At the beginning and end of our Shibashi we stand in Wuji. But what does this really mean? Wuji can be translated as “utter formlessness” and is likened to the moment before the Big Bang. In that moment nothing existed, there was just emptiness, but that emptiness was filled to the brim with potentiality. It held the potential for the creation of everything in the universe, including you and me!
When we stand in Wuji, we are seeking to mimic that “emptiness filled with potentiality.” My Tai Chi teacher told us that we should stand completely still and let that stillness pervade all of our beings, including our minds. Then, when one of us was still enough to perceive the flow of the Tao, they would follow that flow and begin their Tai Chi form. The rest of the class would then follow that student and also begin their form. No-one said, “Begin,” or“ Commencing the Form.” There was just silence and stillness until one of us moved. As a class we became so tuned into this sense, that on occasions we would actually begin our form in total darkness and only after a minute would the teacher turn on the lights. Invariably we would all be at the same point in the form, having all started together despite having no visual or auditory clues as to when to start.
In Wuji, we stand in an emptiness filled with potential. Each time we stand in Wuji, we stand with the potential to expand who we are; to find deeper levels of balance, harmony and acceptance. The form (which begins immediately after we have been standing in formlessness) is an opportunity for us to reinvent who we are; to flow more freely and easily.
Wuji presents us with the opportunity to let go of anything and everything that either doesn’t feel good or no longer serves a purpose in our lives. As we let go, we naturally feel lighter and this makes it all the easier for us to find and follow that natural flow of the Tao.
Wuji presents us with a moment where we can become empty in order to be refilled. It’s a bit like a glass becoming empty so that it can be refilled with fresh water. A glass that is not regularly emptied and refilled will only contain water that is becoming ever more stagnant.
It is the same with us. Unless we regularly empty our minds, our thoughts and ideas become stale and stagnant. When we empty ourselves in this way, we give ourselves the opportunity to let go of what has been and to be refilled with a fresh perspective, with new thoughts, a fresh intent. It is actually always good to take a moment like this. Perhaps you might like to consider sitting in Wuji before you start your car, or before you begin work. Taking a moment like this facilitates smoother transitions. It allows us to be responsive to what life presents us in that moment rather than simply being reactive.
Personally I have found great power in standing or sitting in Wuji outside of my Tai Chi practice. When I rise in the morning, I always go outside into the fresh air and stand in Wuji for a few moments. I empty my mind, body and lungs. Then I take in a good, deep breath of fresh morning air. I find this practice very valuable in making sure I don’t rush forward into my day mindlessly and with haste. I often sit in Wuji before and after a car journey. In fact Wuji is a part of how I make many transitions throughout my day. This regular practice of emptying ensures I am always being renewed with fresh Qi and fresh thoughts.
Try practicing standing or sitting in Wuji for a few moments throughout your day. I am sure you will find your day unfolds with a little more ease and smoothness and this will in turn bring more ease and smoothness to your Shibashi.