Objectification Vs. Engagement


We go through our lives often stuck in objects, so much so that we become objects ourselves and even see other people as objects. We carry our phones and play games or check email or social media as a way of engaging with the world. Not often do we look around at where we are. The crowd in the subway above can just seem like a mass of obstacles or an undifferentiated din surrounding us. 

Without realizing it, we discount the fact that the world is populated by living beings. We even treat others as functions: the guy who makes the coffee, the tech support guy, the saleswoman.  Do we really see them as people? Just imagine being in a crowd and looking around to become aware of the living beings around you, as different from the objects around you. Imagine meeting someone’s eye and feeling that moment of recognition of each other’s existence.

In Tai Chi, one can easily go through learning a form as a way of manipulating a body “object”. You are totally in your head, thinking about moving an arm or leg or turning a torso and treating your body as if it were an object to be posed and shifted in space. That is not real Tai Chi.

Consider that when you practice a form or are learning one, you start by shifting that perception. Your body is not an object, but a part of the whole of the integrated you. You are embodied. You feel into every movement. The whole you is moving, shifting, reaching and turning. You feel the kinks in your system and release them to allow the energy to flow more easily through and about you. You direct energy at will and with ease. It feels coherent. Spirit leading chi leading the physical.

If you practice push hands, notice if you are seeing your training partner as an object or a person. There’s a big difference. If you see them as an object, you may immediately get into thinking: they’re too big or too intimidating or whatever. You are not playing with them but with your perception of their body as an object. When you engage in push hands play with a person, another living being, it is a conversation in energy. You meet, give each other challenges to handle and both of you grow.

Engaging with another being, both of you fully present, is fun. Pushing an object around can be hard work, frustrating or even boring.

Whether in Tai Chi practice or in life, a recognition of the beings you encounter changes the game. It’s easy to practice. Feeding the cat can be an instance of recognizing the beingness of the cat. How many of us talk to our cars, (especially in Winter) asking them to start easily? I’ve gotten into the habit of thanking my car for getting me home safely. I know it’s not a living being, but it is a system that I depend on. It’s been running very well, and I am grateful. Seeing the check out person at the supermarket as a person changes the energy of the transaction. The energy somehow feels better. You don’t have to get into any grand engagement with every being around, but people feel better when their existence is acknowledged. Someone sees them. A nod, a smile, a ‘thank-you’ – all help to break the trance of objectification. Believe it or not, others start to see you and acknowledge your existence as well. Don’t take my word for it, give it a try.