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 April, 2011

Tai Chi Chuan – Basketball, Baseball and Bowling

Posted By Tom Daly on April 28th, 2011

Tai Chi Chuan – Is Basketball, Baseball and Bowling

The Three B’s?

Tai chi replicates aspects of each of these sports, in its own way, and by doing so, you are working on each one.

With basketball, you are always dribbling the ball.  The ball bounces off the ground, and you give it a little push downward to take advantage of gravity, the floor, even the basic fabric of the ball itself.  You need to give it just the right amount of impetus to keep control of the ball and your body in relationship to that ball.

We dribble in tai chi too.  We do this by dropping our own weight into the ground.  We are the ball and we let gravity drop us onto the ground so that we can bounce off the ground.  With that bounce, we move our body forward.  Drop, rebound, drop, rebound, drop, rebound… and so forth.  Notice the same is true for walking?

With bowling, you take an under curve and a forward motion and you let the ball go to find its way down the lane.  Your body, the ball, gravity, the right angle when you let the ball go, the mind’s vision of the intended path of the ball, even an inclusive big picture of the pins at the end of the lane are included.

In tai chi, with each drop, rebound, we follow an impetus that moves us forward.   We let ourselves go.  Just like that bowling ball, we are being moved.  And just like that bowling ball, we follow that movement which drives us to the next shape.  In bowling, your eyes tend to follow the path of the ball.  In tai chi, we watch an internal sense of a path moving us forward.  We follow our chi.

In baseball, the strong connection to tai chi is when the baseball player is catching a fly ball.  The body lines itself up with the trajectory coming its way, the mitt has to give a little and continue this line, and the whole body has to connect all of the above into the ground for support.

In the Yin part of the postures, we have to align our weight and energy such that it is smoothly transferred into the ground.  It is no different than catching a fly ball.  Again, we become the ball, the mitt, the body and connect it all to the ground.  We catch ourselves as we transfer our weight into the ground.  It might be better to say the ground catches us and we direct ourselves seamlessly into that ground.  This requires exquisite alignment so that all of YOU transfer (energetically) into the ground.

Hitting a baseball has tai chi qualities too.   The timing in actually connecting bat to baseball is so fast that you internally predict the outcome – the strike of the bat to the ball – and give it a whack.  Scientifically there is a point in the process where the mind subliminally calculates what the body must do to hit the ball.  It is another big picture action because this is not linear.  Truly you and the ball need to become ONE for this to happen.  It all happens too fast for this to be the result of mental calculation.  This is a feeling, not a mental strategy.  The timing is a calculated guess.  Most of tai chi is a feeling too.

We might want to contrast this with football.  While catching and throwing a football has similarities to baseball, the brutal force of blocking the other team members or forcing the quarterback to the ground IS NOT like tai chi.  Here force is what is needed.  Force and tai chi are opposites.  It’s what you might technically call a “no-no.”

Interesting to note that in all these ball sports, no matter where you are on the field, the ball is the center of attention.  It is the center.  Everyone is connected to that ball.  Even those watching the game are connected to that ball.  The actual time any player is in physical contact with the ball is minimal, but the focus on the ball is constant and optimal.  We might say that in tai chi, the tan tien is the center of the focus.  We are always in touch with the tan tien as the hands feet and head reorganize themselves around that center.  We keep our (feeling) eye on the center.

Someone mentioned to me that many players in the stadium sports have to focus so intently on the game that their mind literally eliminates any awareness of the screaming fans.  Yep, to these players, the fans are an unnecessary distraction and therefore are not included in the task in hand.  A mental block is needed in order to play at a higher level.

Tai chi has a similar intensity of focus, but there is a difference.  A tai chi player would include all of that distraction and incorporate it into the “game.”  We develop a much larger mental arena and change our relationship to such distractions.  In this case the distraction becomes a source of added energy, much like what runners in a marathon experience when the crowd cheers them on.  Another way to look at this is to say that distractions are also players in the game.

So I like to think of tai chi as three sports in one.  (There’s a little bit of ping-pong, soccer, golf and .. well, you get the picture.)

Let’s hit that ball, catch it, dribble it and let it go….

