The philosophy of Tai Chi, and by extension, Equestrian Tai Chi®, comes from Taoism.
Taoism is the ancient, mystical, spiritual philosophy of China. Its emphasis is on living in balance and harmony with the natural world.
The Tao means The Way, to follow The Tao, means to follow the natural course of life. (It is pronounced Dao, rhymes with now)
Taoism has three major classical literary works which form the foundation for it’s teachings:-
- The I Ching (Classic Book of Changes).
- The Taodeching (The Way and it’s Virtue) written by Lao Tzu.
- The Book of Chuang Tzu, written by Chuang Tzu.
The I Ching is called The Book of Changes because it offers the reader a way of understanding the nature of the flow of change in The Universe.
It guides the reader through ways to harmonize with the flow of change, rather than finding themselves resisting change. Part of the Taoist spiritual quest is to understand the underlying energy of a situation, so that we can flow with the energy of it and not against it. All of the movements in Equestrian Tai Chi have Yin qualities and Yang qualities, that merge and change, flowing easily from one to the other. When we learn Equestrian Tai Chi, we embody and realise the wisdom of the I Ching in ourselves, we learn to accept change in our lives, to adapt to it and to turn it to our advantage if possible.
The Taodeching is a collection of chapters, giving advise on how to live simply and harmoniously in the world, key principles are naturalness, relaxed effort and spontaneity.
This means that when you are doing the exercises, you should always do them in a relaxed, smooth and natural way. If you find yourself forcing your breath, or your strength, or find yourself in a strained position, these are all contrary to the principles of Taoism and Tai Chi.
The emphasis of Chuang Tzu is particularly on learning to be natural and to harmonize with Nature.
The relevance of Chuang Tzu to Tai Chi is that he reminds us to take the lessons of Tai Chi into our ordinary life so we can engage with the world in healthy, life giving and relaxed way.
Something else that has great importance in Taoist philosophy is the term ‘Wu Ji’.
In Chinese cosmology, Wu Ji is the state of undifferentiated nothingness from which everything comes.
In Equestrian Tai Chi, Wu Ji is the state of quietness we enter before beginning the movements.
Once the movements of Equestrian Tai Chi begin, they are either Yin or Yang or a combination of both. When we finish practicing Tai Chi, we return to Wu Ji, a state of stillness. Returning to Wu Ji is regarded as being just as important as doing the exercises.