Zhong Ding

Central equilibrium. This is the Chinese word I know it as—Zhong Ding. I assume readers are familiar with it.  I came to understand that central equilibrium is more than alignment.

Alignment has a linear quality that we can become aware of in our bodies. It is two-dimensional, a line between two points. Equilibrium, which we can also become aware of, is orientation in relation to our environment. It is multi-dimensional. It is how we balance ourselves in response to the pressures from outside, of which there are many.

Almost every move we make is a response to some external force in our environment. The environment could be the physical environment near us or it could be a more abstract environment — distant and foreign.

Part of the release, and the relief, of letting go of things that are not essential to our well-being, which is a tai chi practice, is distinguishing between what it’s necessary to be concerned about and what is not.

We confront the overwhelming pressure from outside with great risk. We cannot defeat it, but we can relax and let it be. We don’t have to be concerned that we must respond. Yin instead of yang. Let yang take care of itself. Focus attention on yin.

So the act, as simple as it may be, of letting something go—tension, stress, anything at all—is emancipating. Our bodies respond accordingly and become satisfied, contented, rested.

Have you discovered your chi yet?

ma yueh liang

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.

ARTICLES: More research results on Tai Chi helping with health challenges

These two news articles refer to new research results talking about tai chi improving the lives of peripheral neuropathy patients and reducing stroke risks. I continue to hold tai chi and qigong classes in Durango for learners with a variety of challenges, as does my teacher and friend Susan Matthews in Cortez (she’s the anatomy, stroke and Parkingson’s expert). So please tell your friends about this news and help them help themselves by suggesting they try tai chi classes.

UT Tyler improves lives of peripheral neuropathy patients through Tai Chi

http://www.tylerpaper.com/TP-News+Local/273318/ut-tyler-improves-lives-of-peripheral-neuropathy-patients-through-tai-chi

Tai Chi may reduce stroke risk

Session P16 – Poster WP416

American Heart Association

https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-02/aha-tcm021517.php

The magic of tai chi

ptrichard-playpipaThe magic of tai chi is that as a movement method it has universal application to other forms of movement. Tai chi principles, which happen to have developed from the martial arts applications, are increasingly applied to the purpose of improving and maintaining overall health and well-being. In some respects, it’s not tai chi anymore, rather a modernized articulation of a practice and method transferable to many forms of movement.

One-minute or less tai chi exercise tips

We think we have to separate tai chi practice from our jobs and other daily requirements. We see it as a time thing. We either have time for tai chi or we don’t. We have to work. No doubt about that. Tai chi is extracurricular, not necessary.

This is difficult to accept as a teacher and a long-time practitioner. I prefer to see the issue as a “timing” thing and what kinds of movement can fall under the category of “tai chi.” By that I mean that if we time it right, we can do tai chi anytime during the day by simply recognizing that we have a minute or two to do something—however little it is.

To know what that something is is easy. I’ve given learners several things they can do and they can be practicing intricate subtle principles of tai chi anytime they think of it. Simply standing in Wuji and opening the lower back (ming men): hip sink down, waist rise up, spine elongates, vertebrae open and separate. Top of head rises, back of neck fills (“xu ling ding jing”). One of my teachers calls this (or something like it) “raising the Shen.” I call it a “one-minute exercise.”

Another one minute exercise: visualize expanding the dantian from point to ball. Maintain it as a ball. Even for 10 seconds. You will create a kind of “guardian chi” (not exactly the original meaning, but it applies in this case). It helps to protect you from detrimental energies in your environment.

The challenge is to shift the mind from the demands of work to tai chi even for just a minute or two. That’s the issue, not whether we have time or not. There always is time. The true goal, and what I believe motivates a person to learn tai chi in the first place, is to integrate some sort of “practice” in our daily lives that helps us to rise above demands (often unwelcome), and integrate mind and body connectivity in movement and thought throughout the day—to develop greater awareness of our deeper selves and to awake to that even in the midst of meeting the challenges.

Whether it’s having time, not having time, or simply, timing, doing tai chi is one challenge. Having energy is perhaps a greater, deeper challenge. I’ll have to talk about that another time though. I’m tired.

Where is the proof in tai chi?

They’ve got theories to explain and practices to prove, but you may never prove anything. However, the effort you make to do so is proof enough that it was important enough to at least try.

A tale of a taiji student seeking secrets

George Xu told a story a few times about visiting his aging teacher in hopes of obtaining “secrets” from him. But his teacher never told him anything. Master Xu visited him often hoping for some insight, but his teacher passed away before he ever did. After he died he asked his teacher’s wife what he did when no one was around and she said that he didn’t do anything.

“What do you mean?” Master Xu asked, surprised and distraught. “He didn’t do anything?”

“Just sit there and drink tea all day,” she said.

Although he must have learned a lot from his teacher, Master Xu worried that his teacher would pass away without divulging more of his knowledge . . . . which is what happened. Many old masters have taken much knowledge of Chinese internal martial arts to their final resting places.

Master Xu then told us that he eventually learned that the old master was actually visualizing the moves of the form and other applications in his mind. He wasn’t just sitting and drinking tea all day. He was actively going through his practice in his mind’s eye.

Master Xu tells his story hoping it’s the revelation for us as it was for him and we would see the lesson for our own practice.

Master Xu actually used the word “imagined” instead of visualized, which I see in the context of “imagery.” Susan A. Matthews refers to this as “mental practice.” She instructs the learner to see a move before your body does it. Don’t jump to doing it and sacrifice concentration.

Imagery helps to maintain continuity, which in turn cultivates powerful results. Indeed, research into sports has confirmed the power of imagery in cultivating competitive success. You become more precise in your coordination, your timing is more accurate, you’re stronger, quicker, and you develop power. Memory improves as does your skill at remembering. You can read many articles about this subject by googling, “sport imagery” or “sports visualization.”

Master Xu’s story resonates with me to the degree that I even instruct beginners on the importance of visualization as a powerful tool for learning and remembering things. But I think that few actually understand at first, probably because visualization lacks context with their own experience. Yet, perhaps we are all familiar with visualization, which is so ingrained in habitual mental processes that we no longer give it the attention it deserves when learning new information.

It’s certainly not easy for most of us to do at first. It’s like trying to swim without having learned. Or like trying to drive a truck with a stick shift after seeing it done only once or twice. It’s meditative and takes a little more effort than we are accustomed to. Learning new things keeps us on our toes and stimulates the inherent faculties we have to learn; abilities that, if we don’t use them, will shrivel and be lost.

Every beginner to tai chi is challenged with the very idea of learning itself in order to cultivate a familiarity with the information. Imagery and visualization are tools for learning. Growing adept at them will undoubtedly lead to greater knowledge and ability. Then when you are old and have mastered a great skill, and students come to visit in hopes of learning secrets, you can tell them they already know what it is.