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 July, 2010

Tai Chi Chuan – Shen, Yi, Chi, Chin into English?

Posted By Tom Daly on July 26th, 2010

Tai Chi Chuan – Shen, Yi, Chi, Chin into English?

Say what?

I’ve been avoiding the Chinese concepts of tai chi in this blog space, but I’ve been reading a book that has me thinking along Chinese concepts. I’m enjoying the read.

I’m also re-writing it, but not with any sort of authoritative quality. I’m trying to match the concepts as he spells them out to my sense of the word and my experience. All of this is a bit heady and dangerous so I don’t take it too seriously. Nonetheless, I thought I might ponder on this for a bit and you can ponder too. We ponder as we wonder.

The book is The Art of Chinese Swordsmanship by Zhang Yun. I’m not recommending it, nor am I NOT not recommending it. From what I see and read, he looks really great. It is mostly pictures with detailed explanations of his sword moves. I’m not even sure I’ll read that part (most of the book) because our form is substantially different.

But his overview of tai chi has been satisfying and I like the ideas. I also like rewriting the ideas.

For the serious tai chi player, Shen (spirit) leads Yi (mind). Yi leads Chi (intrinsic energy). Chi leads Chin (internal force). Ultimately, according to Mr. Yun, Shen (spirit) is the main event and the hardest one to achieve. But it is the leader in this sequence.

He then goes on to say that initially we learn about Chin (internal force). Then we acquire Chi (intrinsic energy). This leads to Yi (mind). And Yi leads to Shen (spirit). So we learn in reverse order to acquire the path that comes back the other way as you gain experience. That sounds right to me. I guess this is because the essence is so difficult to reach or understand or experience, but it is the real key to living.

But those vague concepts. Those groundless words. What DO they mean, really?

Of course, some will argue that to even try to find words to wordless experience is a fool’s errand. Alas, here I go! I think words can help as much as they can hurt. See how this works for you.

I can only guess at meanings and give them my best shot. The translations into English above are OK, but when you hit the word Chi in the Chinese world, you face more ambiguity than I care to deal with. It starts to feel meaningless.

So with a grain of salt let me give you my words. I regret that I can’t hear yours.

To me, Shen, Spirit, conveys a certain Will and Intension to begin your movement. It is not fully expressed yet and can go anywhere, but your mind and body know they are about to make some sort of decision to do something and they pull you together to get ready. Before knowing, this is an act of existence. It is BEING. This is like undirected potential energy. It is BEING here now and BEING ready for …. To me, this has a full quality. To Be.

Yi, or Mind: I like to think this is simply Awareness. You know you know. You observe what you feel. You SEE. You can put your mind where it needs to go to do what the body/mind needs to do. This has an empty quality to me. That is, emptying out so that thoughts are not in the way and pure awareness can take over. It is one step removed from Shen. To See.

Chi. Intrinsic Energy. I’ll go with that. I’ve written some about it before. When I think of Chi, I think of all the cells participating to make this happen. It FEELS very cellular to me – the energy of each and every cell working in concert. This brings me back to fullness. All is in motion, if not quite moving forward or backward. To Feel.

Lastly, Chin. Internal force. He elaborates quite accurately that this is about all the muscles being relaxed and coordinated such that the “force” comes from the whole of the body’s effort. All parts are doing the job for a whole body to do the job for one movement.

But I think I would avoid the use of “force” altogether. Not that it is wrong – a certain kind of “force” does come from using the body in this way. But I like the notion of Wholeness better, or a sense that parts interact with each other to make the whole ACT but no single part is doing all the work. A unified whole ACTION (hence, effortless effort). Another empty “technique”. To Act.

Mr. Yun encourages us to explore each facet individually and really understand them. This sounds very useful, if not impossible. I’m guessing that some of these cannot be separated from the others. But giving some mind (Yi) to each one seems to have some benefit.

I have another thought on this paradigm. Perhaps the sequence could also be described along the following path:

Gather Up Your Intention, Existence (BE),

Find Your Mind’s Focus (SEE),

Feel Your Potential Energy (FEEL),

Act From Total Movement (ACT).

Shen is gathering up your forces (your will or your existance), Yi is adding a needed focus to be here now, Chi is using internal energy for moving, Chin is activating the Chi of the whole body for a total movement. True or false, this seems like a good way to work on the form and to gain greater integrity in your life. Or so I believe.

