The Essential Energies: Enough

There have been phases in my taiji practice where my knees want to ache, which is never a good sign.  If knees or any other joints hurt, something is out of whack.  I think there have been a few different reasons at different times for my achy knees, but I’m discovering one of the most typical ones is that I push things too far.  Either I twist too far in some direction, putting stress on a joint that isn’t designed to be twisted, or I lean too far out of balance, and my body must strain to remain stable.

I’m not surprised to find this tendency cropping up in my taiji practice, because it’s common for a lot of things I pursue.  I push things farther than I need to, in order to make sure I’m actually doing them.  If I’m walking for exercise, my inclination is to walk really hard and really fast for as long as I can, so when I’m done I feel really tired and can tell that I worked.  If I’m working on a big fiber-arts project, especially at the beginning, I pile in tons of time and effort to get the thing going and feel like I’m making progress.  In my writing, I’ve had periods where I wanted to write for hours and hours, hacking out multiple articles in one day, publishing on a really aggressive schedule.  The common factor is that unless I’m working really hard, I can’t quite believe that I’m doing the right thing, that I’m going to make any progress.  And in every case, what I actually end up with by over-working is some degree of burnout, either physical or mental or both.  At some point, I collapse.  I can’t keep going at the rate at which I began, and often end up in a bad emotional state, feeling like a failure because I’m not maintaining an unreasonable pace.

Taiji is helping me unlearn my proclivity for doing too much.  Taiji is not about working hard, it’s about being efficient.  It’s about achieving physical results in ways that avoid wasting energy.  If I want to get out of an opponent’s way, I don’t need to leap the whole way across the room.  If I want to redirect an opponent’s energy, I don’t need to do it by throwing them across the room.  All I need to do is relax, listen, and apply an appropriate amount of energy for my intention.  How much energy do I need?  Enough.  That’s all.

I need that lesson badly.  I feel like I don’t know what “hard work” looks like, so if I go about pursuing my goals by trying to “work hard,” I never actually give myself credit for the work I do.  Taiji shows me that it’s less about the amount of effort invested, and more about doing just what’s required to achieve a specific, intentional result.  For nearly any goal in life, that’s a better place to focus.

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1 comment so far

  1. Justin Flinner on

    Well said. How about thinking of it as playing rather than working? The translation for “da” in”da taijiquan” is actually to “play. Also, you mentioned about your itnention in your practice. A powerful teaching I received was that “Qi flows where intention goes”. if we send too much intention in one direction, then too much Qi will follow. Like you said…how much is needed? Enough.

    Keep on playing! You have a great instructor. Please give him (my Big Kung Fu Brother Jose) my regards.

    -Justin


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