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 October, 2012

Tai Chi Chuan and the Operas of Benjamin Britten

Posted By Tom Daly on October 29th, 2012

Tai Chi Chuan and the Operas of Benjamin Britten

WHAT????

Let me explain.  I am going somewhere with this one.

I am a BIG fan of the operas (and music) of Benjamin Britten.  One of the few.  He died in 1976 and hasn’t totally infiltrated the classical music world despite serious admiration from music critics and scholars.  A few hits in his catalogue get played with respectable regularity.  Britten usually picks a literary source for his operas: Peter Grimes, The Turn of the Screw, Billy Budd, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Death in Venice, Paul Bunyon along with his three Biblical parables.  His style is somewhat oblique.  It is lyrical, yet not always melodic.  And in just about every case, when I first hear his operas, my response is more or less, “Interesting, but it doesn’t quite get me.”  But because they are interesting, I revisit his operas for a second, third, fourth and so on, listening.

Then something happens.  I get it.  While before it was sort of an intellectual curiosity, with a few intriguing bells and whistles, suddenly it has gotten under my skin.  The entire piece is as easy to enjoy as a dark chocolate chip pecan cookie: I am hooked.  I not only “get it”, but the pieces fall together and I see more and more and more of his musical intent.  It is wonderful to listen to and exciting to see his intellectual mapping of sounds and words.  At this point, I wonder how was it possible to not hear this before?  Before it was somewhat indecipherable, but now it becomes something I want to hear again and again…

This has happened to me with just about every single one of his operas.  In this regard, it is hard to share his operas with anyone because most listeners are not inclined to return to a piece because it is “interesting”.  Mostly, we want satisfaction in our musical listening time immediately.  I suppose my own curiosity about his work drives me to return to them with regularity.  If nothing else, he is famous and he spent a lot of time working on each opera.  The bottom line is that his work is deep and requires more to appreciate them.  And I know at this point that time spent listening to the Britten opera will reveal more.  (Example: in The Turn of the  Screw, I’ve read that between the 14 scenes are small musical interludes that are in fact 14 variations on a single theme.  While I can hear the interludes, I have yet to find them to be “variations” on a theme.  But that question – perhaps beyond my ability to actually hear it – keeps me listening a bit more deeply.  I’m truly curious and want to be able to hear this.)

So have you seen the link to tai chi?  That it doesn’t necessarily reveal itself immediately, that you need to return to it again and again and again, that once you see it, more is then revealed and becomes much more accessible, that once you see it suddenly the enjoyment factor explodes, and lastly that you need not only patience, but curiosity to keep asking, “What is here? What is going on?”  Britten took me years. Tai chi even more years.

Yes, to me, tai chi is like the Benjamin Britten opera.  All is relative, and not everyone will like the Britten opera, nor tai chi.  But the kind of mind I seem to have in relation to the Britten opera is exactly the kind of mind needed to explore tai chi.

(I have a friend who rolls his eyes if I mention Britten, and doesn’t see why anyone goes to an opera where you don’t hum the tunes immediately after you leave the theater.  Britten, like tai chi, has more up his sleeve.  He gets under your skin and the musical language is often below the surface and very complex. My friend will never be a tai chi student!)

OK, you can pass on the operas.  But I’ll assume that if you are reading this essay, it may clue you into how to wrap your mind around the “work” of tai chi.  What you hear today will change and you will hear more tomorrow.  There is a thrill when that happens.  And tai chi will get into your mind/body.

 

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Tai Chi by the Numbers for Advanced Practitioners

Posted By Tom Daly on October 28th, 2012

Tai Chi by the Numbers for Advanced Practitioners

What you don’t know when you are a beginner is that it only gets more difficult.  The difficulty lies in the changes that need to take place, not because these changes are so difficult in and of themselves, but because a habit sets in and it becomes harder and harder to see what is needed, to feel what is needed, and to move into a new experience.  You really have to become a beginner again in a way that really strains the ego.  You do know many things, but some of those things are unhelpful.  It is extremely difficult to determine which is which.

1. Let go of what you know.  Yep, approach it as if you don’t know this thing at all.  Look at it from every angle and see if something new appears.

2. Try something very different. Experiment. If you like a low form, do a high one.  If you like a slow form, do a fast form, etc.

3.  Find the opposite in what you are doing.  That is, if you are always working the ground, try to work the air, or the heavens.  If you do a “thin” form, try to make it “fat”.  If you have a fat tai chi form, get it to be thin and delicate.  Take on the opposite quality to see what you can see.

4. Watch others to see what you might want to replicate.  Assume they have something you need.  Mostly they do.

5. From time to time, question each posture.  That is, assume you need to know more about it.  Don’t settle for where it is now.

6. Know that your way is ONE way, not THE way.  Ideally, you should be able to do the form in a completely new way and still have tremendous benefit.

7. Accept all feedback, at least at first.  By this I mean you listen to the feedback, you give it a try to see if it feels right.  You might give it a try again.  It has to be sincere effort here – as if to prove it to you that they are correct. And then you can evaluate if this is something that may be of value to your tai chi form.  You may like the entirety of their suggestion.  You may discover an aspect of their comment that suits you.

