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 November, 2009

Tai Chi: To Change or Not to Change — That Is the Question

Posted By Tom Daly on November 3rd, 2009

I spoke with a successful friend a while ago and asked: In the last ten years, how have you changed?

Answer: No change at all!

I was momentarily stunned. I see life AS change and assume if you are alive, you are changing. I guess this is not so for all.

Personally, I’ve had to change because there were so many things that I needed to let go of and address. I resented this for a long time. So it makes sense that I have taken up a practice that is about change.

My teacher of many years, Maggie Newman, is still looking for what can be improved in her tai chi form. It’s just part of the fun at this point. Change in tai chi ultimately means better functionality, more relaxation, more balance, and greater whole body unified movement. You will feel better as you discover new ways to accomplish these goals. She carries this into her non-tai chi life as well. Maggie is always exploring new ways to encounter reality in order to better meet up with reality.

They say in business that if you are not growing, you are dying. I have the privilege of talking to accomplished individuals in science and engineering and business. They are always on the prowl for improvement: Improvement in either themselves, or in the operations that they are involved in. Most work very hard and rarely do they rest on their achievements. One goal is accomplished and off to the next one. Yes, this can be form of workaholism. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be a source of creativity and liveliness, a form of being fully engaged.

We can rest in a comfort zone, or repeat endlessly the niche that we do well. This can lead to a success of sorts. But it is also dead in a way. It’s inert, complacent, self-satisfied, unmoving. At a Zen talk one day, the monk speaking noted that it is good to do things we don’t do well. I didn’t get the point then, but I do now. The point is not about success or failure. It’s about a willing connection with whatever you are doing without judgment or motive. It’s about pure engagement.

Change can come naturally, without effort or conscious intent. Or one can consciously decide to work at it, perhaps motivated towards a better world, a better me, a better you. Change, therefore, can be a choice. You decide to engage with the changing world and therefore you will need to change. It is possible to decide what aspects that you want to change. It could be small, incremental changes, or large sweeping changes. It can be internal changes, or external involvement effecting change. I suspect either way, the arrow will go in both directions. By this I mean, if you decide you need to make an internal change, this will create changes in the external world. If you want to make real changes in the external world, it will cause changes in your internal world. External forces may create or even force internal changes. We grow into new perspectives this way.

Tai chi is a very internal art. The changes are mostly about your physical and mental state. It will definitely impact your external world. Since there is so much to study and work on in tai chi, in one way you can select what’s next on the study list. Or you can ask your teacher or fellow student what they think you might tackle next. This can be a very exciting journey.

I tend to be fearful of change, but fear is not really a part of tai chi. I also tend to change slowly and that is fundamental to tai chi because the changes in tai chi are very deep and very subtle. They take time to manifest. Fear tends to actually block progress and it is harder to change in a fearful environment (internal or external). One has to deal with, or at least minimize, fear.

Mostly, tai chi feels like experimental play. You experiment with various aspects until you are ready to attempt play in a potentially fearful environment (as in aggressive push-hands partners). But even then, there are ways to minimize the fear and maximize your ability to experiment.

The mindset of discovery, to learn something new, is a way of engaging life. As you change your tai chi form, you could be changing your life. You never really arrive, settle, or land with a final “product”. You are always experimenting and playing with SOMETHING. In this way, tai chi is endlessly fascinating.

Do you know how to stop growing in tai chi (or life)? Assume that what you are doing is right, or that the path you are on is the right path. OK, in fact, it may be that your path is the best path for you, but you always need to test it. And test it again. Is there a better way? Did this really work? Is there something else? Did I miss something? How do others manage this?

I hold high the example of those who think they really have it nailed down. I hold them high because I know I don’t want to replicate them. They prove my point. They don’t improve. They repeat some “technique”. They may even be very, very good at what they do. But this doesn’t make them right or better or successful. Often, it makes them stuck. It is easy to delude ourselves when we “win” using some “technique”. In push hands, it’s easy for me to confuse a beginner by doing something other than using real tai chi principles. I can fool myself into a feeling of superiority.

These last paragraphs may give you the impression that you have to constantly second guess yourself and never feel secure. That’s not the point. You only have to work towards freedom of movement, relaxation and ease, and to keep working on ways to accomplish this. It’s the difference between saying, “Here’s how it’s done – here’s the answer” versus “Currently, this seems to work best for me. It feels good. What works for you?”

Catch that shift? You can feel good about the experience you are having right now. You don’t have to close the door to something new. Nor do you have to invalidate someone else’s experience to prove your own.

I love most the example of those who keep learning and experimenting and playing with the principles of tai chi. Sure, I’m a sucker for a new “technique”. But growth and learning don’t end there. This is where it begins.

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