Tao Te Ching —
The Classic about Ways And Instances
(Translated, with comments, by William P. Coleman)
The spirit found in emptiness does not give out.
It is called the mother of the darkness.
It is the gate of the mother of the darkness.
It is the root of heaven and earth.
Endlessly drawn forth like a thread of silk, it seems to continue on.
In use it needs no effort.
|<– Chapter 5
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In Tai Chi, we learn not to use muscular force: it’s counterproductive. At first then, we tend in reaction to be limp, which doesn’t work either. It takes a while to learn to be alive but without pushing.
We do exercises of a type called “silk reeling.” Metaphorically, a worker would make a silk thread by pinching the cocoon and pulling the thread out in a twisting motion. Pull too fast, and the thread breaks. Pull too slowly, and it congeals, bunching into a gooey mess. This is how the Tai Chi student has to move. At first, it seems like the point is to learn the characteristic Chen-style twisting, but later you realize you’re trying to learn that sense of exact, reciprocal cooperation with the universe.
For comparison, I’m including the translation by Lin Yutang, which I always love and respect, even when I disagree:
6. The Spirit of the Valley
The Spirit of the Valley never dies.
It is called the Mystic Female.
The Door of the Mystic Female
Is the root of Heaven and Earth.
It seems to remain.
Draw upon it
And it serves you with ease.