The following excerpt is from Creation: A Novel by Gore Vidal and describes an encounter between the narrator and Lao Tzu.  It aptly describes the state tai chi is practiced from:

“When we say do nothing, we mean do nothing that is not natural or spontaneous. You are an archer?”

“Yes. I was trained as a warrior.”

“So was I. Have you noticed how easy it is to hit the mark when you are idly practicing on your own?”


“But when you are in a contest with others, when there is a golden prize, don’t you find it more difficult to hit the mark than when you are alone or not in competition?”


“When you try too hard, you become tense. When you are tense, you are not at your best. Well, to avoid that sort of tension is what we mean by wu-wei. Or to put it another way, cease to be self-conscious in what you do. Be natural. Have you ever cut up an animal for food?”


“Do you find it difficult to separate the parts of the body?”

“Yes. But I’m not a butcher…”

“Neither am I. But I’ve observed butchers at work. They are always swift, always accurate. What is hard for us to do is simple for them. Why? Well, I once asked the king’s chief butcher how it was that he could dismember an ox in the time it would take me to clean a small fish. ‘I don’t really know,’ he said. ‘My senses seem to stand still, and my spirit-or whatever-takes over.’ That’s what we mean by wu wei. Do nothing that is not natural, that is not in harmony with the principles of nature.”

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