Through a Jungian Lens

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Being Present With Self

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This man decided it was time for a bit of exercise for one.  Usually we see people in groups doing t’ai chi ch’uan (tài jí quán 太极拳).  I took this photo while on break from presenting at an elementary school in the afternoon.  There is no question that this is about only him, for him and not for the world around him.  He definitely found his inner space and was at one with it.  I particularly like this photo of tai chi in comparison with others I have taken because it is so plain.  It seems more honest because of the drabness.

I have often thought that I would like learning this exercise form, not because I could use the exercise (which I could) but because of the active approach to meditation.  The slow graceful moments have the appearance of an elegant peacefulness.  But, I sense that underneath the graceful moves lies a tension, a readiness for aggression.  Tai chi chuan is a martial art that is about discipline and preparing the body to be a fist.

Somehow, this seems a contradiction.  Seeking inner peace through silent and slow aggressive movements.  Yet, isn’t this exactly what I need?  In doing inner work, one is a hero out to slay the demons that would destroy the self.  And in battling the demons, one comes to know that each of these demons is the self as well.

Last night as I went walking with my camera on the lookout for a few night photos, I came across a crowd of onlookers.  Just as in North America, I correctly assumed that there must be a fight in progress.  The fight was apparently done with one young man lurching and falling on the asphalt.  As I came nearer four young men returned to lay the boots again to this man and then they quickly took off running.  I was angry with myself for being so passive while the boots flew at the head of the fallen man.  I was angry with the many bystanders for being like me, watching and not doing something about it.



7 Responses

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  1. The photo indicates a calmness but your writing stemming from it leads to a state of brutality and passiveness towards it. A strange setting then.How does one explain this?

    abha iyengar

    October 14, 2010 at 11:38 am

  2. tai chi, at least as i have been taught it (and granted i do study a “yin” form as opposed to the more popular “yang form” which seems to be what the gentleman in the photo is practicing) is LESS about “preparing the body to be a fist” than preparing the mind. the mind is the first obstacle, the body will naturally follow where the mind leads.
    and i hesitate to agree with your description, though there are surely many teachers who would offer such training. my understanding is that tai chi and chi gong practices – all forms of it, are about economy of movement for the goal of maximizing energy or chi for the intension. a teacher once told me ‘no tension is too small to ignore’…releasing ALL unnecessary tension from the body. it is about being soft. and most importantly about LISTENING. hearing when your opponent, be that yourself or another has – in their minds – decided to move and then you are able quietly step out of the way.
    it is a humbling and amazing practice, i recommend it to anyone and yes, i have found it far more helpful in discovering and learning about my inner demons than seated meditation.
    as for your emotions with the scene of the fighting, i have found myself in similar quandries. we react how we react and then we beat ourselves up for reacting how we react. have you not simply turned the fists/boots upon yourself? who is the you laying on the pavement and who is the bully running away? what can be learned from the reality of both elements… and more importantly how can we listen more carefully so that when the bully next approaches, we can calmly step out the way?
    be Gentle with yourselves robert.
    last night i read the poem by William Stafford, called A Ritual to Read to Each Other – do you know it? i found it rather encouraging in this stroll we are taking through the dark, though i think his poem The Way It Is, seems more fitting to this particular post.


    October 14, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    • Of course you are correct in your understanding of tai chi. That said, tai chi has a definite yang side as well.

      Robert G. Longpré

      October 17, 2010 at 9:46 am

  3. i read your last post after commenting on this one… as in nature the plant that hurts grows right next to its remedy… how does that african proverb go? ‘the medicine for the wound is right next to the wound’…
    are we not the moth, the butterfly, the bully, the victim, the bystander, the boots, the air and the curious thread that connects it all?
    call me by my true names


    October 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    • Agreed . . . the darkness is beside the light …

      Robert G. Longpré

      October 17, 2010 at 9:48 am

  4. Thank you Robert for your Post, so taking your Post as leading, different people can express what is living in them and can compare and share their experiences – in order to enlarge our consciousness – I consider your Post and each comment as a hand that reaches forth out from the darkness.
    I have practiced the Defense art of Aikido for many years, so I understand and agree with Sprouting Crow.
    Whether it is Tai Chi or Aikido, the part to start with is learning how to get physical “balanced”, just try, and experience that in the beginning one is on his face every time, smile – and so I think this effort in learning to balance, is one of the many symbols that enables us to communicate in a sort of way with ourselves.
    It is also very interesting to read about the Yin and Yang elements of Tai Chi, because that can bring us to the Anima and Animus part.

    Opa Bear

    October 15, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    • Exactly, the two aspects of everything are to be found, the yin and the yang, darkness and light, anima and animus . . . together the two make a whole.

      Robert G. Longpré

      October 17, 2010 at 9:51 am

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