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 November, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – Look! See! Do! Forgive! Laugh!

Posted By Tom Daly on November 24th, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – Look! See! Do! Forgive! Laugh!

It strikes me that tai chi class is wonderful at teaching us to attend, to be attentive, to watch, to see and ultimately to take on the challenge of owning it.

There are many things going on simultaneously, but one underlying skill is that of paying attention.  In our culture, attention spans get worse and worse (in our texting-while-watching-a-play-in-a-theater world.)  Studies indicate that along with such distractions with the Smart Phone that empathy gets weaker and weaker.  (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/27/opinion/sunday/stop-googling-lets-talk.html)

In Tai Chi, you have to be right here and right now.  Even with the best of intentions, you will miss a great deal for quite some time and the teacher will have to draw your attention to what you’ve missed.  It can feel humiliating at worst, and annoying at best. It’s a shell game; I’m looking here but missing there. We feel that we SHOULD have gotten that detail.  But we didn’t.

Tai chi is not necessarily unique in this endeavor.  Just about any movement, dance or martial arts class will train you to do this as well.  But given the slow gestation and complexities in tai chi, the amount of attending to detail that is required, it serves this purpose well and in some ways even better than other movement choices.  Why? There are MANY things that need attention in tai chi – many of them are not obvious – so the level of attention has to go up and up and up.  Like ballet.  Like playing the piano. As that happens, your attention needs to be more and more attuned.  And it has to shift.

Maggie Newman would often remind us that tai chi is like threading a needle.  Yes, that precise, that delicate, that just so!  That much attention…

It should also teach us forgiveness and humor.  You need both to learn tai chi.  You can’t indulge in being mad at yourself – or others – for not being perfect. I recall a poster in a dance studio that went like this: “Strive for Perfection, not Correction.”  While that is a heady thought, I think the opposite is true.  Let perfection take care of itself, you attend to correction.  You can correct, you can’t do “perfection”.

Humor is imbedded in the human condition.  Tai chi is so challenging and we are generally so flawed, that you either laugh or cry.  You either come back for more, or run for the hills! Better to Laugh!  Yes, laugh at yourself!  And by this I don’t mean scoff or demean yourself. This laughter is seeing that you are trapped in a silly farce or a Marx Brothers film – despite your best effort!  We are square pegs trying to fill a round hole. The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy.  We bump into things and we bump into each other and we bump into ourselves. If only it weren’t so. It’s just the way it is.

How many times has a teacher imitated me to show me my error?  Lots! And often, I have to say, they elicit my laughter. We are funny creatures if only we can let go of wanting to seem perfect or untouchable!

Zen adage: Fall down seven times; get up eight!

I want to let go of all harshness (well, some day!)

Keep it light, soft, flexible, pliable…

Keep laughing and keep learning.

And paying attention.

One last thought: Twenty Three Skidoo and a Barrel of Monkeys!

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Tai Chi Chuan – The Choice You Make

Posted By Tom Daly on November 23rd, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – The Choice You Make

Here are three examples:

The first comes from a tai chi teacher and practitioner of 50 years.  He told me he learned something new in tai chi last week.

The second is a memory I have of a student in Maggie’s class.  If he made a mistake in his tai chi form, he would stop from going further.  It had to be perfect.  He later committed suicide.

I am told of a very good push hands student.  But I’m also told that if you manage to push him, he will then push you HARD to let you know who is in control.


Who would you choose to be?

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Tai Chi Chuan and the F word

Posted By Tom Daly on November 19th, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan and the F word

It struck me recently what my teacher Maggie Newman was really teaching all these years.  She captured it in a simple statement:  You should be able to take any tai chi class and do what they are doing.

Sounds easy, right?

Let me suggest what she was NOT saying.  She was not saying that you will necessarily have the agility or the athleticism or the deep bend of a hip joint when joining another class. After all, some schools put emphasis on certain things while others do not.  So joining in didn’t mean you would have the skill that they have worked so hard to achieve.

No, what she meant is that you would have the mental agility to drop what you normally do and do something different.  To follow what they are doing, without judgment or comparisons.

In other words, FREEDOM .  The other F word.

I have often seen a new beginner enter my class and be less than enthusiastic with the movements that I like to use as a warm up.  There is a purpose to all of these movements, a correct approach to any one of them.  But they are deceptively simple.  They might just pass you by.  They may not seem applicable to the task of learning tai chi.  But just as you need the form to learn the form, you may need other movements to learn the art of tai chi.

Often a student will think that they need a better tai chi technique, a few tips, a correction here or there, some pointers.  They work harder and harder to get it, but miss the ability to play within the postures.  It is as if the straight jacket that tai chi presents is the goal of the practice.  But the external form is not the solution.  At best, it is part of the pathway.

It seems some students have read the wrong memo.

Many “advanced” students feel proud of their accomplishment and feel no need to take a beginner class.  As Maggie’s assistant, I was forced to take the beginner class again and again and again.  It was the most fortunate experience of my life.

Tai chi is the ability to put on that straight jacket and have no limitations.  There is no perfection in tai chi. There is no best. Tai chi is not doing a perfect movement; it is letting that perfect movement find you. Can you be that free?

True, in any given year there will be a competition and someone will win the championship.  I am in awe of that success. It’s a real accomplishment.

