Tai chi is a practice at getting in touch with your own silence. Your inner place of peace where you’re surrounded by sound-proof walls and the external world is held at bay.
I was reminded by this when I discovered this article at Thrive Global: “The One Thing Your Brain Needs to Think Clearly.”
You must shut off something within yourself to go there. When you do, pressures of the daily world lose significance at least for a while. You can focus more on your interests.
Of course, there are many other ways to cozy up to inner silence, such as sitting in meditation and mindful breathing. I just happen to like tai chi a whole lot.
Taijiquan is about cultivating a mood and immersing yourself in it. Continuous and stable, you carry it through the day’s activities—as many as you can. It’s not easy to do this, but many will agree that the mood is very engaging and contagious. I can’t get much more specific without risking mutilating it trying to explain it.
You develop it in group and solo practice. Each practice is a return to cultivating it from where you last left off with it. Often, at some point after leaving class, you might forget this mood. But if you have a big enough taste of it, you’ll want to give it another try.
The more you try, the more you are able to do two things. One is to become familiar with the mood through practice and the second is improved memory. The result is that you’re carrying this mood more and more. You’re not only remembering it, you’re internalizing it. It becomes part of your viewpoint and integral to who you are, as in the case of real long-term practitioners.
It’s like anything that you do. The more you do it, the better you get and the more you get out of doing it. You perceive the external world from the point of view of that mood. It grows, matures, and strengthens. You develop speed, agility, and a greater sense of depth and breadth.
The great Wu Style Taijiquan Master Ma Yueh Liang said it took him 10 years to “discover” qi and the rest of his life to learn what to do with it (Bill Moyers, “The Mystery of Chi,” 1993). We’re all involved in a similar progression of discovery and discerning activities that bring qi into our daily routine.
The real change from a tai chi perspective is in the mind. We think it’s the body because that’s where the problem shows. The pain in there so we think the cause is there.
We have to shift something in our perception in order for the body to make the necessary changes it needs to heal and strengthen.
I suspect that we “discover” qi because it announces itself by virtue of dislodging and flowing, which in turn results from practicing tai chi movement.
You can view many video clips of Master Ma on youtube. I have one of him from many years ago on my website.
When I talk about my teachers having so much energy from taiji, it has to do a lot with the fact that they save energy more than actually producing it out of nowhere, which seems impossible to the average person. This is one thing every practitioner who practices long enough learns about taijiquan. It’s true, you get only so much Qi (energy) when you’re born and as life progresses you lose it, or at least, lose access to it. But you can get it back, and one stepping stone to do that is by learning to conserve it, not waste it, use the energy you have wisely, and consciously bringing stuck qi back into availability. By doing taiji movement, you clear out superfluous energy, which in turn attracts your original qi and rebuilds it. It’s fantastic to reunite with what is essentially a part of ourselves.