The Finesse Between the Elements

Wudang Academy - Traditional Sanfeng Cultural Heritage
The Finesse Between the Elements

What matters between softness and hardness

If we start from moments that begin from an intention, then we are talking about an action that is soft and hard. Then, within a nanosecond, the body instinctively decides what this movement should be, soft or hard.

Is there nothing we can use to make our own decisions? The Daoists have the Taiji practice as an answer. With Taiji, we practice movements that are of pure origin without affecting our physical understanding. On the other hand, we have to take our understanding apart again to optimize and be receptive. Dealing with the two extremes is an art with which one can harmonize with oneself and the universe. It is change that defines every movement and the art of understanding the difference itself.

Nature as a model

Nature consists of the five elements: wood, water, fire, earth, and metal create and destroy each other, as most people already know by reading about the five elements. But how do the five elements in the body interact in Taijiquan?

Orientation on earth, for example, makes you stand like a mountain, unshakable. But to keep the position strong, you also need to define the counterparts in a posture to maintain healthy harmony in your stance. The movement should be based on the clouds, the positions on mountains and forests.

Philosophical aspects of understanding the elements

There is male and female, yin and yang, soft and hard, it has many names, but it is always next to and at the same time at the other end of every answer. At every point where the two face each other, an element emerges from nowhere. The deeper and more purposeful, the more complicated it is to develop something that previously seemed very simple, black and white becoming gray. However, it is essential to understand where this answer came from as the source is the same. This source defines the element to which it belongs. Observing the two opposites leads to a common solution for each question.

In the valleys of the deepest emotions of resistance, there is always an intention to move onto a more productive level. There are the intentions of hope and freedom because feelings of happiness and emotions of deeper sadness bind body and mind on one level. The ability to transform the elements at the practitioner’s will is well known in traditional Daoist families. It is also why Daoists seldom commit to any particular emotion. Rigorous Daoists, according to traditional teachings, also avoid smiling or showing emotions at all. In my experience, such strict principles are no longer necessary in today’s world, but it is still important to know the origin.

The path of the least resistance and the most tremendous effort

If the Daoist gets into a situation where his surroundings force situations, this can be offset with the right emotional attitude. Therefore, emotional ties are always limited to the personal environment. Therefore, there are no perfectly versatile Daoists because everyone has the freedom to choose his situation, in which he would like to be, and is thus also ready to draw the consequences and benefits.

The easiest way is the way that everyone is trying to convince you. The path that leads to the greatest wealth is the one who is for the ambitious and for those who want to attract envious people. The path to self-cultivation is the one where others see their unrealized dreams and make fun of you. Realists reject the realistic way of the self. This open contempt for self-realization in our society is timeless. A common mistake is meeting expectations and getting carried away by what others want you to do while ignoring your own views.

Therefore it is very important to find the balance in society and at the same time to be able to realize oneself. The intelligent man expresses his views on the common people, but the wise man leads society and fulfills the simple expectations of others. So what’s the best answer to a question? A counter-question to shake the questioner’s gaze while standing there apparently not knowing.

Master of situations

The wise man is not particularly wise towards others; he is the master of situations and, therefore, becomes unpredictable. Many logicians consider the natural flow of things to avoid surprises in strategy, similar to the chess game between Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi – a historical tale from the time of the Three Kingdoms – the wise Sima Yi forfeits the game. Afterward, the clever Zhuge Liang realizes that Sima Yi would have won.

Even with the famous strategy of the empty fortress, one speaks of mastering situations. The empty fortress strategy uses reverse psychology and obviously shows an empty defense and relaxation. A single guqin musician at the gate comfortably played the tune, and the unprotected fortress made the enemy think that the entire fort was well prepared and that ambushes and traps were set up everywhere. The expression of openness and relaxation gave the opponent the certainty that he would suffer many losses and retreat.

The relations of the elements

The inclusion of the elements with oneself and the emotional attitude is only possible when things have been defined with oneself. This fact also applies to fellow human beings and relationships with others.

In order to make the whole thing more understandable, let’s start with the desired starting situation, which is afflicted with the conditions of other people, so it is necessary to resolve these conditions to achieve the desired situation. And the best way to achieve that goal is to give others the freedom to see for themselves. There are never unaffected situations once people live together.

The universe and the self

What arises from self-love dissolves conflicts in the community. Just as we can trust that nature will follow its laws unchanged, we can trust that people will follow their path if we understand their ambitions.

The people’s ambitions are elastic like the breath; the vessel expands and contracts like a bellows. The thoughts can seem to grow limitlessly, but in the eye of the beholder, these are limited to the inventor’s ideas. So it is hard to look at the universe and not let your ideas limit you.

Conclusion: Dissolving

There is always the way of heaven, the way of nature, and the way of man. But, unfortunately, the latter is the least relevant to understanding the universe. Therefore, to understand things, one has to start with oneself and understand one’s path. You have to break your habits to look inside yourself and go about things with ease. The simplest representation of oneself is the representation that is expected of everyone. The ultimate path is the one that fulfills man; the term is also known as the heavenly mandate. To do what you are meant to do.

The constant change of the five elements creates a feeling of balance and harmony. However, if you go to the extreme, you will recognize its origin and creation as well as its dissolution.

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