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“Tai Chi Keeps You Stable” – Peak Health Advocate article

Posted By Tom Daly on April 20th, 2011

An Exercise Routine That May Keep You Out of the Hospital

Tai chi decreases seniors’ risk of suffering a devastating fall

April 18, 2011 | By Kimberly Day, Contributing Editor, Peak Health Advocate

Studies have shown that instability and falling are among the leading causes of injury and death among the elderly.1,2 In fact, seniors are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than from all other causes of injury.1,2

As staggering as this is, there is a silver lining. The ancient Chinese practice of tai chi has been shown to enhance balance and coordination,3 while also helping to improve bone density and reduce a senior’s risk of falling.4,5

Given this, two researchers from Ithaca College and Indiana University postulated that perhaps the reason tai chi was effective was that it helped individuals develop better posture control, while also improving the spinal reflex pathway that is key to posture control.6

Let’s take a closer look.

Testing Postural Sway and Reflex Reaction

Sixteen healthy participants took part in the study, and eight of the 16 had been practicing tai chi regularly for at least three years. Regularly was defined as practicing three times a week for one to two hours per session. The other eight participants had never done tai chi.

Each person was tested for approximately two hours, completing a postural sway test and a reflex test. The postural sway test basically looked at the person’s ability to stand for 15 seconds under four different situations:

Standing still with eyes open

Standing still with eyes closed

Standing still and turning head to the left and right with eyes open

Standing still and turning head to left and right with eyes closed

The reflex test used an electrode on the back of each person’s calf to elicit an H-reflex. Also called the Hoffmann reflex, the H-reflex is useful in determining “modulation of monosynaptic reflex activity in the spinal cord.”7

Of course, this makes no sense to the majority of us laymen, so I had to decode this scientific jargon.

Basically, reflexes react in a neural pathway that control actions related to that reflex. (Think of the knee tap that makes your leg jerk up.) These reflexes involve two different groups of neurons: sensory neurons and motor neurons. When just one of each neuron is involved, it’s called a monosynaptic reflex. Those involving more than one neuron from each group are considered polysynaptic.

In more evolved animals such as humans, the majority of sensory neurons don’t go through the brain. Rather, they join up in the spinal cord.

So, by testing the H-reflex, researchers wanted to determine the reflex action of a sensory and motor neuron found in the back of the calf when stimulated by a low-level electrode. The reason? Less response can be equated with better motor control.

To best assess the H-reflex, researchers tested participants laying down as well as standing up.

Tai Chi Keeps You Stable

The results were pretty amazing. When it came to postural sway, those participants who practiced tai chi had significantly less sway. In fact, with their eyes open, they had 14 percent less sway. With eyes closed, it was 30 percent. Turning the head with eyes open demonstrated 33 percent less sway, and turning with eyes closed showed 23 percent less sway.

When it came to that crazy H-reflex, the tai chi group had much better inhibition of the reflex while standing, 55 percent, as compared to the control group, which only exhibited 24 percent inhibition. Interestingly, when lying down, the two groups were pretty equal, with the tai chi group showing 71 percent inhibition, compared to 74 percent in the control group.

Researchers concluded that tai chi clearly helped to improve postural control, as well as reflex response. The net benefit of this is better stability and balance, which translates to less risk of suffering a devastating fall.

Get on the Tai Chi Bandwagon

Literally translated as “moving life force,” tai chi involves controlled breathing and choreographed movements that combine to resemble a deliberate, flowing dance. The graceful motions, called forms, are performed by slowly shifting your body’s weight from one foot to another while making synchronized arm, body and leg movements.

Because the movements are so slow and deliberate, they can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, at any time. Ideally, you should practice tai chi for 30 minutes three to five times a week.

However, due to the low intensity and relaxing quality of the exercise, it can be done every day.

If you have never tried tai chi before, you may want to start with a trained instructor who can supervise your posture and movements. Once you have learned how to do the forms correctly, you can practice on your own or with a small group.

1 Alexander, B.H. et al. The cost and frequency of hospitalization for fall-related injuries in older adults. Am J Public Health. 1992;82(7):1020-3.

2 Dellinger, A.M. and Stevens, J.A. The injury problem among older adults: mortality, morbidity and costs. J Safety Res. 2006;37(5):519-22.

3 Maciaszek, J. and Osinski, W. The effects of Tai chi on body balance in elderly people — a review of studies from the early 21st century. Am J Chin Med. 2010;38:219-29.

4 Henderson, N.K. et al. The roles of exercise and fall risk reduction in the prevention of osteoporosis. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 1998;27(2):369-87.

5 Murphy, L. and Singh, B.B. Effects of 5-Form, Yang Style Tai chi on older females who have or are at risk for developing osteoporosis. Physiother Theory Pract. 2008;24(5):311-20.

