There are four things that are always true. This is a humanities treatise, so by “things” I am not referring to scientific laws or physical constants, logical or mathematical truths or tautologies but rather truths regarding human experience, thought, emotion and behavior. By “always true” I mean that the statements are true of every person throughout all time, without exception. Excluded from the list are any statements of less than 100% inclusion, i.e. “most of the time this” or “most of the people that.”

There are three very important things to know about the four truths:

    1. As the four things are always true, they underlie every human situation.
    2. As the four things are always true, they are the reason for every universal spiritual precept.
    3. Each of the four things either contains a definition of Love or describes conditions necessary for Love to exist.

For these reasons, contemplation of the four truths is a path to a deeper and more lasting sense of inner peace and contentment.

For these reasons, contemplation of the four truths is a path to a deeper and more lasting sense of inner peace and contentment.

Following I will list the four things that are always true and provide examples of 1) how each thing is a definition (or condition) of Love and 2) universal spiritual precepts that evolve from the truth. The purpose of this writing is to provide contemplations for sitting meditation, so for each truth I will 3) give examples of how the truth may be used as a contemplation in meditation. As Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang’s qigong teacher Hu Yaouzhen wrote: “when the mind is still, the qi will move” (or as an old Indian lady once said to me “when the mind is still all of the chakras are working”—same meaning), the aim of all meditation techniques is to enter quiescence and to reach the level where, to quote James Stewart: “The quiet becomes the teacher.” I believe this meditation program may help some to a more profound and lasting experience of inner tranquility and well-being.

A well-known saying in the oral tradition states that taiji is a “little dao,” and that through the little dao one may glimpse the Big Dao. Last, and since this is a blog focused on taiji practice, for each of the four truths I will also include 4) taiji practice principles and notable wisdom related to taiji practice that emerge from each underlying truth.

The truths are universal (by definition) and, to quote Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. But the specific list, and the idea that all universal spiritual precepts and definitions of Love unfold from these truths, are mine. After presenting the four truths, I invite everyone to let me know if there is a fifth truth I have not included! I have been teaching this mediation program for about six years and no one has yet to offer a fifth truth, which is one reason why I have enough confidence to publish the list now. Again, the criteria is that any truth must be true of 100% of people 100% of the time. And yes, death is already covered (in truths 2 and 3) and no, taxes are not on the list as the poor have no money with which to pay and the wealthy are quite able to evade them.

On to the list.

Four Things That Are Always True - #1

Truth #1: Everybody is Different

Every person is a product of genetics and experience. Identical twins do share the same genes, but no two persons have had identical experiences throughout their lives. Indeed, monozygotic (identical) twins have different fingerprints because what they touch in the womb affects the fingerprint—even in the womb their experiences are different. Every person is unique.

Truth #1 as a Definition of Love

Though of course there is no order to the list of Four Truths, I list “Everybody is Different” as the first truth because of a quote from Thomas Merton regarding the beginning of Love:

The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

Viktor Frankyl, a holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, offered a similar definition of Love. In a TV video interview he said:

Seizing the uniqueness of another person is the very definition of love . . . experiencing someone in their very uniqueness.

A Contemplation for Sitting Meditation from Truth #1

(But First a Word About Freewill, Awareness and How It All Works)

Before offering the first contemplation, we need to address the role of freewill in contemplative meditation. Whether freewill actually exists in a deterministic universe has long been debated. Though one may have no choice in some actions (such as habitual or reflexive responses or being forced to take an action against one’s wishes), one can always choose how they feel about the experience IF one is aware of, and therefore not controlled by, one’s thoughts and emotions. In other words, if one is AWARE. So freewill is not universally available to all people all of the time—it is subject to the dependent clause “IF one is aware.”

That you are free to choose your feelings, provided you are aware and understand the fundamental truth underlying the situation, is the basis for this contemplative method. The logic is this: if you are aware of both your thoughts and feelings and of the universal truth(s) underlying the situation disturbing you, then you are free to choose how you feel about the experience. You may choose the path of harmony with reality—of choosing Love, of going with the flow of what is always true (or “following the Dao” if you wish). Or you can choose to swim against the universal current, to oppose what is always true—the path opposite of Love. One path will lead to inner peace, quiescence, contentment and vitality, while the opposite will steal your energy and lead to disease, anxiety and frustration. It is entirely your choice. If you are aware.

Do remember though that emotional distress is just a signal that you still have something to learn. I have been reading Rumi’s poem This Guest House to our class for many years—it is about freewill and awareness (and duality).

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Back to the Contemplation . . .

I first learned this contemplation from my teacher, Dr. Yang Yang. After teaching meditation at retreats across the country, he realized that he was hearing the same comment from participants over and again—that whenever they attended a retreat and learned a meditation “technique” they felt great. But when they left the beautiful resort and returned back to life on Monday, it was all gone. He called it “naive bliss” and resolved to address daily life anxieties directly in contemplative meditation, rather than sweeping them under the rug with imaginative but temporarily effective meditation techniques.