Being eventually leads to Action. We learn in life first through Action, noting how that Feels, growing this into a larger domain of Seeing what it is you are doing, and ultimately learning what it means to dwell in Being. As I stated before, if we can really dwell in Being, the rest can fall out naturally. But life is often a path where we learn how to be. So is tai chi.

After this, it is all flow, allowing, letting go and letting it happen.

I like this division of “states”. I’m buying it.

Shen, anyone?

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Tai Chi Chuan – What You Don’t Know May Harm You.

Posted By Tom Daly on July 18th, 2010

Tai Chi Chuan – What You Don’t Know May Harm You.

Well, I don’t mean to be too obvious so let me elaborate.

It is an interesting phenomenon in tai chi push hands that you get pushed as soon as you are not aware of where you are tense or holding on or resisting. If your partner can find that spot, you are in trouble.

But the real trouble is that many times, even when your partner TELLS you where the spot is, you still can’t feel the stuck place. We can’t see what is right in front of us. We have a hard time feeling ourselves and the more experienced player will have the upper hand. In part, it is more than just an inability to feel ourselves. Sometimes we are simply holding on to an idea and we ignore what our bodies are telling us.

So, too, in the emotional world. The unrecognized holding pattern or resistance will leap out and do you in. It almost seems as if it is a law. What you don’t see in yourself eventually will out. And it is never a good thing. Alas, the unexamined life is not only not worth living: It’s dangerous.

I was in a situation recently where I felt a great deal of internal anxiety. But I was also performing to others that I was not in a state of anxiety. I even hid it from myself. We had an exchange, and out came the tension in the form of a joke. It was not warmly received to say the least. I looked rather dumb. Oy vey!

There it was, the hidden tension waiting to expose it and me. In push-hands, the hidden tension is also waiting there to expose you to their push.

Besides lots of practice, the main solution in both cases is relaxation and observation. Being aware of you, and continuing to peel off those layers of habitual tension that hide the fact of hidden tension. It takes time and thoughtful awareness to allow it to come to the surface. After all, hidden tension is there because you DON’T want to see it. Or you are too lazy to look. It stays hidden unless you actively work to let it go. If you don’t let it go, you find yourself in a situation where the tension takes charge and you become a slave to that reaction.

The simple requirement of tai chi practice to relax relax relax can feel unproductive. It’s not. It’s the primary activity to allow you to have real control over your body and emotions. By control, I don’t mean some way of gritting your teeth to insure that the status quo keeps where it is. Control here means that you have the choice of following the impulse… or not.

If you have choice in the matter, you have control.

So work with that primary practice of relaxation and see where it leads you. And see what leads you to relaxation.

One more point: this kind of relaxation is not some kind of slovenly deadening state. It is an alert relaxation, sensitive to your body and spirit, sensitive to the external world.

The goal of being relaxed is a very serious matter.

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Tai Chi Chuan – Five Simple Tunes

Posted By Tom Daly on July 3rd, 2010

Tai Chi Chuan – Five Simple Tunes

Here are five simple things you can do to warm up with. I usually rock from foot to foot and do the push posture over and over and over again. Any posture will do however. With each one of these individual foci, I may spend a few seconds or a few minutes, depending on my mood.

The first is being aware of both legs BEFORE you shift. You relax into the leg you are on, AND you line up the un-weighted leg, being sure that you are fully connected to the ground, but with no weight on that foot. It is like a double rooting. One root is full, into the full leg, the other root is empty, into the empty leg. Both get equal attention.

The second tune is simply putting your mind into the tan t’ien (center) and going back and forth with that as a primary focus.

The third is putting your attention on the external oval that surrounds your body. I’ve written about this in a previous blog in greater detail (Polishing the Stone). You focus on balancing and polishing that outer smooth continuous oval that you are contained within.

The fourth is simply feeling the whole chi of the body as you rock back and forth. To me, this means the sensation of every cell participating in the movement. Millions upon millions of cells are contributing to your wholeness. Nothing is left out.

Fifth and final tune, as you sink into the full part of the push posture, your body fills up, the shape is full, and you are extending to the whole room, the universe, with your mind. Your body relaxes accordingly. I’ve written about this one previously in greater detail in blog essay Release Into Form.

These five aspects seem to me to be central to what we want to achieve in our practice.

What can you discover in the midst of reminding yourself of these tai chi functions?

What can you add?

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