Have you ever seen a murmuration of starlings – those little black birds that gather by the hundreds in flocks that swirl, expand, contract, and flow like a living cloud? Scientists who have studied this beautiful and strange dance have come up with various theories to explain it.
In his writings compiled under the title “The Unfettered Mind,” Takuan Soho talks about the mind that does not fixate on anything—not it’s own thoughts or intentions, not on any action of the body, nor on anything happening in one’s external environment. He says about this state “When this No-Mind has been well developed, the mind does not stop with one thing nor does it lack any one thing. It is like water overflowing and exists within itself. It appears appropriately when facing a time of need. The mind that becomes fixed and stops in one place does not function freely.”
In taiji, we practice standing post in the wuji posture. The goal of this exercise is just like that of Takuan’s “No-Mind,” but applied to the body as well.
There are ultimately just two styles of martial arts (and perhaps just two approaches to living): those that flow with the force, and those that try to force their will.
Most martial arts methods focus on overpowering or outmaneuvering their opponent. They consider what the opponent may do and what they must do to counter it. They consider what they want to do to their opponent and how to achieve that goal. They unknowingly impose their fears and desires on reality. They seek to control events, and try to devise better strategies to ensure victory. In short, they fall prey to the “Dark Side of the Force.”
While this way is quicker and easier, it is also deceptive.