I like getting questions in class

“Every time we ask a question, we’re generating a possible version of a life.” – David Epston

Questions in tai chi group practice give me something tangible to relate to. They challenge me to delve into knowledge immersed just below the surface, waiting to emerge and bring light to a topic of interest. They bring teacher and student closer in shared experience and understanding. They bridge one story with another, thus creating a single story out of many.

tai chi for the blind

Check this article out about some interesting applications of tai chi.

Li Langshu (above) and Zheng Yuankang (below) teach at the China Swordmen's Society in Beijing, a civil tai chi organization that gives free lessons to people who are interested in learning tai chi over weekends. Photos by Zhang Wei / China Daily

Get in touch with your own sense of self with taiji

Susan Matthews, Rose Oliver, Wang Ming Bo
Susan Matthews Rose Oliver, Wang Ming Bo in August 2012 in Durango, Colorado

Physical qi reacts to psychic or mental energy. If we resonate with what we are doing we are energized by it. We may suffer from fatigue, but we don’t know where it comes from. We sleep relatively well, we eat well, or so it seems, yet we are tired early in the day. We are sluggish, depleted. We are not doing what we truly love to do. Taiji is a useful tool to many who want to reconnect with their energetic selves. It is like an aid to reestablish that old familiar feeling of happiness and a good feeling of energy to spare, especially while we are making efforts to get back to what we love. Taiji gets in touch with your own internal pulse. It unifies your energies, connects deeply with your own sense of self and helps you to be comfortable in your own skin. Relax into yourself, do what you do, naturally.

Plough through to the other side of practice

You have to keep ploughing through to the other side of your practice to arrive at a particular level of understanding. When you do, you see why it’s worth trying in the first place. This is a magical moment that you can reach in the practice of tai chi. My favorite practitioners of taiji are so happy to be doing what they do that it is easy for them to practice everyday regardless if anyone is watching. Many of us have to get through when we don’t feel like it. Getting motivated is hard to do. Why it’s easy for some and difficult for others is a fascinating topic, but I couldn’t tell anyone why if they were to ask. All I know is that something compels some people to come to taiji class.

Many if not most people who have come to my class have never returned. I don’t really know why. Did it have to do with my teaching style or the information itself, or if they just don’t have the conviction. Some people dream of becoming healthier, to heal themselves. They try taiji perhaps to address those needs. Does anyone who quits practicing ever remember why they thought of taiji in the first place? That original spark of interest?

One thing I have concluded from my own experience is that it helps little to try convincing someone that something is good for them when they don’t accept it for themselves. They may know it’s true, but many would rather believe in something else. In my case, I acted in spite of my tendency to quit, in spite of my doubts. My thinking was that I wasn’t doing anything else worthwhile to improve my health anyway. Not an ideal line of thought, I guess; but effective.

Plus, I always admired the strength and graceful coordination of martial artists. The energetic effortlessness of their movements. They also seemed to merge healthy activities with philosophical views about the world and their place in it. Not that others don’t do that, but in martial arts I feel more like I’m thinking about my place in the world and society deliberately as part of my taiji practice. How you interact with others is not only a martial encounter. Martial training is an umbrella concept for any encounter, including peaceful. This is a more holistic approach for me.