What is tai chi revisited again

You can never say enough about what tai chi is. Today, it comes to mind that in tai chi, physical qi reacts to psychic or mental energy. If we resonate with what we are doing we are energized by it. We may suffer from fatigue that we don’t know where it comes from. We sleep relatively well, we eat well, or so it seems, yet we are tired early in the day. We are sluggish, depleted. Why? Because we are not doing what we truly love to do. Taiji is a useful tool to many who want to reconnect with their energetic selves. It is like an aid to reestablish that old familiar feeling of happiness and a good feeling of energy to spare, especially while we are making efforts to get back to what we love. Taiji gets in touch with your own internal pulse. It unifies your energies, connects deeply with your own sense of self and helps you to be comfortable in your own skin. Relax into yourself, do tai chi.

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Get in touch with your own sense of self with taiji

Susan Matthews, Rose Oliver, Wang Ming Bo
Susan Matthews Rose Oliver, Wang Ming Bo in August 2012 in Durango, Colorado

Physical qi reacts to psychic or mental energy. If we resonate with what we are doing we are energized by it. We may suffer from fatigue, but we don’t know where it comes from. We sleep relatively well, we eat well, or so it seems, yet we are tired early in the day. We are sluggish, depleted. We are not doing what we truly love to do. Taiji is a useful tool to many who want to reconnect with their energetic selves. It is like an aid to reestablish that old familiar feeling of happiness and a good feeling of energy to spare, especially while we are making efforts to get back to what we love. Taiji gets in touch with your own internal pulse. It unifies your energies, connects deeply with your own sense of self and helps you to be comfortable in your own skin. Relax into yourself, do what you do, naturally.

Taking that first step to do tai chi, then the next, then the next…

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Master Wang Ming Bo, Rose Oliver, Susan A. Matthews, and Tim Richard joined by a group of dedicated taiji practitioners for a weekend workshop.
One of the challenges that  confronted with is to learn to describe taiji so others will understand what it is and what it offers them. Also, I am challenged to encourage others to pursue the study of tai chi over an extended period of time in order to reap its greatest benefits.

Taiji is a multi-faceted form of exercise as well as a martial art. The exercise for health part is what attracts me the most at my age.

One thing that fascinates me, on the surface at least, is that we are so much the products of our environment that we don’t see the influence that messages in society have over our decisions to live a healthy life. For example, we have been bombarded throughout our lives with calls to eat things that we increasingly know are not good for our bodies.

At the same time, questions of what is health and what is healthy are more prevalent. As is that of who determines what is healthy, individuals or institutions. Many thinkers have said that if you want a better world, make yourself better first and the rest will happen.

Taiji may not make you live longer, although it could very well do so; but it offers the tools and methods to live a better quality of life for the time you do have. We often come by this quality of life question rather late. If I had discovered taiji earlier in life I probably would not have as many injuries to carry over into my later years, making it more difficult to enjoy life. My ability to deal with the injuries is greatly improved, however.

The freedom of youth and its freedom of movement is often taken for granted. That’s no surprise. When time has passed and we are behind the curve regarding overall health, some of us face a sometimes desperate push to get back some of what we have lost. I meet many people in this stage of self-discovery. They are the ones who come to a tai chi class or two to check it out. They are depleted energetically and their decision-making facilities are impaired. The determination and perseverance it takes to establish a regular routine of exercise and nutrition is overwhelming and they quit after only a couple of practice sessions.

When we have become aware of our waning energy, weakening body, fogging of the brain, worsening eyesight, and so on, the hour is already getting late. Even if we begin taiji at age 40 each of us likely will have to face the turmoil of resisting the tendency to give in to those influences that hinder efforts to find new ways of taking care of ourselves.

I believe we intuitively  know what is good for us even while we are being influenced to consume unhealthy foods and live unhealthy lifestyles. I think that taking the step to learn taiji reflects a deeply rooted connection of this intuitive awareness. Those who persevere overcome a lot of resistance to a practice routine. The learn secrets about tai chi, about being health and cultivating a sense of well-being, and they learn a lot about themselves. They change themselves and that is where a better world begins.

Plough through to the other side of practice

You have to keep ploughing through to the other side of your practice to arrive at a particular level of understanding. When you do, you see why it’s worth trying in the first place. This is a magical moment that you can reach in the practice of tai chi. My favorite practitioners of taiji are so happy to be doing what they do that it is easy for them to practice everyday regardless if anyone is watching. Many of us have to get through when we don’t feel like it. Getting motivated is hard to do. Why it’s easy for some and difficult for others is a fascinating topic, but I couldn’t tell anyone why if they were to ask. All I know is that something compels some people to come to taiji class.

