The following are thoughts and insights by Justin Stone, previously published and reprinted by here with permission from The Vital Force.
Flow Slow Motion
T’ai Chi Chih teachers should remember that the most important thing with beginning students is to see that they move correctly. Once they learn how to flow slow motion in a dream, there is no problem in teaching them the movements. I hope teachers keep this in mind and concentrate, in the beginning, on getting the students to flow with softness and continuity. – Winter 1986
A T’ai Chi Chih teacher who does not practice him- or herself is somewhat of a fraud. Personal development is necessary before passing it on to students. My teacher from India said: “Before giving water, make sure you have water to give.” This does not apply to most T’ai Chi Chih teachers, who practice faithfully. – Spring 1989
Softness and Continuity
We stress softness and continuity in T’ai Chi Chih, and the importance of the former can be seen in the following examples: The teeth are hard and the tongue is soft, but it is the tongue that outlasts the teeth. Water is soft and stones are hard, but it is the water that wears away the stones. Oak is sturdy and stands staunchly against the storm, while bamboo is pliant and bends with the wind. When the storm is over, the inflexible oak has cracked and comes cashing down, but the bamboo snaps back, unhurt. One cannot strive for softness; the very effort of trying to be soft creates tension. It is the absence of any pressure, moving slow motion in a dream, that allows softness to prevail. The best way to forget worries and ease tensions is to shunt the ego-center aside, so that no-one is doing T’ai Chi Chih, but TCC is doing itself. In this sense, TCC becomes a meditation. – Winter 1985
The Effort of No Effort
Justin shared this comment at a T’ai Chi Chih teacher conference: “You can chase your shadow all day and never catch it, but stand still at noon and it will merge with the body–no effort.” … “Withdrawing into abstraction – from there comes all creativity.” – August 1988
All Things Are As They Have Always Been
Those who do T’ai Chi Chih regularly have not been taught how they should feel or what they should experience. Whatever happens is right and does not have to be adjusted to any doctrine or dogma. It is for this reason that the writer sometimes does not answer questions which would call for conceptual answers – they would spoil the experience. – Spring 1993
Justin has often quoted the following by an unknown Chinese Monk: “When the mind is transparent and pure, as if reflected on the mirror-like surface of the water, there is nothing in the world that you would dislike. When it is serene as the light breeze in the sunshine, there will be no one whom you would like to forget.” – From Spiritual Stories, Volume I and Justin Stone Speaks on T’ai Chi Chih – March 1993
Merging Sense with Essence
The high plateaus do not produce the lotus flowers; it is the mire of the low swamplands.
If you consider quietude right … it is just the time to apply effort by a million times.
The sun shines on everybody – pure and unpure.
You do not have to give up the ordinary life.
What is given up is greed, anger and delusion.
Love and do as you please.
When active you are revealing the function.
It is better to discipline yourself than have life do it for you. – September 1991
The Mystery of MYO
These days one hears a lot about enlightenment. Generally, I believe, it is thought that enlightenment is a super-intellectual state where the brain has great knowledge and knows many answers (or concepts). Nothing could be farther from the truth; it has nothing to do with I.Q. rating or knowledge assimilated. When the individual energy (Chi) merges with the Universal Energy (Chi), something acts through one, and that something is infallible. This is Prajna, the Inherent Wisdom. Give it theological terms if you will. Just as my Zen teacher said “Love is Manifestation,” so is enlightenment known by this manifesting, not by words, phrases, logic or dialectics. – June 1991
Spiritual and Physical Purification
All organisms are in a constant state of purification – both spiritually and physically. Physically, the activity to throw off impurities brings on what we call illness. To put chemicals in the body (pain-killers, sleeping pills, etc.) simply adds to the impurities to be thrown off and builds up the need for subsequent purification.
Spiritually, there is evolvement. Karma – the result of habit-energies (sasanas) and tendencies (samskaras) – causes us to have experiences that will hasten evolution or purifying of the Chi (prana). When we do such practices as T’ai Chi Chih we are aiding this process.
