Sunrise this morning was impressive. The image doesn’t do the colors justice. The clouds were more pink and the blue was so much more vibrant. Its one of the things I enjoy most about getting up early to practice or to travel somewhere. Most of my early morning memories have something to do with one or the other, sometimes both. There’s a quiet — just as the day is starting but before the day’s activity starts — that is pervasive.
This in-between time — when it’s no longer night but not quite day — is important. It’s the transition. The time in-between.
The same is true for movement, especially taiji. There is a transition before completing each movement and another transition after.
We often think of what we are doing — the movement — as being the most important. And it no doubt is. But how to get there and what to do next are equally important. If the body is not well aligned going into the movement, the manner of performing the movement will be incomplete. If the timing for the transition to the next movement is incorrect, both the previous and the next movement will seem to be ‘missing’ something.
Consider the time in-between each movement; the time in-between each breath. There is a moment of stillness and clarity when the previous movement is full and complete, the breath is full and complete, and just before the next one starts.
Standing still is one of the hardest things to do. Seriously.
Stand with the feet slightly apart. The body should be well-aligned and not leaning. Arms and hands relaxed. Breathe naturally.
How long can you stand still? For most people, a minute or two is more difficult than it seems.
Yet, it is through trying to not move – to instead release the tension in the muscles and joints and put the body into more perfect alignment – that we can discover where there is internal work to be done. By using stillness to let go of tension or thoughts, we learn how to become empty (kong 空). The meaning here is not some sort of void; rather, that the body is empty of tension, the mind is empty of distractions, and there is an opening to whatever is new. This is the cycle of yin and yang; empty and full.
In this stillness, this quiet, we can also begin to develop the ability to listen (ting 听 ).