Tai Chi Class

Welcome to WholenessInMotion. Tai chi is a whole body and mind exercise that combines meditation, martial art and health tonic in one. This particular form is the Yang style, 37 posture short form as taught by Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing. This fascinating and intricate exercise has many benefits and just about anyone can practice it.

Take a look at this site and consider the study of relaxation and how it can benefit you in your daily life. I look forward to working with you. Tom Daly


 

Archive for June, 2009

Tai Chi Push Hands, a journey from small to BIG Mind

Posted By Tom Daly on June 13th, 2009

Tai Chi Push Hands, a journey from small to BIG Mind

For a long time we work on sticking, relaxing, yielding, structure, connection to the ground, connection to the partner, connecting the partner to the ground and so on. But what is the end game? Here’s one thought. Once you have ironed out the major questions of structure, relaxation, yielding and ground, then the mind can be free to feel the large circle. The large circle is the circle that surrounds the two of you. When the error of a partner is noticed, the large circle – the mind – can now work with “solving” the question that the error presents. This awareness of the whole is aligned with “being”. It is aligned with being in real time, not delayed time. By this I mean that their move is your move instead of your move is a reaction to their move.

Let’s look at push hands from a different perspective. When we push each other, essentially we are finding an error with our partner and thus an opportunity presents itself. The error creates a question in our push hands dialogue. The answer to the question is the push and the question can be several things. It can be, are you too tense? It can be, how can you respond to my action? It could ask, is your neutralization in sync with what I am doing? There is a conversation here.

When I am pushed, this is because of something I did or did not do. It is our job to NOT get pushed. We are responsible for preventing getting pushed. It is our job to answer the question of the pusher such that we remain comfortable and responsive. Of course, there are partners who are greedy and will take advantage of your inexperience in push hands, or some handicap for which you may have no solution. A good push hands partner will match your level and then the two of you can progress to the next level. I don’t have to take advantage of every opportunity. A good push hands partner is asking questions (with the body.)

When you begin push hands, there are so many questions that responding to anything seems impossible. There are too many places your partner can catch you. You are multiple knots and the partner keeps pointing them out. This is what push hands is: a method to show you where you are stuck.

The game that I am describing above assumes that the errors of form are errors that are localized: A tense shoulder, a stuck hip joint, not hearing the direction of the push, lack of relaxation in the chest and so on. Your mind is attentive to the small problems contained in your body. It’s a small mind game. It is a first step and this can last for a long time. I am pushed because I am tense, I need to learn how to relax that area within the context of the game of push hands, that is, within a context that is continually changing. We are solving our problems together and ridding ourselves of limitations.

When we are solving the small problems, we tend to have a mind that is focused on the small problems. This is like having a flashlight that scans the body looking for places that are not relaxed or responsive or.… The limited freedom you have is to address a finite point. Your mind is solving the small problems. In this sense, your mind is also narrow because it has a narrow area of focus. You have little agility of mind.

But what if all those small problems are no longer a problem? The game changes. Now we are talking about the agility and freedom of the mind. The flashlight now becomes like one of those huge grand opening lights that beams up into the sky. This light beams on the two of you. It reveals an interlocking puzzle where two bodies perfectly match each other. Each half is the answer/solution to the other half. The two of you are one complete circle. It is your job to match the other half of the circle like two sides of a coin. This is in real time, not delayed time.

From this perspective, the push comes out of a “crack” in the perfect interlocking circle. Perhaps you accidentally create this crack in the circle by mistake, or you initiate one to test your partner’s ability to perceive and answer the question. The crack is a question. One answer is a push. Another answer is to not get pushed. For example: I accidentally violate the circle (I disrupt the perfection), he/she responds by pushing me out. This is the perfect answer to the question of the whole. I may test my partner by presenting a question (violating the circle), and my partner may miss it. Then I push my partner out (the answer). He/she didn’t hear me clearly enough, so the push is one of “are you paying attention?” In another situation, I may test my partner by presenting a question, and my partner may hear it loud and clear. Then the partner answers by pushing me out. A new question gets created which demands a new answer.

By doing so, we are now working on the next level, the mind’s agility to see and respond. Try this just for fun: go slow and forget the small game of hands and elbows. Let the mind see the whole of both of you and allow it to surround all of you. Keep your mind on this large circle. Keep the push-hands form going for a while and see what you notice. Then go ahead and push or respond to a push, but don’t solve the small problem of the tense shoulder. Be the big solution of the observing mind. Be spontaneous.

The push hands form is a beautiful arrangement of mechanics. I adore them. They fascinate me. They are important. But if you think of push hands as a collection of mechanics, the power of the practice is gone. You are solving small problems and the mind shrinks accordingly. Yes, you need to solve these small problems but they are not the whole, nor the big solution. Mechanics can get in the way of the chi/energy. The mechanics serve the integrity of the whole, but they themselves are not the whole. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

A metaphor comes to mind, perhaps not as accurate as my fantasy suggests, but here goes. If you are in the jungle in a battle, the enemy is hard to see. He/she may be behind a tree, in a ditch, around the bend, over the hill. You don’t see him until he is right in front of you. But if you are in a helicopter above it all, the battle will be much clearer. The enemy is visible and you can direct your troupes accordingly. The whole that I’m looking at is like being in that helicopter taking in a large view of the situation.

I have played with some who have a good sense of the whole, but lack proper mechanics. Here a certain physical flexibility is lost. They are limited by this lack and get into trouble when the game heads in the direction of their physical limitations. They are forced to play a game that avoids their physical limitation. The vocabulary is limited.

I have played with some who have good mechanics, but do not have their mind on the whole. Spontaneity is lost as well as early detection of a valid solution. Often, force is needed to make these mechanics work and the potential of chi is blocked. Often they see one answer to all questions and miss other options. They rely on strategy.

Then there are those who have both. I am thinking of two such individuals. Try as I might, and I mean try with ALL my might, I can’t get my hands on them. They are perpetually out of reach and they do this in a flash. Suddenly, they are in my space and I am pushed.

At the very least, awareness of the whole will most likely clarify the smaller problems and make them more visible. At the very best, you will have developed a mind that is agile and responsive. The end game may be a good place to start with from time to time while you solve those small problems.

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