Many if not most people who have come to my class have never returned. I don’t really know why. Did it have to do with my teaching style or the information itself, or if they just don’t have the conviction. Some people dream of becoming healthier, to heal themselves. They try taiji perhaps to address those needs. Does anyone who quits practicing ever remember why they thought of taiji in the first place? That original spark of interest?

One thing I have concluded from my own experience is that it helps little to try convincing someone that something is good for them when they don’t accept it for themselves. They may know it’s true, but many would rather believe in something else. In my case, I acted in spite of my tendency to quit, in spite of my doubts. My thinking was that I wasn’t doing anything else worthwhile to improve my health anyway. Not an ideal line of thought, I guess; but effective.

Plus, I always admired the strength and graceful coordination of martial artists. The energetic effortlessness of their movements. They also seemed to merge healthy activities with philosophical views about the world and their place in it. Not that others don’t do that, but in martial arts I feel more like I’m thinking about my place in the world and society deliberately as part of my taiji practice. How you interact with others is not only a martial encounter. Martial training is an umbrella concept for any encounter, including peaceful. This is a more holistic approach for me.

What is taiji re-revisited

The levels of taiji achievement are so numerous that for every one you reach another awaits discovery. Every internal martial arts system has this progression. Whatever style you study, or however many styles you study, you will find the same pattern of evolution in your practice. This is daunting for some, exhilarating for others, rewarding for everyone.

I’ve learned a lot about taiji over time. I have practiced for 13 years now. I’ve forgotten a lot, too. I have not practiced all of what I learned, so I forgot it. Early on, I forgot until I went home after class and practiced some more. I then was able to anchor my memory and really begin to learn.

I have taught taiji for half of that time. Form, basics, internal secrets as I know them; giving other learners with less experience ideas on how to practice moving energy, which for me is the ultimate activity of taiji. I would say that most of the people who have joined me to practice don’t go home and practice what was made available to them. I’m not sure they understand that home practice is key to fulfilling the very reasons why we look into taiji as a means of resolving some issue. Here is a photo of fellow practitioners who attended a seminar with Wang Ming Bo and Rose Oliver of Double Dragon Alliance and Shanti School of Taijiquan and Durango Tai Chi Instruction.

Tuina Class
Tuina Chinese Massage Seminar in Durango, Colorado USA

Tai Chi and the “Wall of Resistance”

A learner told me she didn’t want to continue doing taichi form any more because it reminded her of her Christian background. She said a belief system was thrust upon her as a child and at some point she rebelled and left the congregation to pursue her own path.

So when a different tai chi teacher does form, which is all she teaches in her class, my friend, who attended her class, felt like she was narrowed into a Christian-like expectation she experienced as a little girl.

Similarly, in her mind, the (Chen Manching) form reduced her down to no other options but very specific moves that she had to memorize. Almost like brainwashing. Maybe a bit extreme, but there you have it.

She said that I don’t do this as an instructor. When she told me this, I said that form is something that old-time practitioners developed as martial artists and for demonstration purposes.

I said that the understanding of qi and learning to direct it is all that matters. Whatever you do in that context creates a “form,” or a shape by virtue of the movement itself. It doesn’t have to be a martial application developed by someone, some time in the past.

I can see how she could react to the tradition and the propensity of students to accept the form without question and move into acceptance of the way things are done. …to accept the “authority” of it unquestioned.

Energy is creativity at its core and has little to do with traditional ways of movement, … in essence anyway.

I do things a little backwards. Often, form is taught without being shown the internal secrets. I teach the internal secrets as I know them first, then form.

Still, form is fun to put all you know into a shape that you memorize and within which you can be as creative as you may imagine. It becomes free even though it begins with a specific thing handed down over time. It’s good for an aging mind to exercise the memory facility.

My friend and student has reached a wall of resistance in herself. Everyone who goes upon the path of learning will run into a time in which they are challenged to work a little harder to overcome some resistance they find within themselves. Whatever they think it comes from or wherever it comes from.

My response to her is to just do tai chi in whatever form it avails itself. To stop is not wise after once making the effort to begin. The practice itself will show her the path to understanding.