Keeping the Water Clear
Listening = tīng 听 (traditional = 聽)
In Chinese, the character for “listening” includes the ear (ĕr耳)，the mouth (kŏu 口) and the heart (xīn 心) .
When someone opens their mouth to say something, you have to use your ear to hear what they are trying to communicate. But most important is to use the heart (xīn 心) to hear.
The word “listen” in Chinese has multiple meanings, first is the physical act of hearing. Second is to follow or obey a command. And third is to go deeper to analyze the information that is received. These are three different levels of listening.
When we practice Taiji, we listen inwardly. The question is how does one listen inwardly? It is only when we are physically quiet, when your heart, your xīn 心, is not disturbed then you can allow yourself to really listen.
For example, when you want to find something in a pond and you step in violently, the mud comes up. The water becomes cloudy, and you won’t be able to see clearly to find what you are looking for. The only way you are going to find what you wanted is to move quietly to let the water settle down so it becomes clear. Let it calm down, then gradually the water will become clear and you will find what you wanted.
This is the same as the emotions that go through our mind during our practice. When we practice Taiji, we need to calm our emotions, to loosen and let go of our tension, and then we can listen inwardly to our heart, listen inwardly to our body. In Taiji we say qing tīng 倾听. Which means you listen clearly to yourself. You don’t practice and then become calm, the practice is to achieve that calmness by loosening tension by sinking first and then beginning to move. At the end of every move you will let go of tension, you will readjust your calmness and therefore you can continue to the next frame. Remember, everything starts in the mind; when the mind thinks, the qi flows and then the body moves.