Imagining Tai Chi

Magic in the palm of your handTai chi is one of those things we encounter in living that is difficult to describe. You know it by doing it. I train learners by creating visualizations to aid them in seeing what taiji is and how to do it with their own particular bodies. Words only point the way. The actual state of being while moving with a taiji mind is barely describable.

Chinese texts are full of metaphors that are difficult to understand. Try reading the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Whatever translation you have, much of it has little resemblance to anything common to our times. Or the Taijiquan Lun, or the 13 Postures . . . . It is often said of these abstruse descriptions that the authors didn’t want enemies to steal their secrets so they wrote them as lyrically elusive as possible and taught their students the practical meanings in indoor training.

Perhaps, it is also because the ethereal qualities of Taiji and Qigong are understood more by imagination than by language. Visualizations work rather well. Even the most absolute beginner grasps images that the teacher conjures up for their mind’s eyes. The images are more visible for most of us and surprisingly you’re moving mind, energy and body in effortless harmony.

The mental processes taking place in the brain when a person practices tai chi movement are complex, even for the smallest task or movement. Doing taijiquan, you are forging new pathways in the brain that previously were unused or lay dormant for a long time. The subtle elation many feel when that occurs, that release of dopamine, is partly from opening new channels of awareness or consciousness in the brain and the body.

A brain scientist could tell you much more about what is going on in the brain than I can. But I know that the key to the complexity is to do the moves consciously, or to use a popular term of the day, mindfully. But what is that? My answer to that is do tai chi and find out for yourself. Words just get in the way.


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