Investing in Loss “eating bitter” (吃苦 chīkǔ)

I am told ‘eating bitter’ is a common chinese expression for enduring hardship, though it seems to have taken on a deeper meaning with in the context of taiji (exp ZMC’s lineage). There are no shortage of articles and explanations of this meaning. Unfortunately, most are kind of airy and vague or just out and out ridiculous. It is not, IMO, vague, nor is it ‘playing to lose’. Trying to lose isn’t any better than trying to win (way worse from a practical stand point). Both losing and winning are part of an ego trip that has no place in taiji.

In the beginning, the student is instructed to ‘relax’, or better yet, ‘not be tense’. However, one the student begins to relax, the teacher and other students immediately begin to pressure him or her. Here in lies the root to taiji’s incredible drop-out rate. When put under pressure, most people respond one of two ways. They either collapse and bow out, or they tighten up and respond with more and more energy. Both of these responses will inevitably lead to defeat at the hands of even a mediocre opponent. This constant stream of defeat can undermine the strongest of wills. Some will ‘knuckle down’ and plow on obliviously, but most will quit in fustration. If, however, the student listens to the teacher and sees each encounter as a learning opportunity (no longer caring if they win or lose) they will be sure to make progress. When faced with pressure, one should relax, consolidate their center and then move according to the situation. Unfortunately,relaxing in a bubble bath, with scented candles and soft music, is much easier than relaxing when someone is trying to pop you in the face. This however takes a great deal of practice and while not unique to taiji, the focus on this ability is (to my knowledge). This to me, is the deeper meaning of ‘eating bitter’. One must discard the conventional assessments of good/bad and accept the inevitable lumps as the price of tuition.

Ex. Everyone looks silly when they’re learning to dance, yet good dancers look really good when they move. If you want to look good, you’d best get over your fears of looking silly.


~ by aedhcarrick on September 26, 2009.

One Response to “Investing in Loss “eating bitter” (吃苦 chīkǔ)”

  1. Yes.

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