Tai chi is getting in touch with your own silence. Your inner place of peace. “Quiet mind,” as the teacher says. Quiet, not inactive, or complacent.
The irony is that the ultimate goal of tai chi is to see beyond one’s self. Not just to look inward and find silence, but to go outside of one’s self from a place of silence within.
You could argue that you must first find silence within in order to hear what’s out there. If so, then maybe the best avenue to silence in the whole being is to look at what nature offers. We could evolve our practice, thus ourselves, as a result of observing nature.
More irony: When we do try to observe nature, we often seem to hold on even more to our habitual self-talk that we are trying to quieten in the first place. Then what do you do?
Practice. Focus your attention on the dantian, for example, and move from there. Gradually extend the movement outward from deep within yourself, utilizing all of your senses, eventually.
We have expectations, not in the sense of demands. We just expect things are such that they fit with our ideas about them.
It’s like taking things for granted without realizing we are. Transparent and invisible. We become vulnerable to outside influences primarily by virtue of not being aware (apparently) that we’re taking something for granted.
I see people do tai chi with this habit, thinking that tai chi is what we think it is. Even though we’ve never done it before. We’re the same way with everything we do, especially involving movement.
To illustrate this difficult-to-grasp idea, you can look at the two aspects of training in tai chi: physical and energetic.
I notice it most when teaching other learners. They take to the physical rapidly, although it’s a little alien at first, because it requires unpracticed effort and memorization. They learn the moves and sequences, which are difficult enough and take time to get familiar and comfortable doing.
But we more readily balk at grasping the energetic basis of movement, which requires us to employ a different skill than we are accustomed to. Energy doesn’t stand still. It fluctuates, pulses with life, and is much more elusive and difficult to put a finger on or hold it back. You have to learn to work with it on its own terms. If you do, you’re rewarded with practically magical results.
One doorway into this skill is to change awareness from rote memorization to the sensation of movement itself. We shift perception and observe how, or of what, we are aware.
With beginning practitioners, I focus on a point in the body at first, such as the dantian—a point of departure, so to speak. We sustain the focus on this point while executing a move.
The first stage is developing energy awareness in tai chi is to simply become aware of qi. This is followed by being aware of it moving, or “flowing,” then realizing that it can be directed with mind intention.
We all use these skills, but it has not been a focus of our attention for most of our lives. We’ve taken it for granted to the point of it losing its effectiveness. With tai chi we realize that it can be redeveloped and we can get more out of it than we had imagined.
Assumptions obscure obvious opportunities. If only we would look more closely. …in tai chi and in the world itself.
You must be logged in to post a comment.