when doing a Tai Chi kick.
I've learned, though, that thinking about a past loss of balance does absolutely nothing to help me stay centered when the next kick comes around. In fact, dwelling on the past distracts me from doing what needs to be done now.
As in Tai Chi, so in life.
Most of us are addicted to our attempts at controlling. We try to control the past by composing stories about what happened to us. These have an appealing plot line, where we're the hero/heroine, or at least the lead character.
We also try to control the future by visualizing what might happen, what should happen, what is expected to happen. Only problem is, neither the past nor the future can be controlled -- not in the rigid fashion we attempt.
So we often miss the only moment when everything freshly happens, the only moment when anything new can be done, the only moment when life reveals itself in all its living glory: this present moment.
It's always changing into another moment.
Reiigions speak of eternity, changelessness, absolute this-or-that, purity with no trace of contamination. But that's just talk. Life is lived in a concrete reality where imagined religious abstractions are just frothy dream-stuff.
I've never met anyone who didn't change. I've never heard of anyone who stood apart from the flow of life. Indeed, who would want this? While we're alive, let's live.