On Being Natural
That which is natural is Tao, or the Natural Law. All our studying is ultimately for the purpose of understanding the Natural Law. We must first understand the Tao, then we can coordinate ourselves with it, we can follow the Tao and Harmonize our lives with it.
the very beginning
People think it is easy to let things be natural. What they mean is just to let everything run its natural course without artificial control. This implies that what is natural is a force (or forces) which moves and causes the actions and reactions of the world. So it is this blind force which dominates the world to understand it. So it is this blind force which dominates the world and our lives. We live just like other animals under the mercy of nature. Then there is no purpose in saying, "let's be natural." Only when we understand nature instead of going against nature will we become the masters of nature; to be natural is to be free from the domination of the blind force, physically as well as mentally.
In order to understand nature, we have to learn about nature. In the practice of Tai Chi Chuan, we learn to understand nature through inner seeing, inner hearing and inner feeling; not through objective analysis to gain knowledge, but through practice to acquire skills and to enjoy the movements as an art.
It is a common experience for people who are first beginning to practice Tai Chi Chuan to feel that the movements they are trying to make are unnatural. As a matter of fact, what they mean by unnatural is actually unhabitual. In daily activities, people move with a purpose--they do not care how they move if their movements serve their purposes. In other words, people usually move habitually; these habitual movements are usually not natural, or are not the best movements in tune with nature.
The movements of Tai Chi Chuan have been developed as a result of the many years of experiences of many people. Through those accumulated experiences, the natural (the biological and mechanical) laws of human movements were slowly felt and improved. According to this, a series of movements, Tai Chi Chuan, was gradually developed.
Although today we can explain these movements in terms of scientific knowledge, it is through practice that we can improve our condition and transform the pure intellectual knowledge into natural movements. Since we are able to improve the conditions of our physical bodies, the practice of Tai Chi Chuan is not only a means of achieving motor skills, it is also a form of art.
We have been programmed since the beginning of life. Physically, we are limited by biological and mechanical laws; mentally, we are conditioned by our traditions, authorities, customs and public opinions.
Physically, we cannot go against the natural laws. Hence we must try to be in tune with them.
Mentally, to be free from the conditions of the society does not mean we must go against the historical current, and even when we go against it, we are not free. We cannot get freedom through fighting. However, we can be free as soon as we let our thoughts go; in other words, when we have no language in our minds, the mind is quiet, then there is peace and freedom. But the fact is that we do not really like peace and freedom. We have been used to clinging to something all the time, or to engaging ourselves with some kind of activities. When there is nothing to cling to, there is nothing going on, then we cannot stand the quietness and peace. So this is why people talk about peace and freedom though actually they do not want peace and freedom. This is a big contradiction of the human mind.
We believe that the practice of Tai Chi Chuan can improve our physical as well as mental conditions; so we want to improve ourselves because we are not happy with what we are, as we are. We want to be some ideal person, or a better person. If this is the case, we must let our idea or image go; because the reason the practice can help is that in practicing Tai Chi Chuan our minds are free from the known (no thought, no language) it is quiet yet its complete attention is with all the movements. Since our physical conditions are limited by our past, our movements are not in tune with nature yet, now and then our minds may slip back to the known; or the unnatural movements may stir up the so-called subconscious mind, and thoughts will come in to break the quietness of the mind. All these things may appear in our practice. What we must do is let the thoughts (the known) come and go naturally, then the mind is quiet and the practice continues.
Through practice, our physical conditions will gradually improve (so the chances of the lapses of the mind will be less and less), the functions of the body will be in harmony, the movements will be in tune with natural laws, and understanding will emerge.
Hence, we must not practice Tai Chi Chuan habitually but naturally. This is why we say simply, "Be Natural".
A chapter from the book, "On Tai Chi Chuan" by T.Y. Pang