Heng can be translated as perseverance, or constancy of purpose. It implies steady, unceasing effort, patience, and a long-term point of view.
An important element of learning tai chi is “perseverance”. When you start tai chi, you may find it slow and even awkward. This is because tai chi is very different from most western exercise and sports. Tai chi puts emphasis on soft flowing movement while delivering powerful internal energy. That is why we move slowly and in a curve. It can appear easy but it really does take time to get used to. The slow, yet controlled, movement balances the stressful fast pace of today’s life. In nature, slow and fast and soft and hard complement each other. Persevere and soon you get used to the rhythm and feel of tai chi. Begin to enjoy the wonderful feeling of well being and serenity from within.
“Perseverance first and foremost means persistence. Whether or not the weather is cold or burning hot, you should train regularly. It is a process of testing the character and strength of mind of the student. Furthermore, perseverance means a constant quality, i.e. a certain intensity must be achieved. Only the person who trains under the motto “A pestle can be honed into a needle with an iron will” can learn the true essence of Tai Chi Chuan.”
This is closely related to the ideas of morality expressed in martial arts training. Morality of the mind includes will, endurance, perseverance, patience, and courage.
In Chinese thinking, we have 2 minds. The emotional mind (xin), also called the monkey mind, is the part of the mind that jumps around from one idea to another and lacks focus. The wisdom mind (yi), also called the horse mind, is the calming, strong and stable part of the mind. Without training, xin dominates yi. When someone fails at something that requires long-term effort, it is usually because the emotional mind has overcome the wisdom mind.
With training and practice, the yi can learn to control the xin. This means that you have to fine-tune your wisdom mind in order to control your emotions and become calmer and more focused. Different meditation styles use different methods to train your mind.
This article is primarily about learning tai chi. However, the lessons apply to all aspects of life. According to a translation of the I Ching, “Heng [Perseverance] demonstrates how, faced with the complexity of things, one yet does not give way to cynicism.” Sometimes we hit rough patches in life and become distracted from practice. However, achievement comes from steady effort at improving. Improvement comes from perseverance and continued practice. Success comes to those who endure and have faith in themselves because of their long hard work.
© 2010 Eric Borreson