6 Guan, H. and Kocega, D.M. Effects of long-term tai chi practice on balance and h-reflex characteristics. Am J Chin Med. 2011;39(2):251-60.

7 Palmieri, R.M. et al. The Hoffmann reflex: Methodologic considerations and applications for use in sports medicine and athletic training research. J Athl Train. 2004 July-Sept.;39(3):266-77.

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WET Design CEO Mark Fuller – New York Times article

Posted By Tom Daly on April 17th, 2011

Please forgive me for this one, but the tai chi links here are abundant!  Listening, spontaneity, not knowing the next move, conflict resolution, change, curiosity, openness, honest self reflection, generosity, team work, being flexible, sense of humor.  Take a look if an original way of living in the corporate world is of interest.  Tom

April 16, 2011

WET Design and the Improv Approach to Listening

By ADAM BRYANT

This interview with Mark Fuller, C.E.O. (which stands for chief excellence officer) of WET Design, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Q. What’s unusual about your company’s culture?

A. We have three classrooms and a full-time curriculum director who teaches all the time and also brings in outside instructors. One of the really fun classes we do is improv.

Q. Why improv?

A. Improv, if properly taught, is really about listening to the other person, because there’s no script. It’s about responding. I was noticing that we didn’t have a lot of good communication among our people.

If you think about it, if you have an argument with your wife or husband, most of the time people are just waiting for the other person to finish so they can say what they’re waiting to say. So usually they’re these serial machine-gun monologues, and very little listening.

That doesn’t work in improv. If we’re on the stage, I don’t know what goofball thing you’re going to say, so I can’t be planning anything. I have to really be listening to you so I can make an intelligent — humorous or not — response.

So I got this crazy idea of bringing in someone to teach an improv class. At first, everybody had an excuse, because it’s kind of scary to stand up in front of people and do this. But now we’ve got a waiting list because word has spread that it’s really cool.

You’re in an emotionally naked environment. It’s like we’re all the same. We all can look stupid. And it’s an amazing bonding thing, plus it’s building all these communication skills. You’re sort of in this gray space of uncertainty. Most of us don’t like to be uncertain — you know, most of us like to be thinking what we’re going to say next. You get your mind into a space where you say, “I’m really enjoying that I don’t know what he’s going to ask me next, and I’m going to be open and listening and come back.”

We’ve got graphic designers, illustrators, optical engineers, Ph.D. chemists, special effects people, landscape designers, textile designers. You get all these different disciplines that typically you would never find under one roof — even making a movie — and so you have to constantly be finding these ways to have people connect.

So we do things like improv, and I think they really have developed our culture.

Q. What else?

A. We also encourage people to put their ideas on our walls. Or if you’ve got a drawing, you can stick a couple of magnets on it. The point is to get people to put their stuff out where other people can see it. We don’t want a culture of, “That’s my idea. I don’t want anybody to see it. Maybe they’ll find a flaw in it.”

I had a teacher once who said, “Whenever you guys are sitting here, and you realize that you’ve made a mistake on something you’re working with, I want you to applaud yourself.” He said: “That will accomplish a couple of things. First of all, instead of saying, ‘Oh, I made a mistake, I’m never going to learn this stuff anyway,’ you’re going to reward yourself because you caught the mistake before I did.” We all rolled our eyes in the class, but I’ve never forgotten that.

So one of the things I will do is to start some meetings by saying, “Let me tell you where I just screwed up.” That sets the tone of, we’ve got to put our mistakes out there. They don’t call it “learn by trial and success.” You learn by trial and error.

Q. What else have you done through the years to set the tone for your culture?

A. Early on, I decided that whenever somebody comes into my office and starts blaming something on another department, I will say: “Really? Let’s get them in here. Hold that thought.” It’s just like with your children at home — you don’t want serial tattletaling. You get everybody together, and then suddenly people are saying that maybe they exaggerated a bit, and things weren’t quite as bad as they said.

I’ve been in environments where a C.E.O. will sit back and try to watch a gladiator match for entertainment. That’s totally not cool. It’s so common, I think, in corporate life. You want to have the conversation and say: “O.K., what really went wrong here? There’s three of us in this room. We’re going to fix this thing. How do we do it?”

Q. You’ve clearly thought a lot about cultures and how to get people to work together.

A. I really love coming to work to develop the workplace and the team. I think it’s either a virtuous or a vicious spiral, and it’s exposed when you go to hire somebody.

