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, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – An Expression of Personality – NOT!

Posted By Tom Daly on October 28th, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – An Expression of Personality – NOT!

Years ago, I was working with a visitor to Maggie’s class with Push-hands.  He was not very good.  All doing, not following, in control, in charge, totally confident.  It turned out that this guy was a heart surgeon.  And if I needed a heart surgeon, I’d want him to do the job, be in control, be in charge and be totally confident.  But none of this becomes good tai chi.

I have to say, I am deeply suspicious of “personality”.  Yours, mine, everyone’s.  And yet we don’t function well without a personality.  It is the way we gage each other’s intent and authenticity, sharing our concerns in life, moving through our journey.  To the extent that it reflects our inner selves, this is a fair place to begin with.

But this personality also functions as a crutch.  With any crutch, other muscles atrophy.  We delude ourselves from a more realistic view of who we are.

We each have a quality that we want to project.  And yet for each of those qualities, most likely the other side of that quality resides inside, hidden from view, perhaps unconsciously.  Not always, but often.  It is as if this personality represents who we are, when in fact it doesn’t.  It is just the portion that we want others to know.  On the job, often this is appropriate:  I’m in control, I’m knowledgeable, I know what I’m doing, respect my authority, etc.  And of course, there is no need to be running around the planet exposing ALL of who you are all the time.  Most of us wouldn’t want to be around such a person.  TMI!

All the world’s a stage Shakespeare tells us and our personality is often a performance.  Yet we don’t see it that way.  We may want to project our kindness, our intelligence, our sincerely, our caring parts and so forth.  I am XYZ and that gives me value in my own eyes. It should tell you what you need to know about me and you should value me as well (for example).

If you want to know the core of what you like to project, just look at what makes you proud about yourself.  This mission statement may in fact be true.  But it is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me….

There was a funny if violent moment on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  She crushes her opponent (physically) and tells us she acted like Gandhi… “on a bad day.”   While I doubt Gandhi ever had such a day, the point rings true.

In tai chi, your personality doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t help.  It will impede your progress.  Tai chi is not about what makes you stand out.  It is about how you mesh with.

With push-hands, the personality REALLY gets in the way.  We try very hard to manifest principle in order to develop.  But this often relates to our personality.  A whole new set of “traits” that we want to express come rushing forward, much like the old traits: I’m soft, I’m vulnerable, I’m tough, I’m a winner, I’m kindly, I’m more thoughtful, I’m intelligent, I’m non-violent, I’m superior, I have the key, I’m unbeatable, I’m on top of my game, I’m…. well, whatever.  It becomes another feather in our public appearance.  It separates you from your partner; it separates you from the group.

Being with your partner and being with the group are tai chi goals.

(And if you ARE “better” than others?  That is for them to say, not you!)

Similarly, in a group form, the goal is to attach to others in the group.  So YOU are not so important.  Your ability to just go with the flow is what is important.  Even here, comparisons in our heads intervene.  In a way, that pulls you out of the group and puts you on high as an audience member with your personality garb in charge.  The personality never sees life as it is.

When you compare, as we are inclined to do, this is a red flag that your personality has emerged.  I recall a group form when someone asked me to offer them any suggestions or criticisms.  As a participant (not as a teacher) this makes no sense.  I don’t want my mind involved in criticism or comparison.  I want my body involved in joining the flow of the group.  For me, that takes all I’ve got and then some!

I speak here from experience.  My face flushes red when I see how my personality manipulates and performs in order to claim some level of distinction.

WHO AM I is central to tai chi – though never really discussed.  Letting go, being with, following – all of these point to a reality that allows more to happen.  YOU become WE in push-hands, and this joins the ground, the air, and the heavens.  WE become all of creation.  This is equally true when doing the group form.  This is why a group form can feel so uniquely satisfying.

Some use tai chi to distinguish themselves from the flock.  Lots of Self proclaimed “Masters” out there!  I’d like to have tai chi teach me how to melt into the flock and give my personality a rest.  At least for a while.

Let me be clear.  I suspect few if any of us ever rid ourselves of our personalities, nor do we want to.  I’d so miss all the entertainment!  But this is not a tai chi goal.

To develop the US, the WE, is a tai chi goal. This is the challenge, this is the profound joy!

 

 

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Tai Chi Chuan – Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Posted By Tom Daly on October 28th, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – Perfect is the Enemy of Good

I have a Push-hands partner who is very good for my development in a certain way.  But in another way, he embodies what I would call the worst way to work with any partner.

The other day, he gave me three “bad” pushes.  He then tells me that this is what I was doing to him.

What he showed me is what he THINKS I was doing.

And what was I doing?  I was most likely working on something in the push that grabs my attention.  But here it gets muddy.  This doesn’t mean the push itself was all that good.  I don’t have a push I am truly proud of yet so if I am practicing, I will try something to see how it feels.  Once in a while, it feels better than others.

If asked, I might say I am working with X.  Maybe X is working well, maybe not.  But that in no way says that the entire push was in working order.  I’m trying to get at something specific.  I am PRACTISING.  And to me, practice is a time to experiment.  I’m not so big on winning or being the best or proving my martial fighting might.  Nice if you get there, but even if you do, in my world you should STILL keep experimenting.   This is something my teacher taught to me.  Maggie Newman was always on the hunt for something new, something vital.  It was exciting!

