Since this issue is near the holidays when people tend to reflect on the past and make adjustments for the future, I would like to share a famous saying by Kongzi (Confucius, 551-479 B.C) regarding a way to improve one’s self. This saying can be applied to our taiji studies as well as to daily life. A translation is as follows:
Three people travel together; at least one of them can be my teacher. If this person demonstrates merits, I shall learn from him. If bad behaviors, I can use them as a mirror to check myself. If I have a similar undesirable quality, I change it; if not, I can use it as a reminder to avoid this behavior in the future.It is such a good attitude: that of going beyond criticizing others, a common habit when we run into poor traits. Instead we can improve ourselves and stay positive toward every interaction we have with the world.
When it comes to taiji/qigong practice, we can look to the master practitioners and ask a simple question: how did they achieve such a high level? Their accomplishment can be attributed to the following factors: 1) they had knowledgeable and generous teachers, 2) they practiced all components of the traditional curriculum (mind, body, and spirit), and 3) they studied and practiced seriously, and wisely (and therefore efficiently and effectively).
On the other hand, we can also look at practitioners who have practiced for years but remain empty, or have even hurt themselves. Why did it happen? Why are the deeper meaning and benefits of the art still hidden from them; why did they injure themselves; why did they gain so much weight; why are they unhappy, or arrogant, or critical of others? The answer can often be attributed to at least one of the following factors: 1) lack of knowledge or withholding of key information from a teacher, 2) failure to pay sufficient attention to sincere advice from a knowledgeable teacher, 3) failure to practice the mental/spiritual components of the art, especially wuji/static qigong, 4) failure to follow the foundational principles of nurturing and moderation, and/or 5) they have been close-minded and not open to learning new things. Kongzi’s advice above directs us to a higher level: am I making similar mistakes? How can I correct or avoid similar mistakes in the future?