To get really good talent, you need to be doing interesting stuff. Take a great kid out of college or somebody from another company — they’re not going to come if there’s not something really interesting to work on. I suppose you could throw gobs of money at them or something, but that’s not the idea. So you need to build the company so you have great talent, and great projects, and a great environment. You get those three, and then they just feed off of each other.

Q. I’ll keep asking: What else is unusual about your company?

A. One thing we do is we move people around a lot into different positions. And quite honestly, it’s pretty unsettling because everybody loves to be comfortable. I think we’re built that way. Find your cave, and draw some nice picture of a mammoth on the wall so it feels like home.

Most of my key people have held really different positions. That helps prevent these silos and fiefdoms that tend to get sclerotically reinforced over time in companies when people say: “Oh, the fifth floor is engineering. You don’t go up there without a hall pass.”

The world is driven by change, so part of my job, I think, is to stir things up.

Q. But at what level are you moving people around? You’re not taking the Ph.D. chemist and saying, “Learn sheet metal,” are you?

A. Not full time. We do take all of our key employees and put them through an immersion program that typically lasts six weeks. I can show you some great receptionists who are pretty darn good welders because they spent a week or two in the machine shop. They get it, and they understand what’s going on. Again, they’re not permanent assignments for everybody, but it’s really about walking in the other person’s shoes to understand their job.

Q. Let’s shift to hiring. What are you looking for? What questions do you ask?

A. There are two questions I would definitely ask after we’d been talking for a while. One is, “Do you like to read?” and, “What do you like to read?” I’m an unbelievable reader. Jeff Bezos is in the black only because of Mark Fuller’s daily Amazon orders.

And then I will ask: “What do you build? Do you do anything with your hands? Do you have a hobby? Pottery? Do you fix old cars? Do you have any kind of a shop in your garage? Do you play an instrument?” I’m listening for something tangible — something that tells me you’re not just all about work. I really value intellect, but I like people who are connected with real stuff, too.

Q. Are you asking that of everybody, even, say, a finance chief?

A. I do. If a finance person chops motorcycles or likes to repair his own computer when it breaks, they’ll have a connection to our technical people or our hands-on people as opposed to somebody who’s just Mr. Spreadsheet.

Q. Can you talk more about the qualities you’re looking for?

A. There’s sort of four things when you’re interviewing somebody. There’s passion and commitment. If you’ve got that, you can go a long way.

The next one is I.Q. I mean, you’re kind of born with that. So we look for signs of a high I.Q.

The third one is the one that most people focus on, which is explicit knowledge and experience. That’s actually the one thing that’s easiest to fix. I mean, you can pour knowledge into somebody’s head, and you can build experience over time. We try to get a blend there. We don’t want all just fresh kids out of school because then you’re inventing everything over and over again. So we also like some seniority and experience.

And then the fourth one is the negative category: we look for X factors. We may even try to prod them a little bit. Do they have a hair-trigger temper? Have they got an ego that’s going to get in the way? Those are our interview criteria.

Q. What else do you look for in an interview?

A. I like to find out what makes people laugh, because if people don’t have a sense of humor, if they can’t laugh, they’re really just not going to make it.

I also like to take people we’re considering for a key position on a tour of WET. I’ll take maybe an hour and a half, and I’ll listen for their level of curiosity. It tells me a lot. So most of my interview is actually walking around in the tour.

Q. And how long does it take you to get a sense of whether the person’s right or not?

A. I can tell pretty fast, and those are sometimes shorter tours.

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Is Sitting Lethal? New York Times article says YES!

Posted By Tom Daly on April 15th, 2011

Tai chi won’t counter a sedentary lifestyle as this article alarmingly details.  Still, sitting around too much is not good for your health and remaining active, even just a little, goes a long way.  I’ve edited this article a little bit.   For those of you who care… Tom

April 14, 2011

Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?

By JAMES VLAHOS

New York Times

DR. LEVINE’S MAGIC UNDERWEAR resembled bicycle shorts, black and skintight, but with sensors mounted on the thighs and wires running to a fanny pack. The look was part Euro tourist, part cyborg. Twice a second, 24 hours a day, the magic underwear’s accelerometers and inclinometers would assess every movement I made, however small, and whether I was lying, walking, standing or sitting.

A weakness of traditional activity and obesity research is that it relies on self-reporting — people’s flawed recollections of how much they ate or exercised. But the participants in a series of studies that Dr. Levine did beginning in 2005 were assessed and wired up the way I was; they consumed all of their food in the lab for two months and were told not to exercise. With nary a snack nor workout left to chance, Dr. Levine was able to plumb the mysteries of a closed metabolic universe in which every calorie, consumed as food or expended for energy, could be accounted for.

