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The Non-Sticky Mind
by Perry Gil S. Mallari

The diagram of Yin-Yang (also known as Tai Chi) was first illustrated three thousand years ago by a man named Chou Chun-I. He expounded on its workings in a treatise entitled Tung Thu. The Yang (whiteness) embodied masculinity, hardness, day, heat, etc. The Yin (blackness) represents the opposite: femininity, softness, night, coldness and so fourth. The basic theory of Tai Chi or Grand Terminus is that of permanent change. Though it appears that the two forces are in constant conflict they are in reality complementary and inseparable. Yang, which exemplifies action, becomes Yin or inaction when it reached its extreme and vice versa. It can be clearly seen in natural phenomenon; night becomes day, heat becomes coldness, the cycle of birth and death. Stripped of its religious and mystical trappings, Yin-Yang is but a virtual representation of the order of the physical world. One of the most dynamic representations of the above concept can be found in the practice of oriental martial arts. To the eye of a neophyte, a sparring match is nothing but an exciting display of punches and kicks, but a master sees more. The movements of a highly skilled practitioner emulate the principle of Yin-Yang to the highest degree. His techniques are all natural and instinctive, when his opponent push, he yields; when the enemy retreats he advances. He uses Yin to counter Yang or it could be the other way around. In the state of supreme mastery, all these were done spontaneously without conscious thought the fighter forgetting about himself and simply following the force of his adversary. This enigmatic mental state is called Wu-hsin or no-mindedness. The analogy of a mirror most closely described this concept of non-sticky mind: the mirror reflects everything and yet it keeps nothing. The legendary Bruce Lee (Lee Jun Fan) emphasized that no-mindedness is not a blank mind devoid of all emotion nor is it mere mental calmness and quietude. Alan Watts tried to capture the essence of wu-hsin with the following words: A state of wholeness in which the mind functions freely and easily, without the sensation of a second mind or ego standing over it with a club. Scientifically speaking, this could have something to do with what psychologists called accessing the reptilian brain. Wu-hsin cannot be understood by sheer intellectual dissection but by simply being it. It is an elusive attribute and only through the rigor of discipline can an individual confront it and perhaps grasp its meaning. Wu-hsins usage goes beyond the mat of the dojo or kwoon. Individuals in other creative endeavors such as music and art, have in one way or the other accessed this psychological upland to produce monumental works. Two common threads are present in the practice of any aesthetic discipline: repetition and intensity. Countless repetitions of skills were required for the mastery of any craft. Couple that with explosive intensity and it will be inevitable that the artist will break certain barriers. With the conquest of this plateau comes enlightenment or whatever term you want to call this experience. Here, borders were blurred and totality becomes the norm. Knowing that desperately clinging to one extreme is futile, since ultimately it will shift to the opposite, one will finally reckon with the grand reality of Yin-Yang. The boundary between hard and soft that enslaved us for too long is but an illusion after all.

 

"Archery, fencing, spear fighting, all the martial arts, tea ceremony, flower arranging in all these, correct breathing, correct balance, and correct stillness help to remake the individual. The basic aim is always the same: by tirelessly practicing a given skill, the student finally sheds the ego with its fears, worldly ambitions, and reliance on objective scrutiny- sheds it so completely that he becomes the instrument of a greater power, from which mastery falls instinctively, without further effort on his part, like a ripe fruit."

Karlfried Graf Durckheim .

 

*This article was originally published in FLY Magazine, Manila Edition issue no. 14, June 2000