Begin in any sitting posture (in a chair, cross legged on the floor, however you are comfortable). You should sit straight without back support if this is possible for you as there are significant physical benefits to the upright posture . . . Tuck your chin in slightly, straighten your spine and feel as though your head is gently suspended from the crown . . . close your eyes and let the tip of your tongue touch the roof of your mouth . . . Relax your shoulders . . . Relax your fingers and toes . . . Relax your facial muscles . . . Scan your body and see if there is any place you are holding tension and relax it . . . Can you relax your shoulders more? . . . Let your body “hang” on your spine . . .

Once you have quieted a bit contemplate a current or past instance in which conflict with another is disturbing to you . . . be aware of your thoughts and emotional reaction to the conflict . . . lack of awareness of difference is a root cause of many (most? nearly all?) conflicts with others—ask yourself whether the root of the conflict is simply due to a difference . . . whether it be a difference in awareness, knowledge, experience, opinion, purpose, or simply preference . . . everybody is different . . . can you choose the path of Love and recognize and appreciate what is unique to the other person . . . can you empathize with their position? . . . or are you insisting that they think and act as you do? . . .

I did not say it would be easy. Perhaps the other person’s motivations are selfish or ignorant, and you know it. You don’t have to follow them, you have only to be aware of your thoughts and emotions and what is always true. Or perhaps you may realize that part of the fault may lie with yourself. Sometimes the best medicine tastes bitter, and the realization that you may perhaps be thinking and acting in, shall we say, a less than noble manner, can be painful. As Rumi said, meet the dark thought, the shame, the malice at the door laughing and invite them in. I can say from considerable experience that the realization that “I am an ass” can be wonderfully freeing.

As the ultimate purpose of sitting meditation is to enter quiescence, feel how realization of the truth dissolves tension and quiets your mind. In taiji tradition, sitting meditation practice is called “wuji”—the state before differentiation of yin and yang:

Now drift deeper into quiescence . . . bring your awareness to your dantian (lower abdomen), 1.5 inches below your navel and 2 inches inward . . . think, look, and listen there . . . if you hear a sound, feel as though it originates from your dan tian . . . I am observing me . . . if “me” thinks, I, standing sentry, is aware . . . be aware of your thoughts without judging them . . . no good, no bad, no right, no wrong, no attraction, no aversion, no yin, no yang . . . just awareness, without judgement . . . body now perfectly still . . . expecting nothing . . . doing nothing . . . just being . . . for being . . . is . . . blessing . . . enough . . . .

Universal Spiritual Principles from Truth #1

Of course folk wisdom arises from the four truths. Native American tradition asserts that “When you respect other things, they respect you back.” To recognize what is unique in other persons is to Love them, to Love them is to respect them. The old saying to “place yourselves in other’s shoes” is simply recognition that the perspective of others is different from ours and that it is wise to be aware of the difference.

To note a universal spiritual precept, let’s flip the coin. We have been talking about being aware of how others are different from us. It is also true that we are different from everybody else. The admonition to “look inward” and to “know thyself” is universal spiritual guidance. To know oneself is of course a requisite to living an authentic life and to achieve lasting inner peace and contentment.

Taiji wisdom from Truth #1

Everybody is different. No two artists produce the same work, no two masters look the same. Everybody’s body is different, and everybody has unique life experiences. A very famous saying from the oral tradition is “from similar in appearance to similar in spirit” (why these famous sayings are not in every book about Taiji I cannot understand).

You start by emulating your teacher, but “looking like” any other person is not the goal. Well it can be if you want, but you will never be able to achieve it because you are not the other person—you will never look exactly like them, you will never be able to do things exactly the way they do them. The “corrections” will go on to infinity because a) you will never be exactly like the person you are emulating, and b) like everyone else, the person you are emulating changes over time.

The goal of form practice is to learn and internalize the mechanics of internal power. Once you understand and can do that, any movement can be taiji movement and you can move beyond “similar in appearance” to “similar in spirit” to your teacher. To really learn taiji, to understand energy and be able to improvise taiji movement, you must make the art your own. Until you start to do that you are still practicing with the training wheels on.

Every single person has a unique style. Every person with combat sport experience will tell you this—no two people feel the same. This is the reason for another famous Taiji adage: that you must practice push-hands with multiple partners.

Suggested homework: As you go through each day, be aware of your thoughts and emotions, and meet them at the door laughing. If you can do this, and if you know the four things that are always true and that define the path of Love, then you are free to choose your course.

Truth/Contemplation #2 to follow.

Four Things That Are Always True: A Contemplative Meditation Program
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One thought on “Four Things That Are Always True: A Contemplative Meditation Program

  • Hi Scott,
    I am pleased to see you taking this on! I am pressed at the moment to actually sit down, read, absorb, and maybe dialogue with it, but I look forward to.

    For the moment, I’ve copied your blog into a Word Document and saved it where I can readily get back to it, when time permits. Very unclear at the moment when that will be!

    How is life treating you now? Classes still vital for you – and them?

    Ken and I have been in WA for three months now. Still attending to lots of mechanics – medical appointments, dental, swimming, license plate, car registration, voter registration, change of address notification, geography where we live and how to get around, learning a while new community of names, and so forth onward.

    We like it here and have already trained up to Tacoma and Seattle for various grandkid events and family visits. Fun.

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