The above is true, but only at one level. At the deepest, non-dualistic level it is not apparent. – Spring 1987
More is not Better
I am not at all happy when two or three T’ai Chi Chih teachers write me that they have originated new movements and are teaching them to their pupils. More is not better. First of all, in a relatively short time there would be fifty different versions of TCC being taught in the world if this practice was followed. Second, until the teacher fully understands the underlying principles and has practiced for a long, long lime, such activity is just an ego-stance. To assume that you have attained the “mind of no Mind” in such a short time and can use the “sword of no sword” to pierce to the heart of matters is just an assumption. After 35 years, I am still a beginner. T’ai Chi Chih, as it is, gets wonderful results – it delivers. Sink yourself deeply into its practice and taste the full benefits; do not be satisfied with quick, surface results. – Summer 1988
That is Love
Your task is not to find someone to believe in or some doctrine in which to take refuge (though this is very comfortable). It is to realize Who and What You are (and I don’t mean a name). Then you manifest Who and What you really are; that is Love. – Summer 1988
Energy and Wisdom
Empty space seems to be a vast continuum of Energy, and that energy is Wisdom. Energy appears in many forms, including “matter,” and it’s always there for us to use in re-charging ourselves – hence, T’ai Chi Chih. When we do, our intuition seems to be greatly sharpened, and this is understandable as Energy and Wisdom are just different words for the same thing.
Tantra promises that every cell in the body can be brought to a point singing with Joy. Those of us who practice TCC are doing just that. To become jaded and just think of it as another discipline is to miss the point. Here are the means; it is up to you to use them. – Winter 1986
Why? Why Not?
One time some students from out-of-town came to visit me. After doing some T’ai Chi Chih together, the conversation became more general. As is usual, someone asked about reincarnation (a bad term).
I pointed at the trees in the courtyard. “It is autumn now, so the leaves are falling from the trees,” I explained, “but they will be back in the Spring. Is that what you mean by reincarnation?”
“Oh, those will be different leaves!” they rushed to point out.
“Why identify with the leaves?” I asked. “Why not identify with the tree?” – Spring 1986
Most suffering comes from failure to accept impermanence. Relationships change, health changes and we grow older. Yet we tend to cling, as though pleasant circumstances can extend indefinitely. When things are too yin, we are happy to see them change to yang, but we never anticipate the positive becoming the negative. So we live our lives in a pleasure-pain continuum, trying to preserve and resurrect what is pleasant and seeking to avoid its inevitable opposite, the painful.
“The only thing permanent is change,” says the I Ching. The leaves will fall in autumn; there will be new leaves on the tree in springtime. But, is the tree itself permanent? Enduring, yes, but infinite, no. What we do and think will influence the future; flowing with the Tao in its ceaseless progression is wise. In the words of Professor Huang, “The Sage wants spring to follow winter.” – Summer 1986
Three Steps on the Way
In my view, there are three things to be done (or realized): To recognize, deeply feel and accord with Impermanence. Then, and only then, is it possible to find out Who and What we are (transcending Impermanence). Finally, after realizing the above two, to go into the marketplace and work with people. This is “merging Sense with Essence.” From my standpoint, these are the three steps on the Way. Techniques will vary, but the objectives are the same. And, in these ways, we transcend greed, anger and delusion. Eternity is in this moment. – March, 1992
The truth is, people don’t want to give up their habitual way of thinking and responses, even when they know it makes them unhappy. For this reason reformers and missionaries are wasting their time. Though to give people means for evolving, such as T’ai Chi Chih and meditation, when they ask for it, is certainly not a waste. Nothing helps individuals evolve more than these two activities, and as they evolve, their thinking and habit patterns will change. – September 1991
Rewards of T’ai Chi Chih Practice
When the Chi circulates and is in balance, we can approach Oneness (Unity). Is it possible to attain Oneness? Yes! The very nature of Reality is Joy! Hakuin, the great Zen Master said, “After this Enlightenment, observing the things of the world was like seeing the back of my own hand!”
The rewards of T’ai Chi Chih practice can be great. A TCC teacher who does not practice regularly however, is a fraud – one who can make the outside appearance but manifests none of the inside. Each teacher who radiates, inspires his or her pupils. One with all Life, healing through Joy! – Spring 1985
As T’ai Chi Chih teachers, we watch the wrists and the waist to see if there is tension (and the Chi can’t flow) or softness and relaxation. – Spring 1989
I like Paul Reps’ idea of sitting quietly for five minutes (better make it ten) each day and just allowing yourself to receive. No thinking, no technique, no mantra repetition, no watching the breath, but just sitting quietly in a chair. In Japan this would be known as Shikan Taza, or just sitting. The great artisans of the past often did this before starting on some work, such as making a tea bowl or a samurai sword. In fact, today, many dress in formal style, hat on head, while doing creative work – I have seen them. It is my feeling that ten minutes of quiet and receiving, plus T’ai Chi Chih practice, may be enough. It is so easy to relax and do nothing, though sitting with the back straight, it may become difficult. We have our worries to agonize over, and besides, we get fidgety. Therefore it might be good to do it after a little TCC movement. You may receive more than you bargained for. – March 1992
Nothing is in a state of Being; everything is in a state of Becoming (from one point of view). T’ai Chi Chih can greatly influence that path of Becoming. – Winter 1988