Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | May 17, 2009

Taoist Mojo

I’ve had the feeling lately that I’ve lost my taoist “mojo.”  For a very long time in my life, things fell into place. Not that there weren’t challenges, struggles, hard work, discipline, along the way, but things fell into place, and although a lot of times it didn’t happen the way I planned or envisioned it, it still worked out ok, and I’m thinking now it might be because I wasn’t wedded to an outcome, I wasn’t stuck on one result. A lot of this mojo is about attitude and how we choose to perceive events and interpret them.

One of the hardest “non-mojo” things for me was when I opened my tai chi studio. I approached it from a very taoist perspective; I wanted to let it happen on it’s own–oh, I advertised, planned, gave free lectures and demos, spent money, planned some more, but I gotta tell you, it really was like trying to make the grass grow faster by pulling on it. It lasted for two years, but that was it. I had to accept that the time wasn’t right. And I wouldn’t trade those two years for anything; so much positive stuff happened, including the students who became a part of my life, and being responsible for authentically handing down the teachings of tai chi chuan.

So, I’m in the midst of an incredible and awesome time in my life, with so many incredible opportunities at hand, all the result of being forced out of my stagnation by getting laid off. I would have been content to stagnate a few years more serving coffee and pulling mats…but I know I should view this as a gift from the universe on a silver platter.

Fear of losing what we have makes it hard to let go. I like having an apartment, eating food, treating myself to coffee and cigarettes(I know I know), having heat in the winter and a car. Here’s a new parable hot off the presses: you trip and stumble off the side of a cliff, hanging on by your fingernails, your body dangling in the air. You look down and the precipitous drop is like 40,000 feet. A renowned Taoist adept, maybe even Lao Tzu himself, peers over the edge and says, “let go.” What do you do?



  1. “Here’s another question, eye of the tiger or relaxed smile on the face?”

    Well, if you ask me, I would say this is up to the opponent. I can’t help but be reminded of the time I was faced with three hostile rotweilers. I growled and shouted at them and generally acted as fierce as I could. I still had to kick one dog one time, but if it had not been for that fierce display, I am sure even three or four kicks would not have been enough.

    On the other hand, when the dogs’ owner appeared and got things under controlled, I was as soft-spoken and smiling as could be. Had I been even a little fierce with her, I probably would have ended up arrested.

    To appear calm when the situation calls on us to appear fierce is just as bad as appearing fierce when we need to appear calm. Fortunately for guys like you and me, the fierceness is not needed very often.

    • This reminds me of a time working at the mall. I had mistaken a stranger for someone I knew, and would say hello to him all the time but he wouldn’t acknowledge me. He was an older guy, and one day, he stormed up to me outside the mall screaming he had had enough of me and was gonna kick my ass etc. I realized what had happened, he was a bit schizo and I guess thought I was making fun of him by saying hi, but as he approached, I turned into a 45 degree angle to protect myself and raised two fingers and pointed them at his chest, which stopped him dead in his tracks, and then I tried as nice possible to explain and dissolve the situation. He walked off.

      • That’s the way to do it!

        The military theorist Carl von Clausewitz talked about those rare military engagements in which one side, through overwhelming superiority of position and strength, defeated the other without a shot being fired. Theorists in his day talked about this being the supreme achievement in military arts. It is, I suppose, but as Clausewitz pointed out, there must be the real capacity to fight, or else position and strength hold no threat and those non-violent victories can’t happen. And that capacity, unfortunately, must be realized in physical action from time to time if it is to be real.

        Still, one kick at one dog is better than several kicks at several dogs, and two fingers to the chest is better than one kick. We see the same trend in the military with precision weapons. Not long ago, they used to carpet bomb entire cities. Now, they pinpoint their strikes and any collateral damage is a big deal. It really is true that the better we get at violence, the less of it we need to use.

  2. You do a chin-up, because perseverance furthers. This will raise you to the level of the master’s feet.

    A Tai Chi practitioner spends a lot of time being soft and yielding, but is the entire body soft? No, at least one of the legs is actually quite firm most of the time. There is a place, even in Tai Chi, for being unyielding. If your fingers are gripping the ground and your feet dangling in air, then what part of your body is playing the role of you legs? Your arms are acting as your legs. This is an inversion, which is why hanging from a cliff is so dangerous. But if hanging from a cliff is where you are, then respond appropriately: keep your arms strong and your legs soft. Do a chin-up and get yourself back on solid ground, where you naturally belong.

    • good answer/advice. Here’s another question, eye of the tiger or relaxed smile on the face? Shouting kiai’s are not for me. I prefer the quiet aspect of tai chi, even when fighting, but I like the eye of the tiger thing, that look, but a quiet smile is cool too, because you’re emphasizing the calm, relaxed, unphased look as you throw someone to the ground…

  3. […] is the original: Taoist Mojo « MyTaiChiLife Category: Object | Tags: along-the-way, auto, feeling, feeling-lately, hard-work, life, […]

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