Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | October 19, 2010

Letting Go in the Tai Chi Life

Learning to let go is the hardest thing in the spiritual path as well as the tai chi martial path. We learned a sort of Catholic mantra back in the day, sort of a bumper sticker saying, to “Let Go, Let God.” Taoist philosophy is all about letting go of the ego, trying to control people and circumstances with wrong action, agressive action. In tai chi fighting, we are encouraged to be “song,” usually conveniently translated as “relaxed.” It is a bit more complicated than that, but not much. The tai chi way, similar to the judo way or the aikido way, is the way of relaxing and not going against the flow but with it; drawing your opponent into the circle and then wreaking havoc on them. This is the most difficult thing to do because we have natural reflexes that encourage us to automatically tense up and meet force with force. It is interesting that tai chi people are encouraged to practice with a slight smile, and this slight smile should be translated to real events when they are happening to us beause we are then telling the mind to relax, be calm, and meet the incoming forces the tai chi way.

Bringing these concepts into our everyday life is even harder. When we are bombarded by selfishness, rudeness, agressive behavior, we automatically want to respond in kind. When difficulties and obstacles or problems arise, we want to bang our heads against the wall and figure out the solution. Society and bosses find it hard to accept or understand that it is possible to deal with these things intuitively, and softly, being very aware and mind conscious, but allowing the flow of things to work themselves out.

A new mantra for me has come from Mike Murdock, “when I let go of what is in my hand, God lets go of what is in his.” When I let go of what is in my hand, God lets go of what is in his. When I let go of what is in my hand, God lets go of what is in his.(My view on financial giving is that people should support the thing they are involved in, not just send money to a preacher, unless you support his work).

The truth is that if we are holding tight to something, we are not free to accept the other gifts that come our way. If the cup is full, there’s no room for new learning, for the Holy Spirit to enter. These are all truisms that are true.

The classics are full of stories of saints who fully let go and were then able to receive the full blessings of spiritual enlightenment–Siddhartha, St Francis, Christ, and on and on. It’s like a scientific law. We believe it works, but the majority of us are unwilling to let go completely. I am a perfect example. Called to a spiritual life for years, perhaps as far back as childhood, I have continued to live my life with one foot in and one foot out. And it just perpetuates the yearning, but I haven’t been able to loose my kung fu death grip on elements of the secular life, the illusory safety and security of a job which brings a home, a car, food, coffee and cigarettes.

The other conumndrum to this is that while these principles and concepts can be applied to everyday living and circumstances(I saw it in action this past week and was very pleased), it can sometimes be like trying to put a square peg in a round hole in that we may still have allegiences and supposed responsibilities to get things done the secular way. At some point in time, a person may be forced to choose one or the other, and not enjoy playing both sides.

It should also be noted that approaching life by letting go does not really change the reality of circumstances, obstacles, problems that need solving, that are coming at us. It just helps us to be more aware of what’s going on and the advantage of letting go and not letting the ego screw things up and letting the natural course of events fulfill themselves. There is a great faith involved in allowing the universe, allowing God to take care of things. Yes we have our duties and responsibilities. Slacking off or not doing anything is not the tai chi way. Doing the right thing and having the wisdom to know what that is, is.

So how do we do it? How do we develop “song” and how to we learn to let go? One of the easiest ways(really not so easy; it takes dedication and discipline), is to practice–centering prayer and seated meditation, qi gong, and the tai chi forms. I say these things are easy because they are physical, and the physical will automatically translate to the mind and to the heart. If our body is relaxed and aware, the mind will be relaxed and aware. And learn to smile.

Let go.

(P.S. If you have fallen over a cliff and are holding on by a branch, the only thing keeping you from falling to your death, don’t let go…until the rescuers arrive. The you’ll have to let go in order to save yourself. Holding onto, or trying to hold on to the branch forever is futile. Thank God for cartoons which teach us so much!)


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