His initial question — which he first posed in a 1999 study — was simple: Why do some people who consume the same amount of food as others gain more weight? After assessing how much food each of his subjects needed to maintain their current weight, Dr. Levine then began to ply them with an extra 1,000 calories per day. Sure enough, some of his subjects packed on the pounds, while others gained little to no weight.

“We measured everything, thinking we were going to find some magic metabolic factor that would explain why some people didn’t gain weight,” explains Dr. Michael Jensen, a Mayo Clinic researcher who collaborated with Dr. Levine on the studies. But that wasn’t the case. Then six years later, with the help of the motion-tracking underwear, they discovered the answer. “The people who didn’t gain weight were unconsciously moving around more,” Dr. Jensen says. They hadn’t started exercising more — that was prohibited by the study. Their bodies simply responded naturally by making more little movements than they had before the overfeeding began, like taking the stairs, trotting down the hall to the office water cooler, bustling about with chores at home or simply fidgeting. On average, the subjects who gained weight sat two hours more per day than those who hadn’t.

People don’t need the experts to tell them that sitting around too much could give them a sore back or a spare tire. The conventional wisdom, though, is that if you watch your diet and get aerobic exercise at least a few times a week, you’ll effectively offset your sedentary time. A growing body of inactivity research, however, suggests that this advice makes scarcely more sense than the notion that you could counter a pack-a-day smoking habit by jogging. “Exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting,” says Marc Hamilton, an inactivity researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

This is your body on chairs: Electrical activity in the muscles drops — “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” Hamilton says — leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides — for “vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream,” as Hamilton puts it — plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall.

Hamilton’s most recent work has examined how rapidly inactivity can cause harm. In studies of rats who were forced to be inactive, for example, he discovered that the leg muscles responsible for standing almost immediately lost more than 75 percent of their ability to remove harmful lipo-proteins from the blood. To show that the ill effects of sitting could have a rapid onset in humans too, Hamilton recruited 14 young, fit and thin volunteers and recorded a 40 percent reduction in insulin’s ability to uptake glucose in the subjects — after 24 hours of being sedentary.

Over a lifetime, the unhealthful effects of sitting add up. Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher. Patel estimates that on average, people who sit too much shave a few years off of their lives.

Another study, published last year in the journal Circulation, looked at nearly 9,000 Australians and found that for each additional hour of television a person sat and watched per day, the risk of dying rose by 11 percent. The study author David Dunstan wanted to analyze whether the people who sat watching television had other unhealthful habits that caused them to die sooner. But after crunching the numbers, he reported that “age, sex, education, smoking, hypertension, waist circumference, body-mass index, glucose tolerance status and leisure-time exercise did not significantly modify the associations between television viewing and all-cause . . . mortality.”

Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”

The good news is that inactivity’s peril can be countered. Working late one night at 3 a.m., Dr. Levine coined a name for the concept of reaping major benefits through thousands of minor movements each day: NEAT, which stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. In the world of NEAT, even the littlest stuff matters. McCrady-Spitzer showed me a chart that tracked my calorie-burning rate with zigzagging lines, like those of a seismograph. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing to one of the spikes, which indicated that the rate had shot up. “That’s when you bent over to tie your shoes,” she said. “It took your body more energy than just sitting still.”

In a motion-tracking study, Dr. Levine found that obese subjects averaged only 1,500 daily movements and nearly 600 minutes sitting. In my trial with the magic underwear, I came out looking somewhat better — 2,234 individual movements and 367 minutes sitting. But I was still nowhere near the farm workers Dr. Levine has studied in Jamaica, who average 5,000 daily movements and only 300 minutes sitting.

Dr. Levine knows that we can’t all be farmers, so instead he is exploring ways for people to redesign their environments so that they encourage more movement. We visited a chairless first-grade classroom where the students spent part of each day crawling along mats labeled with vocabulary words and jumping between platforms while reciting math problems. We stopped by a human-resources staffing agency where many of the employees worked on the move at treadmill desks — a creation of Dr. Levine’s, later sold by a company called Steelcase.

