Thoughts on “Dustless Action” by Tony Brown.

Yesterday I posted a blog about poet and life-long t’ai chi practitioner Li-Young Lee, who spoke about “Dustless action”. Having received a few (often puzzled) emails from readers on this phrase, I sought further perspectives from my friend Tony Brown, a writer, artist, musical director and t’ai chi practitioner/instructor. With his permission, I reproduce his thoughts, below:

Dustless action: thoughts:

Well, organisations that offer ‘dustless’ services mean that no trace of them remains after the fact. They come, they do their thing, they disappear without trace, and without fuss.
In t’ai chi, there’s a slightly fanciful thought that you can perform the actions of the Art on a sheet of rice paper without tearing it. Without trace. Without fuss.
In the fighting styles, the same applies. The actions are responsive to need and almost clinical. If actions initiate rather than respond, they create an unnecessary state of affairs that wasn’t there before – a cloud of dust. Fuss just makes everything complicated, so simplicity is the dustless solution.
In the internal aspects of t’ai chi, one aims for smooth connection between the mind, body and breath (mind, body, spirit if you will) in order to produce smooth uninterrupted qi. As soon as the link becomes unbalanced or disconnected, well you’ll have to get the dust buster out.
Why we like dusty actions rather than the opposite:
Creating clouds of dust in our everyday actions is sort of fun. Lots of noise, lots of gesticulation, gossip, changing direction, being wasteful with words and deeds and half-baked ideas. And it can of course be very creative. Out of dustclouds of chaos creative ideas arise.
Dustless action can seem lacking in vigour and unproductive. It’s all seems a bit Zen, too Taoist, too much like meditation and mindfulness to be of much use in everyday transactions.
So balance.
Dust is what remains after a half completed task.
Dust has to be cleared away or thing will get clogged up.
But you can write in it with your finger when the dust has settled.
Tony Brown. Dec 11th 2017

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