But that fact doesn’t have anything to do with who you are or what you yourself may learn or experience by letting in something new, something vital, or something that means something to YOU. There is only more to learn and more to experience.  This won’t happen if you have decided how to find the unexpected. It doesn’t work that way. It is not linear.

When faced with exercises that seem irrelevant, a goal oriented student will often leave the room. The ship of real opportunity and growth leaves shore without them.  The memo should read: In order to get, you may have to give, give up, or let go.

You can work your form over and over and over again, but never really get it.

If you can do a simple gesture with total freedom, then you have it.

Apparently real freedom, like many things, is a lot of hard work.

I have memories of doing seemly irrelevant movements again and again and again in Maggie’s class.  Oh how we judged! Oh how we grit our teeth and did what we were told!  Reluctant, but obedient.  But it wasn’t the movement that was the point. It was everything else surrounding that movement. The organic experience of pure movement. It was moving itself that mattered.

Maggie’s students have great trust in her ability to lead them down that path. The path to freedom is slow, meandering, open ended, has no expectations.  It lacks a goal. It is not efficient when you start. There are no champions here.

Just a path to place your foot one step at a time…

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Tai Chi Chuan – Mind IN the Body.

Posted By Tom Daly on November 9th, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – Mind IN the Body

I have this familiar feeling.  I am in a rush and I want my body to be where it needs to go.  Not where it is.  Another time, it is as if I can’t get my body to move forward because it doesn’t want to go where it needs to go.

In tai chi, I have a feeling of being right where I am.

So when I’m in rush, the desire of wanting to be somewhere else has me chasing after myself.  It’s as if my mind is in front of me and I’m trying to catch up.  Lately this has been more pronounced waiting for a subway, wishing the ride was already over.

When wanting to avoid some interaction or task, it’s as if my mind is pulling me back in time so that my body can’t move forward and complete the task. If I can stop time from going forward, then I can avoid the task altogether.

Both feelings are uncomfortable.  I feel separated from myself.  Neither helps the situation. If you rush, you miss cues, trip, ignore that car coming down the road.

If you lag, you feel lethargic and stuck and your mind processes dread.

For many years, being in a hurry, I used to want to be done with the morning tai chi practice session, to get it done, so that I could mark it off my morning to-do list and get on with real life.  And the funny thing is that it seemed to take forever to get through the form.  It was in my way.  At the first third mark, I would think, “That’s all I’ve done so far?”

Then something changed.  I didn’t try to make it change because rushing through the form was logical to me. The thought of change was never a goal. I had to do this exercise because that’s what you do, but I also needed to quickly get to the office (for example).  Logical.

Then, instead of seeming to take a long time, it suddenly zoomed by.  I wasn’t going any faster, but my desire to rush through practice left and feeling each moment, trying to get it right, savoring a sensation, looking closely for a way to help it improve; this replaced trying to get it done.  And practice ended much more quickly, or so it seemed.

My guess is that when we are in a rush, or we avoid some task or interaction, we are not in our bodies.  We are also preoccupied with time. (How late am I?  How can I kill some time before I get to this annoying task?  I am wasting my time right now!)

Now when I rush home, I notice my hurry, and make a conscious effort to not be ahead of my body (nor behind it).  The act of walking home feels better and I don’t particularly take too much longer to do it. (So I’m NOT suggesting the solution here is to force yourself to meander, either.)

For me, this feeling comes directly out of tai chi.  That body/mind thing we all talk about cannot be planned, forced, and manufactured.  How often does that “aha!” moment come when you aren’t looking for it?  I certainly wasn’t looking for it. You can only take your time getting there.  It will come of its own accord out of the practice itself.  Some like to talk about this as if there is some mental switch that you can intellectually insert and bypass the experience of discovery.  You can even trick yourself into feeling it a bit here and there.  But ultimately, self manipulation doesn’t work.

I often hear someone say, “I’m now living more in the moment.” They have read something somewhere and it sounds logical so they put on a “this moment” scarf to wrap around some sort of imagined shiny new world of NOW. It’s sort of naïve.

But the real thing comes in its own time. You relax into it. Allow it to arise. All you can do is till the soil, water it, let the sun shine, plant some seeds and at some point it will grow.

I’m not trying to be sweet or sentimental here. It’s just the way it is. Some get it quickly; others take a long time. This does not matter because this is not a horserace and there is no prize.

I wouldn’t even suggest that what I’m saying is to be patient.  Sometimes that’s just another form of self manipulation, a half hearted resignation that you can’t get what you want when you want it so you force yourself to let go of the desire to get it.  A knot within a knot.

What I’m talking about doesn’t take patience.  It takes practice.  It takes persistence.  It takes attention.

Be attentive to how you feel exactly where you are. And don’t try too hard. Because, as the wise women tell us, you are already there!  You just haven’t found a way to inhabit it.

You don’t walk through a door to get there. You give yourself a task that requires all of your attention, and then you attend to it. Over and over and over.  Just for the challenge of it.  Because it’s there!

Sorta like listening to music you love, right?  No effort, no force, no running from or pushing away.  You are just in it as it is.  You give yourself into time and space.  Time and space inhabit you.  Like music. Like tai chi…

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