And how can you experiment if your partner believes that ONLY perfect pushes demonstrate progress?  This kills the creative process!

I have little doubt that his imitation did NOT replicate what I was doing.  To take the upper hand in this way is pointless.  I didn’t even comment.  I just let it go and didn’t pay much attention to it.

A good partner could investigate. He’d ask what are you trying to work with when delivering these pushes?  Then we have a real discussion.  Part of what I was doing may be in fact VERY GOOD, but putting my attention on one thing in no way guarantees that the whole operation is flawless.  Or soft.   Not by a long shot.  In this case, the push was judged and dismissed – It wasn’t perfect!

When I give an observation, I usually point out what it is I think I am seeing and then I offer what I think is a solution.  But it is only my thought.  I could be wrong.  My partner can agree or disagree or offer up what he was trying to accomplish.  Now we have a discussion.  Now we might learn something.  You can’t text this!

If you plan to comment on the other, you had best have a language that can express it.  You need to be clear.  It needs to be meaningful and shouldn’t rely on old buzz words, or something you read in a book.  Be sure you have a clear SOMETHING to offer.  When it’s truly yours, you will have your words to express it.

I really enjoyed a moment in class the other day when I put out an idea, and a student rephrased it.  The new phrase had a wonderful nuance that moved the concept forward.  It was fuller than mine!

If someone demonstrates my “bad” push, they tell me that not only is my push bad, but it deserved retaliation.

I’ve stated this before: to convince yourself of a fantasy that you yourself cannot implement is a fool’s errand.  Those that have good pushes offer great observations.  Or they just give you a good push and that is something of great value.  Those that don’t have a push – they retaliate, or recite stale words.

Don’t show them their error or retaliate; ask what them what they are working on.  They may have something of value to offer, even if the execution is not perfect.  Perhaps the idea is great, but it wasn’t done accurately.  Perhaps something else gets in the way of a valid idea.  This is an art form – there are infinite nuances to work with.

For those that just like to practice without discussion, I’ve no argument.  For most, real feedback is gold.

I have long felt OK about working on something small, knowing my full push is deficient.  One piece of the puzzle is not enough.  But it may be the best I can do and it may be worth the attention.  And that may be satisfying.

Perfect is the enemy of Good.  That phrase has new meaning to me.

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Tai Chi Chuan – Heavy and Light

Posted By Tom Daly on October 10th, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – Heavy and Light

Years ago I went to a hypnotherapist.  This was not for fun, but for a real reason, for real therapy.

The hypnotherapist had a technique to hypnotize.  It was not like the movies where you do something you don’t want to do.  Instead she aimed at a certain kind of deep relaxation.  The technique was simple.  You lie on the couch and she would suggest for all the major regions of the body, carefully moving through each, that you are “heavy, heavy, heavy, heavy as lead, heavy…”  At the end, you were really heavy!

Then she switched channels and repeated this body scan, but this time she intoned in a feathery voice that you were “light, light, light as a cloud, floating like a cloud…”  Man, you were up there in clouds like a twirling leaf.

So relaxed!

In part, this confuses the mind.  You don’t know which way to go and you are in a space that can’t decide where reality sits.  Are you heavy? Are you light?  It unlocks you from your patterns.

I’ve always loved this as a meditation.  And it strikes me that tai chi lives exactly where those two polarities meet.  You are neither here nor there but can change in an instance into either.  By being in that zone, you have options that do not bind you to either, while opening up opportunities to be either one.

There is another system that rings true to me as well: Laban movement.  Laban divides space into quadrants and emphasizes natural movement.  I won’t describe that here though it is easy to demonstrate.  Laban describes all 8 possible movements.  Tai chi is a limited expression of the choices available.

In Laban, the upper planes above the waist are light and free.   The lower plane below the waist is strong and bound (that is, using some muscular strength, as in sawing a piece of wood.)  In front of you is sustained smooth movement, but to move backward is quick movement.  When you execute Laban’s 8 movements, you explore each quadrant that Laban sets out logically (direct/indirect, free/bound, light/heavy, sustained/quick).  Tai chi looks at the heavy/bound lower part and the free and light upper part.  Mostly tai chi form only uses “sustained” movement regardless of going forward or back.

So we might say that the heavy as lead is the lower half and that light as a cloud is the upper half.  Note I’m not suggesting “heavy” is tense.  It’s not.  This heavy happens through letting go and being with the ground in a substantial way.

And there you have it, a place that expresses infinite opportunity.  You are grounded and you are free and agile, light as a feather and capable of joining the rest of the world without being thrown off balance.

You can’t really think this through. You inhabit this space.  The organic you is allowed to exist.  In that sense, this is not a mind focusing exercise; the mind is free to land on any point in the spectrum and see where it goes.

I am tempted to say it is a mind letting go.  I’m not entirely sure here.  Words fail this space as hard as one might try to define it.  I think if I was really sure of the right word(s), the mind would be far too meddlesome to allow the kind of freedom I see in this intersection of allowing, meeting, heavy and light.

Are we one piece?  Are we two?  Are we one and two?  Where are you if you are simultaneously grounded and floating?  Where is the freedom in all this?

You may be asking, what is this all about?  What’s the point?

The point is that we need new tools to change our old patterns.

Take a few years and see what happens…

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