Clarifying the Limits

The simplicity of our training in Da Xuan is a key principle to our evolution. When you look at the creation idea that the Daoists of the past wrote about, they talked about an unlimited potential (called the Dao) which separates itself into many things until it becomes manifested as the expression of this given moment (called De, the manifestation). The Dao is non-tangible, without form or structure, and unlimited, and it slowly divides until it becomes the structure and makeup of this moment – very tangible, with a precise form and structure, and quite limited to only the possibilities of this moment at this time. In the classic Daoist text, called the Dao De Jing, the sage Lao Zi talks about the path of Daoism being a return. If the world was made starting with the non-manifest unlimited (yang) and arriving at the manifested moment limited in time and space (yin), then our return path must go in the other direction, starting with the limited yin and returning to the unlimited yang. The order here is important, we cannot start with the unstructured or the unlimited.

Enter the concept of simplicity. To confront our limitations properly, we need to see them clearly and be able to refine them so we may transform ourselves. When things are too complex, it offers far too many opportunities for us to escape the confrontation of our limits, which leaves them vague and misunderstood. If we allow ourselves freedom to do whatever we want, we will inevitably follow our unconscious grooves and stay in our comfort zones, steering well clear of the limits, leaving them forever shrouded and leaving us unable to follow our path of return.

If, on the other hand, we take a simple exercise – let’s say, moving the hands on a very limited up and down pathway, without the freedom to go left or right, without the freedom to go forward and backwards, and without the freedom to stop our exercise when it gets a bit uncomfortable, we will find ourselves immediately exposed to the discomfort of our limitations with no choice of escape. We see straight away that even if we thought we knew what ‘up and down’ meant, we can’t actually stick to it. We don’t know how to keep our hands stuck to up and down, we find all the weak points in the arms and legs and body, and our mind rebels against the boredom (actually it rebels at being shown its limitations).

When we stick to our training and confront the discomfort of the limitations, we slowly bring clarity to them. We find we can actually go a bit further than we thought, or that we were going too far, and slowly but surely the limits become apparent and we can understand them. The Yin becomes clarified and within clarity, we have precise distinction. Having a really precise understanding of the limitations of, say, up and down, we can let go of it, sure that if we need it again we can find it in a snap. But we can’t let go of what we don’t have, so there’s no escaping the need for time spent in the simple exercises. There’s no way to cue yourself into perfection in the first go, and no way to shortcut it – all of these things are in fact attempts to avoid the confrontation with the limited in the first place. There’s no way to arrive at Yang without going through the Yin first, and we can also remember that the Yin is slow. We must go through the slow part first. It will take some time.