Hardly, but then there’s that great old graffiti that put him in great company with Nietzsche and Sartre (two of our greatest western philosophers) when the anonymous author scrawled on a bathroom wall:
To do is to be ~ Nietzsche
To be is to do ~ Sartre
Dobedobedo ~ Sinatra
OK, I’m stretching a point to be sure, yet such humor can bring delight to otherwise ponderous thinking. In your t’ai chi practice, however, the play between doing and being lies at the heart of the practice. Let’s see how this applies as we review two of Master Ben Lo’s Five Principles that he relentlessly drills into our practice as we hold postures endlessly, or when he’s not moving us through the form at glacial speeds:
2. Turn w/o Twisting
3. Body Upright
4. Separate Yin & Yang
5. Beautiful Lady’s Hands
Relax and Separate Yin & Yang bring the play of doing and being into exquisite focus when we practice with appropriate attention. Look for it as you stand in Opening Posture, seemingly still as a tree on a windless landscape. If the tree is alive, you know the sap, like the blood and breath (or chi!) in our bodies, is constantly moving through the tree. But even as you take the time to stand as still as possible, you can feel your muscles and sinew steadily releasing ever deeper. How deep? As Ben likes to say, “No limit!” Such relaxing is the pervasive practice throughout the other four principles.
As we practice Separate Yin & Yang, the more outer practice may be separating weight, but the inner is emptying the unweighted leg. Here emptying and unweighting become the same “activity,” with emptying directing us to the far subtler releasing of the weight. Take a posture and feel it. You’ll find a near incessant oscillation between tension and release, a kind of closing and opening in your muscles, as you let go (relax).
This dedicated attention of reaching for simply being (openness) in the posture and constantly finding yet newer levels of tension needing release into the ever-expanding openness yet again and again, is a paradox of progressive stillness. Slowly, slowly our eyes get used to the darkness of density and tension and come to see the ever- progressive and endless deepening into fuller and fuller Being.
I invite you to leave your computer where you’re reading this, take a posture and notice what I’ve shared with you here. Like your efforts in practice, we’ll return and look for even deeper features of doing and being experiences in my next blog.