In tai chi, we talk about “yi”—mind intention. Applying yi in tai chi is somewhat elusive for beginning practitioners, but once you resolve to understand it you are on your way to new knowledge. The masters used to say “mind does it,” which for them was simple, yet I didn’t get it. Now I do and I am still developing my understanding of it and I most likely will for the rest of my tai chi life.
Yi is really a natural human ability. Tai chi proposes that we use our minds in unaccustomed ways. I’ve heard all my life clichés like “keep your eye on the goal,” or “on the ball,” and I knew what the mean, but they never inspired me like the notion of Yi.
I had a dream early this morning not long before I woke up from which I gained clarity on yi. I want to share it. It was more of a brief vision that emerged out of a long stream of images. For me it was what a glimpse of infinity must be. I was walking with a mountain lion on a leash close by my right side. We were in a field of short green grass and a few faceless people milling around at an event. I forgot what event, but it was something I am involved with in waking life. As my companion and I walked, I firmly gripped the soft rope lashed to the harness around her neck, keeping her close by my side. At one point during our promenade we swerved to our right, and suddenly her body tensed as her eye caught sight of something unseen by me. She bolted in the direction of whatever it was. I held the rope tightly to hold her back and she acquiesced, but her spirit lurched forward far ahead of us taking mine own along.
Watching from my dreaming position, an insight silently came to me that she was showing me intent—her yi—and the spirit of her attention. In a single moment I glimpsed how to keep one’s attention on a goal. My friend, being acutely attuned to extraneous objects saw beyond the immediate moment to a bigger picture. Only the pull of that target interested her. Mind, heart and feet all leapt into the spirit of pursuing it. It is like being two places at once, to be cognizant of everything within an expanse and yet zero in on one tiny element within it all. This is yin-yang and you must have yi intention to accomplish it.