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, 2012

Tai Chi Chuan and What You Need to Leave Behind

Posted By Tom Daly on July 15th, 2012

Tai Chi Chuan and What You Need to Leave Behind

I am reminded that when we first attend tai chi class, we come as we are.  Sometimes that’s good, but mostly we need to adjust and that implies change.  Some students don’t see it and they quit quickly.  After all, they arrived at tai chi in order to get something, like shopping at Barnes and Noble.  When class doesn’t go the way they wanted it to go, they think they have arrived at the wrong class.  One might agree, but I would say students need to take a hard look at what they want and how they interact in class.

Tai chi is about change and sometimes that includes your attendance style in tai chi class.  I have one funny memory of correcting a student on her first class.  Her thumb stuck out.  When I tried to correct it, she told me that it was relaxed and this is the way her thumb is when it is relaxed.  I smirked a bit and said, “Have it your way.”  She never returned.    I most likely should have not corrected her at all.  She wasn’t ready for it.  I shouldn’t have been so snide.  I learned something, but I suspect she did not.

A very good student could not remember the postures and therefore could not practice at home.  She clearly stated that she wanted to be “in the moment”.  I clearly stated that she should just focus on memorization of the postures.  Time went on and she quit.  “In the moment” was not what was needed.  (That’s a much later development.  It happens and you don’t have to work for it.)

Another student in following along with the 18 therapies decided, between each of these movements he would press his body into the ground by roughly bouncing up and down as if he was pushing himself into the ground.  His intention was to root himself in the ground and clearly this had come from some other practice.  But that was not what I was doing or trying to accomplish.  I momentarily lost it and snapped, “Don’t do that!!”  He never returned.

I shouldn’t have been so curt.  I learned something, but I suspect he did not.

I’ve had to learn to leave things behind as well.

One student was disappointed because there were so many students in the class, so she quit.

Another was afraid because the class was too large for the space and his feelings of claustrophobia got in the way.  He quit.

I am amused by those that really want to “discuss” tai chi in class.  Mostly that goes nowhere, unless it is the teacher talking to convey a concept or answer a specific question from a student.  Most of the rest of conversation is fruitless, but I would be hard pressed to convince those that rely on conversation to think differently.

I am not against some intellectualization of tai chi (note this blog).  That can feed understanding and inspire practice.  But for some, it basically ends there.  They never really begin to practice.

“Words don’t cook the rice,” my teacher, Maggie Newman, often reminds us.

I would add, “Be here now! Pay attention!”  (I can be shrill.)

I spoke to a student who was attending class and asked if she was practicing regularly.  She wasn’t.  I challenged her to practice EVERY DAY, twice a day, for two weeks, claiming she would notice a difference.  After two weeks, I asked her if she noted a difference.  She replied that she does it a bit faster at home, but that the way we just did it in class, it was “Amazing!”  Something clicked.   Her practice hit home in class that day.

The more advanced students rarely say much.  They mostly listen attentively or ask a single and pertinent question.  They watch carefully.

I spoke with a very honest yoga teacher once.  He told me what he is offering his students is some sort of fantasy.  Each student brings that fantasy in with them.  I’m sure this teacher understands the real value of yoga and he most likely is a good teacher.  But that doesn’t change how a student interacts with the information at hand.  I respected his honesty.

Tai chi class is a new relationship with its own dynamics.  By that I mean a new relationship to learning itself.  I don’t want to stop a student from being who they are.  I want them to utilize the time so that they maximally gain benefit.  But we all come through that door thinking we know what that is.  It ain’t necessarily so!

I haven’t been involved in politics, but I sort of envision a political meeting where one is bringing who you are into the meeting and this has real benefit.  In tai chi class, you have to be more artful, more discerning.  Not all of you will help you get the most out of class.  Parts of you will.

I am reminded of a student who finally gave up all expectations and suddenly the class became very interesting, satisfying and more beneficial.  She is hooked and attends as many classes as she can.  Odd, isn’t it?

I treasure tai chi class as a special period of time to focus and let go.  It is unusual in its demands and satisfying when you get in sync with those demands.  Where else are we asked to feel our physical space (internally and externally) so intently?  By doing so, the value appears.  Preoccupation with who YOU are and what YOU want brings the process to a grinding halt.

It’s not wrong to have a fantasy when you join a class.  Or a goal.  Just be clear with yourself about what that is and then give yourself over to the teacher’s approach, whatever that may be.

Over time, what you want may change.   And that might be a lesson you’ve been waiting for.

Posted in Philosophy
Comments Off on Tai Chi Chuan and What You Need to Leave Behind