The Strategy: Open the door to possibility by yielding and being flexible. Realize that with possibility comes opportunity. Accept that resistance to life is futile.
The Application: When we are too rigid in our thoughts, opinions and beliefs we box ourselves in. and block possibility. Free your self from ego, be self-aware and see opportunity that is not available for those who are stuck in stubbornness, anger, vanity, greed, fear, pride and ignorance.
When alive the body is soft and pliant
When dead it is hard and rigid
All living things, grass and trees,
while alive are soft and supple
When dead become dry and brittle
Thus that which is hard and stiff
is the follower of death
That which is soft and yielding
is the follower of life
Therefore an inflexible army will not win
A strong tree will be cut down
The big and forceful occupy a lower position
While the soft and pliant occupy a higher place
In Taiji Qigong, being tense, rigid, and inflexible is the biggest obstacle to raising and increasing the flow of Qi. For most people the origin is in the mind. In a type of Taiji practice called pushing hands, we cultivate sensitivity development.
There is a story about a Taiji Master by the name of Yang Lu Chan (1799-1873). It is said that his skills were so acute that he was able to catch a bird and play with it. Yet the most extraordinary part of this story is that when the bird tried to take off, Master Yang prevented it by not giving the bird a perch from which to push. The Master was so sensitive to the energy in the push of the bird’s legs, that as the bird pushed to launch, the Master would become soft and flexible so the bird’s feet pushed into emptiness.
Pushing Hands is a Taiji exercise where each Taiji player cultivate sensitivity, flexibility and softness so that the opponent has to perch to push or grab. Being rigid and inflexible will cause the player to become easy to manipulate and lose coordination. Stiffness and hardness is not a good attribute in Taiji, and so it is the same in life. This insight is applicable to both the tangible and intangible. It is a training that begins with the internal and is manifest in the external.
Yielding and being flexible allows acceptance. Acceptance frees one from the immobility of ego and allows negotiation. Negotiation is a process of problem solving and reaching a goal. The target might be tangible or intangible. The rigidity, hardness, stiffness, stubbornness may be internal conflict with the self or it may be external and with another person, object or situation.
Consider how flexible an octopus is. Because it is able to be soft and pliable it can escape into a very small place to live, hide and ambush prey.
When one is too rigid in a set belief, the inflexibility prevents the ability to see truth. In problem solving, we must be open to possibility. By yielding to possibility we can see other perspectives and viewpoints. Pride, stubbornness, vanity, greed, revenge, attachment, unrealistic goals and religious intolerance lead to failure.
Collective ego can divide itself and assume opposing intractable positions and then gridlock ensues. We can look at the tension in the Middle East; we can see our own congress here in the United States as examples of rigidity and inflexibility. Without yielding, flexibility, and negotiation, these situations end up in stagnation and a loss for all parties.
Flexibility in understanding and foresight allows teachers and leaders to bring students and trainees forward. Because the wise leader or teacher is not too rigidly focused on immediate gratification, they can allow students to try and fail. New employees must be allowed to make a few mistakes as they become acclimated to a new task. Any student must learn through practice and be allowed to make mistakes so that they know what they are doing wrong. Rigidity and inflexibility of attitude will hinder growth, inspiration and opportunity.
Everyone of us will encounter problems or obstacles in life. It is part of the living and learning experience. We only become stuck when we are not able to flow around those obstacles. Like water, we can just move around the object, the problem, and continue onward without becoming stuck or trapped. Like water, life is a flow of moments; each moment a snapshot of experience. In each moment we have choice. We can choose yielding and flexibility and continue forward or we can be too solid and rigid and become stuck.
The strategy is to pay attention (mindful) of our reactions as they happen so that we can be soft, flexible, yielding, open-minded, inspired. When we face a problem, we can seek wisdom because we are not stuck in ignorance (ego). Free of ego, we do not become hardened and entrenched. As the true self we are able to realize all sorts of possibilities, ideas and solutions.
This is the true path. This is the Tao.