Marc put forth a request on the last post asking for comments on the phrase,  “look for stillness in movement and movement in stillness”.  Part of the reason I’ve been a bit tardy in responding was aptly described by Louise in her response to Marc’s comments when referring to paradox…….”Such a great challenge to my perception because it really makes me look at what I think I know and wonder about what it is I’m missing.  Which is usually a lot (for both).”  I should walk a bit more humbly and be much more accepting  if that thought would be ever present in my mind,  most especially so while attempting to answer questions about Tai Chi in the public domain.

One of the difficulties of responding to questions like this is that there are many ways to approach the subject.  Not to mention that volumes already have been written about it by people with more insight and wisdom than I possess.  So, what follows is simply how I’d like to play the game today. If you ask me this in a couple of months, you might get a very different response.  Keeping in mind that what I say could be nothing more than my own “reality illusion”, here goes…….

Paradox is inherent and at the crux of much of Tai Chi theory and practice. We have two opposite forces, Yin and Yang, which, though antagonistic, are always in perfect balance and harmony with each other. The state of Tai chi can be thought of as that which exists between Yin and Yang.  The problem for most of us is that we tend to get attached to one side or another of the equation, we develop a bias, and not only do we tend to diminish or deny the existence of another side, but we forget about the totality in which both exist.

A great way to explore this concept is with optical illusions.  Perhaps a few of you have seen the following picture.

vaseprofilesWhat’s nice about this image is that it’s a very ‘Yin-Yang’ kind of thing.  Just black and white. Nothing real fancy.  When you first look at it, what do you see?  Some might immediately see a vase, others will pick up on two faces looking at each other.  Can you see both?  Can you allow your perception to adjust and go back and forth between the two?  And, perhaps even more challenging, can you allow yourself to hold both images in mind simultaneously.  One thing we can learn from this picture is that that we absolutely need the white, the vase, the Yang in order to view the faces.  Converely, we absolutely have to have the black, the faces, the Yin in order to see the vase.

Now what is the “right” way to look at the picture?  Obviously, there isn’t one.  We give ourselves greater flexibility and options, though, when we are able to perceive that there are, in fact, two ways to see it.  If you interact with someone who swears that the only thing in the picture is either only a vase or only the two faces looking at each other, and they are not able to see it the other way, you don’t have to argue with them.  You can allow them to see what they see knowing that there is a little more than meets their eye at the moment.

Such it is with the ‘stillness in movement and movement in stillness’ idea.  Most of us get so focused in activity, in movement, that we completely lose sight of the fact that there is an infinite place of stillness, call it a void if you will, that is very real and not only allows but, indeed, is the seed from which all movement happens.  Conversely, if we are in a deeply meditative state of stillness,   it would be very easy to become oblivious to the movement which is always present in and around us.

The phrase, “look for the stillness in movement and the movement in stillness” can also be viewed as a way to put into words part of what the Tai Chi symbol itself conveys.  Let’s take a look…..









The white of the Tai Chi symbol is considered Yang and equates with movement.  The black of the Tai chi symbol is considered Yin and can represent stillness.  What many people miss in the Tai Chi symbol is the little black dot in the midst of white and the little white dot in the midst of black.  This gives a pictoral reprentation of the phrase,  “look for the stillness in movement and the movement in stillness.”  It really is always there, we just need to adjust our focus or change our perception to become aware.

In case the above optical illusion was too basic, perhaps we can try another one that might be a bit more challenging.   Lets’ take a look, a real good look,  at the following picture that happens to be one of my favorites.look-thrice1









  Gosh, at first it seems like just an ordinary picture of flowers.  Something like a piece of art we might see hanging in someone’s house.  But if you can allow your eyes to defocus in a certain manner, if you can put the focal point of your eyes past, or perhaps into your computer screen, you might find that something really, really cool happens.  I won’t give away the secret just yet.  But the hint is that there is a 3 dimensional image ‘burned’ into the flowers that can only come out when you change how you look at the picture.  To offer a little incentive to those viewing it, I’ll give a free half hour Tai Chi lesson to anyone who posts the correct answer.  Hint, the free lesson goes to the first person who gets the complete answer, not just half the answer.  Also, all comments are most welcome even if you hate these things……

Tai Chi is about opening and expanding, becoming more aware and more sensitive and (paradoxically) becoming more powerful in that process.  For that to occur we always want to be open to what might be present in reality that we are not noticing.  We would serve ourselves well to begin to see the opposite inherent in what is presented to us.  We benefit from becoming more open and  allowing ourselves to see a bigger and bigger and consequently an ever expanding and constantly changing picture of what it is we call “real”.

Hope you’ve enjoyed playing with the optical illusions in this post.  Continue to ask yourself,  “What is my “reality illusion” and “What is it I’m not seeing?” and who knows where that might lead?  Remember, Tai Chi is unlimited.

Think right and happy practice!