Many suffer with lower back pain constantly. Many also have neck pain. Often these problems can be remedied by postural adjustments. You can make these adjustments yourself if you know two things: having a clear image of what it is you are trying to achieve and of how to change yourself to reduce or eliminate the problem. Often that change involves letting go of tension in those painful places.
Change is the key. If the master is holding you and saying to change and you are not having an effect, then you are not changing. Changeability is the term Master George Xu has referred to. If you are alone and working on a form or basic, single moves, or qigong, the movement is defined by change. You are changing something constantly and movement occurs. Many practitioners are not aware of where they are not moving, not changing. And if you are in pain, in the lower back for example, it is a symptom of something not moving, not changing.
To change, qi must flow and for that to happen our minds need to let go of tension. In other words, if we are suffering from chronic pain somewhere in our bodies, part of the dynamic of that pain includes the state of the mind. In my experience one must just do the moves with an intention focused on the relationship of the mind and body, because that is where the answer is.
I would like to explore the world for the best places to do tai chi. Tai chi practice for me is like orienting myself to the cosmos. My being is the center and all that radiates outward into the universe and a conduit is formed for the universe to radiate back into me. On a recent trip to California I was fortunate enough to be able to beach hop for about seven days as I drove down to San Diego from San Francisco for my company’s annual convention. Each morning I hiked on one or two beaches, the second one farther southward than the first, and practice tai chi. What an inspiring thing to do. Perhaps the best place to do tai chi is on a beach with the waves rolling in on a cool morning breeze.
One such place was called Shell Beach, but there were no shells on it, except for mussels caught up in mounds of kelp washed up onshore. This black-sand beach was tucked inside a small cove sheltered by vertical cliffs. A harbor seal was hanging out just the other side of the surf. It disappeared beneath the surface occasionally and popped back a few minutes later.
I did Wu Style Taijiquan form and found myself swaying in unison with the surf. The pace of my motion matched the undulating rise and receding of the surf. Sound and motion inspired me and awakened me more fully.
I needed to spiral to keep my balance in the sand sinking under my feet. Spiraling is what we should all seek to learn in tai chi practice and I delighted at the fact that the beach was teaching me how to do that in such a unique manner. Spiraling in sand … an exquisite sensation.
I have done form on summits in the Rocky Mountains, in the mesas and valleys of Southwest Colorado, in busy, dense cities such as Shanghai and Los Angeles and, of course, San Francisco, in deserts and urban parks. But I think the beach is my favorite, at least for now.
Maybe this is because of the recent trip I took. Maybe I should return for another beach hopping excursion to double check. If you are reading this and have done tai chi on beaches, let me know which beaches. Maybe I’ll go there.
Tai chi masters, old and young, traditionally have had practices other than martial arts. They often apply their skills to other forms of art. Calligraphy is one, of course. It is very common for a tai chi practitioner to express his qi through writing the characters. There are others too: musicianship, painting, tea mixing, dance, and so on. Susan Matthews, my friend and teacher, practices ballroom dancing. George Xu practices calligraphy and antique collecting.
As taiji is practiced more by more people across the world are developing their other art. One difference is that new artforms are evolving in response to our changing times and the demands of living in the current era. The trend of less common and emerging arts complemented by tai chi reflects what I see as the rediscovery or rebirth of a modern taiji.
In my case, I have played my guitar with a taiji mind. And more recently, I have been studying nutrition in my search to find the best foods to put in my body. This is an emerging application of taiji knowledge, one that brings these two complementary practices into play with each other. I talk about how this focus came to be on my website. I even have begun a business to help others with nutrition and overall health. I call it A Well Balanced Dream.
On and on it goes. I always tell people that tai chi is a complementary exercise that will enhance whatever you already do. You might swim, run, bike, hike, garden, rock climb, ski, golf, or play competitive sports, such as tennis, baseball, football, and basketball. Tai chi can enhance all of these and more. What is your art?
Many suffer from fatigue that we don’t know where it comes from. We sleep 8 hours, we eat well, at least we seem to, yet we are tired mid-morning. Sluggish, depleted.
Sometimes, this is because we are not doing what we truly love to do. Not always, because other reasons exist, such as lack of proper nutrition. But doing what we love is always energizing.
When we resonate with what we are doing we are energized by it. Taiji is a useful tool to those of us who want to reconnect with their energetic selves. For some it is like an aid to reestablish that old familiar feeling of happiness and a good feeling of energy to spare.
Taiji is especially useful while we are making efforts to get back to what we love. Taiji …get in touch with your internal pulse. Unify your energies. Connect deeply with your own sense of identity, comfortable in your own skin. Relax into yourself. …natural doing.