Dr. Levine was in a philosophical mood as we left the temp agency. For all of the hard science against sitting, he admits that his campaign against what he calls “the chair-based lifestyle” is not limited to simply a quest for better physical health. His is a war against inertia itself, which he believes sickens more than just our body. “Go into cubeland in a tightly controlled corporate environment and you immediately sense that there is a malaise about being tied behind a computer screen seated all day,” he said. “The soul of the nation is sapped, and now it’s time for the soul of the nation to rise.”

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Tai Chi Chuan – Learning by Failing

Posted By Tom Daly on April 14th, 2011

Tai Chi Chuan – Learning by Failing

Learning tai chi is unlike learning other subjects.

Tai chi is a physical experience and, therefore, trial and error are required.  Some students want to figure it out, or see it in a video or get the book!  While that won’t hurt, it never really helps.

Tai chi is more like learning to swim by being put into a pool, shown a few strokes, and then encouraged to go towards the deep end.

In a tai chi class, you can’t learn it first and then do it. You can’t stop in the middle of a class, pull out a book and figure out the next move. You jump in, struggle, imitate, catch what you can and get into the groove as much as possible. You don’t first “understand” it.   You will only understand it when your body understands it.  And that means you have to try it  again and again and again.

You do it  to understand it.  I encourage beginners to jump in, not understand, do it all wrong and flounder at first.   Sometimes I introduce a movement without introduction.  We just do.  The students are confused.  But my goal  is to get them to be comfortable with confusion.  It’s a normal state to be in.  Being comfortable with confusion is what you need – exactly what you need –to learn tai chi.  How can it be otherwise?

Simply put, this is a healthy dose of “let me try this….”

An approach that includes confusion and failing is the opposite of how much of our education is delivered or the attitude of expectation in the work place.  We tend to like information first, practice later.   Frankly, that is the best way for many studies.  Can you imagine a math class where you are asked to add, but you don’t know the numbers or what add means?  Or fly a plane without a deep understanding of flight before you sit in the cockpit?  Law?  Medicine?

Tai chi is more like learning how to walk.  No one tells l you how to do it. You just watch how others do it and you keep falling down and getting up until you can walk.

Tai chi is more like that first time you rode a bicycle.  Once those trainer wheels were gone, you fell until you discovered how to sail.  How did that happen anyway?   You notice others can do it and you keep trying until you can do it.  And THEN you understand what it takes.

Our desire to know – before we do – cripples us in  experiential exploration: failure WILL happen frequently—and that’s the norm in tai chi.

Yes, it’s not safe, and there’s risk.  Acceptance of this failure, but trying again and again and again, is truly healthy.

How so?  Your body is learning a new skill.  Your mind, unfamiliar  with this new skill, may have a conceptual idea about that new skill, but this idea will never replace actually putting yourself on the line and just trying it out.  “Trying it out” amounts to following others in fits and starts  to grab clues or little pieces of what you think you see, until you merge with the others and can feel what you see.  It keeps you observing and alert.  It keeps you connected to others, too.

In the safe space of tai chi class, failure  is encouraged.  You have to jump in.  I have never liked that level of vulnerability in life, but in tai chi, that’s fine.  When you do “get it,” you will REALLY get it because you have earned it through trial and error.  You know what it isn’t.  When you feel what it is, it’s yours.

But rarely does this happen without a fare amount of failure.  Here, we fail until we learn… In this way, tai chi IS life.

Fail fail fail fail – success – Ah ha! I see!  This can be frustrating and even embarrassing.

It happened again for me in class recently.  Maggie gave me a correction in the sword form.  I did what I thought she was showing me.  “No,” she told me, and repeated the move.  Again I tried it.  “No, not that,” she corrected.  This went on for some time.  It was very very frustrating because I truly thought I was doing what she was doing.  Ah!  I finally got closer!  I began to understand after many attempted failings.

If you don’t have fortitude and patience, or lack the intention of developing those qualities in your life, tai chi is not the art form for you.

Push hands practice takes years of confusion and failing.  My own idea about push hands has changed radically in the last few years.  How I practice now is worlds apart from how I began.  How else can you make such changes without a large amount of experimentation?  I might be inclined to say that all that earlier work was a waste of time.  True, it took me a long time to see a different way (and frankly I’m still working on it!)  But all that earlier work clarified my latter discoveries.  My understanding is much deeper than it would be without that earlier trial-and-error practice.

Perfection is a wonderful goal.  Toss it and give yourself permission to stumble along the way.  I have NEVER seen any student fail who keeps trying to succeed.  Not one.

Note this wonderful aspect of tai chi class: Failure is expected and simply the way to learn.

I find that incredibly refreshing.

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