8. Remember, you are somewhat like clay. You are malleable. You want to see how far you can stretch into new territory.  This is very much like play. I’ve seen tiny folk look strong and rooted.  I’ve seen beefy bodies be agile and feathery light.

This is the joy of our existence and one joy of tai chi.  Go forth and play!

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Tai Chi by the Numbers for Beginners

Posted By Tom Daly on October 28th, 2012

Tai Chi by the Numbers for Beginners

I am inspired to discuss a simple paradigm for beginner tai chi students, a sort of best practices to get a student up and running.   Because tai chi is very very different from other exercise programs, it might be helpful to lay down some pre-class guidelines.

1. Attend every class.  Tai chi will never come to you, you must go to it.  Because it is sequential and layered, there is plenty to learn at each and every class.  Don’t skip class, unless you have to.  It has to be a priority in your schedule, not an alternate plan.

2. Pay attention to everything that goes on in class.  It is sequential in that first things first – pay attention to your OWN practice and what you need to learn the moves.  If someone else is getting a correction, you need to pay attention to that because often the same correction or idea will apply to you.  Be aware of the special distance relationship to the other students and find the right place to be.

3. Practice at home, every day, even twice a day (as recommended by Prof. Cheng).  Benefits will never happen if you practice once a week in a class without home practice.  If you aren’t disciplined, you will need to find a way to become disciplined.  Some have the luxury of two classes a week or more and often those that really want to learn more quickly take up that option.  If you don’t have that option, you need to find some way to inspire regular home practice.

4. Pay even more attention.  Class is just one hour.  You need to take advantage of that hour to the max.  One hour in a week of 189 hours.  Keeping focus for an hour is a challenge – but you need to become a sponge.  Most of life is not like this – total commitment to the hour to get the most out of the hour.

5.  Be still and be silent.  Well, not entirely still and entirely silent.  You will need to ask questions or get clarifications.  But tai chi begins top down: teacher teaching student.  Later on, a dialogue will happen and in this way – questioning, doubting – the student helps to teach the teacher.  At first, it’s monkey see, monkey do.  Yep, that simple.  If it feels wrong, you need to speak up.  However, I always remind my classes that IF they think they can’t or shouldn’t do something I’m asking them to do, THEN DON’T!  It is always best to be conservative, particularly as you get to know your instrument in this new way.

6. Assume that change is a given.  What you wanted will change.  What you may need to do will change.  How you behave may change.  If you haven’t signed up for change, you will miss the magic of tai chi.  Most students are not aware that this is what is going on.  This is the basic matter of tai chi.  You don’t do “change”, it does you.  But being aware of this will help you get out of the way of stopping change from happening, which is where the problem always sits.

You will progress; I’ve never seen this NOT happen.  That’s the good news.

 

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Chen Man Ch’ing, My Teacher’s Teacher – Video

Posted By Tom Daly on October 28th, 2012

I believe he is in his 70’s in this classic video.  Amazing.  You may need to copy/paste to your  browser.  Tom

 

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Tai Chi Chuan and the Political

Posted By Tom Daly on October 19th, 2012

Tai Chi Chuan and Political

This political season has brought out an interesting tendency, noted in the New York Times in the past year.  I have a good friend who always always always relates to political topics from the emotional point of view.  That is, if it feels right, it must be so.  But of course, we are all like that.  What happens next is that we select facts that support our feeling.  So we self validate and feel right.  Then we pick our sides, look at commentary that agrees with our feeling, news shows that agree with our feelings, people who agree with our feelings.  It gets deeper and deeper until any opposing argument is handily ignored.  We can no longer hear anything but our own feeling data base of facts.  She will bounce off any and all suggestions to the contrary, sometimes even calling them lies because they don’t agree with her feeling data base.

I myself try to listen to other ideas and facts, but I am still going to relate to my own feeling database.  She really doesn’t seek out facts.  I do.  But even facts can be fishy or incomplete.  Today it is hard to find the facts.

So what does this have to do with tai chi?  In tai chi, we give up ourselves and follow the other. We play THEIR tune, not ours.  That is why it is a constant challenge.  I would say furthermore that the context of the whole is very much a part of the tai chi experience.  You involve you, them, ground, air.   It is a big picture, not the small picture.  In this regard, it may help move us past our own feeling database and check into what is real, or missing, or whole.  Often the isolated fact may lead you to the wrong conclusions.  You need more than that.

This is abundantly clear in push-hands where the two of you have to read a situation that is neither me, nor you, but both.  Reality is two sided.

In the recent Presidential debate, October 10, Romney was declared the winner.  One reason is that Obama did not stick and follow.   Romney made a few moves, and Obama silently listened, but did not respond.  It was perplexing.  Romney was on the attack and that is also a dangerous path.  It showed up in the second debate where his accusation was simply false.  The media was on his case immediately but a large portion of the population didn’t care.

If you say to my friend, “Free enterprise”, the world goes blank and that is all there.  Or all that matters.  But life is not like that. Try that in push hands and you are in for a big surprise. This is not a big point, but it is an important point.  One that truly changes how you might operate as you navigate the koan of life.

I hope your tai chi practice creates more questions than answers, more curiosity than certainty.

 

 

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