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One of the most important T’ai Chi principles we have to work with is the idea of natural and effortless.  Being so simple it is also very easy to forget. 

Most of us come to the practice of T’ai Chi with the idea of wanting to attain something.  We want to reduce stress in our lives, want to learn martial arts or self defense, want to pursue spiritual growth, want to feel better about ourselves, etc., etc. Being conscientious people and thoroughly indoctrinated in the Western idea of achievement we bring a lot of effort into our practice so we can get what we want.  In the beginning, certainly, a certain amount of effort is required to learn the basic forms, condition the body and train the mind.  After a while, though, this effort can be counter productive and get in our way.  I sometimes get reminded of this in unexpected ways.

I had the good fortune to happen to meet Master Liao down at his center in Oak Park last Thursday evening.  It was not a planned event; we just happened to be there at the same time.  We sat across from each other at his desk and he graced me with a delightful discussion (read, lecture learning session) that lasted about an hour.  And although what he spoke was very deep, meaningful and important for me to hear, perhaps the most profound part of the evening for me came when we got up to leave.

As we faced each other across from either side of  his desk, preparing to part company, I found myself being almost in awe of what I was perceiving.  Seeing him stand in front of me, I realized I was looking at a totally relaxed human being, someone who was being totally natural and effortless in the moment.  It was the totality of his relaxation that was striking.  It was certainly more than just physical; it extended into the mental and spiritual realms as well.  And as I stood there taking this in I very cleary became aware of what tension was present in my system and began to let go as I could.

The Chinese have a word for this state, it is called shoong (in pinyin, song1) and is usually translated as relax, although it means much more.  It means having no mental agenda, being totally wecoming of whatever may occur, being loose and open, light and limber.  It is natural and effortless.  It is the state we were in as a very young child.

Now as Master Liao taught me by his actions, it is not a state that is to be sought after only in T’ai Chi practice but one that we should endeavor to realize in all our daily activities and anything we do.  Natural and effortless is one idea to help us get there.

Think right and happy practice!

Paul