If I have even just a little sense,
I will walk on the main road and my only fear will be of straying from it.
Keeping to the main road is easy,
But people love to be sidetracked.
When the court is arrayed in splendor,
The fields are full of weeds,
And the granaries are bare.
Some wear are gorgeous clothes,
Carry sharp swords,
And indulge themselves with food and drink;
They have more possessions than they can use.
They are robber barons.
This is certainly not the way of Tao.
(translation by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English)
But all this 82 year old Chinese woman taught was zhan zhuang (standing meditation), and chan ssu jin (standing and doing spiral movements) for 3 hours per day. I thought there must be something to this because her practice is so simple while the others at the workshop presented more complicated esoteric forms. I ended up practicing with her for the rest of the 5 days. Towards the end of each practice we got a chance to ask questions. Someone in the crowd asked about matching the breathing with the movements. Madame Gao Fu said it was not necessary to try to match them up. Adding that after continued practice they would come together naturally. During one of those question sessions I asked, "my connection to my Qi comes and goes; sometimes I feel really in tune and then it goes away." "Is that how it is supposed to be?" She said that the more you practice the deeper the connection until you are never disconnected.
What Madame Gao Fu espoused was a type of natural unforced but committed practice, while standing in place or moving. Now in 2017, 18 years later, I still remember that seminar and I am still deeply committed to the wisdom she passed on.
Often when simply being natural you are perceived as lazy and in America laziness is the enemy. To just be natural in America is difficult because so many experts want you to DO STUFF, ACCOMPLISH GOALS and ACHIEVE RESULTS. I have found a lot of conflicting messages being promoted by health experts in America, "you should diet," "go jogging," "think positive," "have social networks," "sleep 8 hours per night,""set goals," "be successful," "challenge yourself," "meditate daily" and "reduce stress." The problem is that people are lost and the experts are lost. The Tao just is. All you have to do is follow the current. Where is the current? It is everywhere but the best place to start is in your body.
Many years ago when I visited Mississippi. My wife wanted to take me to her family summer vacation spot, the Buffalo River in Arkansas. There my wife and I went in a canoe and her father and mother went in a separate canoe. My father-in-law is a very devout Christian in Mississippi and I was this Tai Chi practitioner who KNEW the Tao, After all I have been studying the Tao Te Ching since the 80s. But this very 'square,' in the 60’s sense, school district superintendent, put his canoe in the water as I did. As he entered the river he effortlessly glided towards the part of the river where the current was strongest, whereas I battled the water and huffed and puffed and shouldered my way to that same current then it changed, as currents tend to do, and I lost it. So I again struggled to get into the right path. I would look up and there was this old guy blissfully gleaming along. Granted it was my first and really only time canoeing in a river but it is a good example of how to find the Tao.The Tao is not exclusively found in China, it is not owned by Taoists it simply is. You don’t even have to do Tai Chi to find it, although, I find that the pace of Tai Chi and the movements themselves reveal a deep understanding of the spiral energy that is part of the universe and doing them assists in finding the current within yourself.
There are two parts to this naturalness, one is the release to the Tao, the state of which is wu wei. I have explained wu wei before. It is a type of thoughtful non-action. It is not simply doing nothing, which many interpret it as and it is not using force to make something happen either. The second part of naturalness is song. Song is a state of being, like being relaxed but with a slight level of attentiveness. So it is not standing at attention like a soldier nor is relaxing at a beach in Cabo. It is somewhere in between.
Song is also applied to parts of the body and it involves conscious releasing of control of the waist, neck etc. The hardest part of Tai Chi is to release these parts of the body where most people store their tension. You find when working on this release that you are more able to find your center of balance because many of us are living in a shell like body that is not even aware of our true place on earth.
So to attain song is the first important but hardest step because it allows for the energy to settle in your dan tian and then it can start is transformation process.
Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu - chapter 15
Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
Observers of the Tao do not seek fulfilment.
Not seeking fulfillment, they are not swayed by desire for change.
(translation by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English)
There are a lot of hours, maybe a lifetime of work that goes into what was just described above. In fact that is the main practice, whether you chose to just sit and meditate or do the most esoteric ancient qi gong, song is the main activity to find the Tao. You can not find your center without song, you cannot do Tai Chi without song, and you can not attain wu wei if you do not song.
Note: Tai Chi could mean the series of postures most people think when Tai Chi is mentioned or it could be the balancing of yin/yang energies to canoe a river more adeptly or live to a ripe old age of 88 and still be teaching a physical activity.
"Madame Gao Fu died in Beijing January 17, 2005 at 88 years of age, following a brief illness."