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, 2010

Tai Chi Chuan – Release into Form, Form from Release

Posted By Tom Daly on June 26th, 2010

Tai Chi Chuan – Release into Form, Form from Release

There are two crucial qualities that we always balance in tai chi: Releasing into space on the one hand, and maintaining the external shapes of the postures on the other. Both are accomplished through non-doing.

First, we are releasing into space and ground at the full part of each posture. We let go into air and ground such that the mind and body extend outwards, filling the space outside of our physical boundary. It is like letting go of a flock of doves from your body and letting them fly off into the clouds in all directions. The body joins that sense of release and expansion.

Try this: grip your arm and fist, then open it, relax it and follow the dove flying outward with the mind. Imagine this going out from your tan t’ien in all directions. The body will naturally follow that outward expansion, stabilized by the use of ground. This is the infinite. That use of ground, incidentally, is much like a dove gently and carefully landing on the ground. This reminds me of where the classics suggest we “walk like a cat.”

But there is a form that impedes this following. We don’t just flow and release like some improvisational dance. We don’t lose our “form”. Postures don’t fall apart. Or become erratic.

Why?

I’ve stated that the form is a way to test the process that we are exploring. But there is more to the form than that.

In part, tai chi is about the gathering, concentrating and circulating of chi. We don’t let it fly away as I have suggested in the previous paragraph. The body and the shapes of the postures form a vehicle or container to store and circulate that chi. The “capture” of chi via postures is a natural occurrence.

This is more like swallowing water, something that happens with just about little or no effort and just the right amount of particular muscles. The channel is built into the physical body and the postures themselves. Another analogy would be the way that a river bed captures and channels water to create a directed and energetic current. Water does not leap out of the river and travel up the side of the mountain. This is the finite.

The form is a balanced container that cradles this energy. The chi itself is creating the shape of the posture (not muscle and bone). The posture gives us a boundary that surrounds the chi and prevents the chi from escaping. In order for this to happen, the postures must have no gaps, hollows or projections (according to the classics). Gaps, hollows and projections in a posture will impede the chi or let it escape from the body. As you develop your skill, the form itself becomes more and more precise, fuller, more substantial, more internally open, more polished and relaxed.

Currently, I’d say that only in the martial art aspect do we release chi from the body in order to discharge someone. This is the ultimate expression of opening and releasing chi from the body into space.

These are two end points in a continuum where ultimately you have ONE experience. The experience of release endlessly expands into space, but our physical body fills up and becomes the precise posture it wants to embody. We don’t put a lid on that releasing quality because this is one way (amongst others) that we increase our chi and increase our relaxation. The container gets fatter, thicker, more grounded and balanced, more substantial, more round and complete.

We release into space and into the ground, and the postures bloom into great yang energy. The boundless experience and the postures (container) are now fused into one gestalt.

To sound “new agey”, we are fusing our tai chi form with the whole universe, the finite with the infinite.

To be more humble, we are grounding this experience of expansion in the here and now, within our bodies, the infinite with the finite.

By “capturing” it, we become it.

By “becoming” it, it is ours to use.

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Tai Chi Chuan For Babies

Posted By Tom Daly on June 14th, 2010

Tai Chi Chuan For Babies

Tai Chi is a rather adult exercise. It takes patience, time, sustained effort, discipline, focus, long study and has many potent philosophical and psychological layers. In all this, it can be a pretty serious endeavor and if you take it too far in this direction, not all that much fun.

But wait! Did I say babies?

I am not thinking about babies in terms of ignorance or immaturity. I am thinking of babies in terms of their innocence, love, glee, curiosity and willingness to explore and play in the world around them. This is a big part of tai chi. It takes MORE than patient study. It takes gleeful curiosity and play to have it come alive.

Babies are all chi, are they not? It is natural and flowing and they interact with the world with a sort of innocent exploration that is key to our creativity and growth as human beings. This is not growth in terms of some preconceived result as in status or money, but growth in terms of experiencing new experience. They explore explore explore. But without any sense of a goal. It is just exploring because of the joy of it.

We are built that way it seems, but this quality gets lost for many of us as we become adults. Our place in the world takes on great responsibility, and this can crush our creative joyful exploratory spirit. Sometimes the playful quality gets attached to addictive or self destructive behaviors and takes us in the wrong direction. Play becomes escape from responsibility and serves as a way to run from difficulties.

Tai chi, with the attitude of a baby, is an endless source of enjoyment and growth. It’s like tapping into the “world of new” just to see what’s there. There is no sense of success or failure in all this. Can you imagine a baby evaluating its next move on the basis of some judgment regarding the worth of the exploration at hand? NEVER! They just do!

OK, they can get into trouble on that basis. I’m not suggesting we throw the baby out with the bathwater (couldn’t resist that one!) We do need to explore with some intelligence (with your internal sense of adult supervision!) We are not babies in total and thank G-d for that! But as long as we are not harming ourselves or others, this is a powerful way to work in tai chi. This is the tai chi edge, being creative, but not being reckless. Being open, but not being stupid. Finding the new, but not at the expense of the old. Learning from play to better handle our responsibilities, not walk away from them.

So, all you babies out there: Go and play! It’s the robust healthy part of the baby mind that I’m encouraging you to tap into and see where that takes you.

You might rediscover the world and tai chi in one fell swoop!

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Tai Chi Chuan – Why Study A Form If What You Get Is A Process?

Posted By Tom Daly on June 14th, 2010

Tai Chi Chuan – Why Study a Form If What You Get Is a Process?

I’ve suggested that studying tai chi form is not to learn a form but to learn a process. If that is so, then why do we take so much time to learn such a specific form? Why not just work with the process and dump the form?

Oddly enough, we need that form because it verifies our process. If we don’t have some tool to test the process, we won’t be able to tell if we have mastered any of that process. Hence, the form is the test.

Even from the start, we are learning principles and applying them to the very beginning of the form. Often we then get confused and think that the shape of the form, the form of the form is what we are trying to achieve. Nope. We are applying some principles to help ourselves learn these principles onto a template.

That template has to be very specific. For one thing, it actually helps us learn the process because it requires us to be aligned and relaxed. By separating it out from regular activities and being very specific, we are challenged to maintain these principles in a prolonged act of creating and practicing this form. If the form is working along the lines of the principles, then we are learning the principles.

It takes a long time to really learn what it means to fully relax. Some would say this takes a lifetime. So with a form in hand we work over and over and over again to fully explore these principles in many different shapes. And in doing so, we are polishing the jewel that we already are. It is like the sculptor who removes all that isn’t to reveal all that is.

After this, we take these principles onto the mat. We use them in push-hands which is a modified combat form. Can we maintain these principles through the infinite variations that are presented to us by our tai chi push-hands partners?

This all requires a sustained effort and great attention. Those are qualities that are often missing in our lives, except where we are forced to engage them. But tai chi is an activity that we elect to learn to add health and vitality to our body and mind. In addition to those reasons, it is a fantastic place to learn life altering principles.

These principles work everywhere, but since the form of life is very very grand and complex, the principles are hard to articulate, let alone actually practice. With a specific form to engage in, we can more easily work on the principles as specific challenges within a specific form. In that way, it is very small, but extends outward infinitely to potentially affect everything you do. Tai chi functions as a microcosm of life.

Another reason to practice tai chi.

Another reason to be in awe of the principles.

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