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


 

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Tai Chi Chuan – Like Learning to Play an Instrument By Ear

Posted By Tom Daly on April 9th, 2016

This article reminds me of tai chi in so many ways.  Worth a careful read!

Tom

www.nytimes.com/2016/04/10/magazine/learning-to-play-by-ear-in-iran.html?ref=world&_r=0

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Tai Chi Chuan and Listening

Posted By Tom Daly on February 25th, 2016

Tai Chi Chuan and Listening

I’m always amazed at how poor most folk’s listening skills are.  I’ve done a lot of work on my own listening skills.  I’d say I have moved from D+ to maybe a B-. A few F’s here and there.

But even worse than listening to others, we rarely listen to ourselves.  By that I mean, what we say, what it means, how others hear it – this never registers. Often, we are clueless.

When we speak, there are two of us present, not just one.

And one would hope that tai chi might have some influence on this because so much of it has to do with awareness.  We begin with ourselves, we then work with others.  Yet how rare it is to see any of this spill into everyday life.

Let me give you an example of poor vs. good listening in life.

Poor:

T: I’m going to India.

B: wow, I know lots of people who have gone to India and hated it, though some have loved it. I think people get sick over there so you should be careful. The Taj Mahal is really worth seeing, my aunt was stunned by it, but she doesn’t want to go back to India, too many poor people, too sad.

(We’ve all been there!)

Good:

T: I’m going to India.

B: Where? (pause.)

What brings you to India? (pause.)

Do you have your reservation yet? (pause.)

When are you going? (pause.)

The point being, good listening engages the speaker to express themselves, poor listening takes control of the conversation.

In the poor example, B doesn’t even hear himself.  He just rattles on, oblivious to the statement T just made. (Because what T really said was: I’m going to India, do you find this of interest?) In certain situations, if you tell B what he just said, he may be surprised, deny it, or get angry. Or just not care.

The inability to hear yourself comes to mind in an example in Stephen Sondheim’s Passion.  Fosca (sad, sickly) is walking with a soldier she later comes to love.  He is rattling on about love in very idealistic and noble terms. He doesn’t see her need, her challenge in terms of intimacy, the improbability of attaining this ethereal concept in her sickly and somewhat morbid state.  She then lets him have it big time, pouring out her reaction to his self indulgent puffy nonsense. Let me paraphrase: “How dare you talk to me of such nonsense when it should be clear to both of us that this will never happen for me. Why taunt me with such a concept?” He wasn’t listening to what he was saying. Or who he was saying it to. Clueless.

Tai chi.

It would foolish to think that tai chi would change all this, yet the kernel of change is there.  You begin by listening to your body. For most beginners, this is a foreign concept. We never see our habits, never see our inability, and never see how our movement doesn’t match what the teacher demonstrates. Most who begin tai chi quit rather quickly. It’s a slow process.

Then we work in push hands, and again, mostly your partner is viewed in terms of what I want. As in, I want to do something to this person. But the study is more about being WITH this person and you become less and less while what they are doing/wanting becomes more and more. The only way to hear this person is to be empty. A favorite teacher I know says, “There is only one mind here, and it’s YOUR (the partner’s) mind.” His mind has been put on hold and now he can better hear you.

I highly recommend books on listening. There are lots of good ones on the market.

In tai chi, I recommend being even more attentive to what you are doing in the form and what your partner is doing in push hands.  By this I mean attentive like you might observe a laboratory rat.  How does it move? What does it want? What makes it go for the heroin?  Start with investigation, not manipulation. Be curious. Don’t fix it, just see it. Give it some time to be itself and see what that is. We move on from there…

We learn more from our flaws than from anything else. Begin with here and now, not some fantasy of who you would like to be. Find a time to listen, on every level, in some period of time, to something.

Just listen. Nothing else. Allow presence of this body, air, that person, sound, a feeling, ground, silence.

 

 

 

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New York Times article on Run, Hide or Fight

Posted By Tom Daly on December 22nd, 2015

The article below discusses (instinctual) flight or fight, (now called freeze, flight or fight responses), or (volitional choices of) run, hide or fight.  Cognitive appraisal is not a tai chi option.  None of these make up good push hands. The article below discusses these options but I leave it to you to think about what we are doing in push hands that leads to fearless being with, allowing, letting go, releasing. How do we get from instinctual responses to non-strategic strategies?  A puzzlement.  Tom.

New York Times

December 18, 2015

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/20/opinion/sunday/run-hide-fight-is-not-how-our-brains-work.html

‘Run, Hide, Fight’ Is Not How Our Brains Work

IN this age of terror, we struggle to figure out how to protect ourselves — especially, of late, from active shooters.

One suggestion, promoted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security, and now widely disseminated, is “run, hide, fight.” The idea is: Run if you can; hide if you can’t run; and fight if all else fails. This three-step program appeals to common sense, but whether it makes scientific sense is another question.

Underlying the idea of “run, hide, fight” is the presumption that volitional choices are readily available in situations of danger. But the fact is, when you are in danger, whether it is a bicyclist speeding at you or a shooter locked and loaded, you may well find yourself frozen, unable to act and think clearly.

Freezing is not a choice. It is a built-in impulse controlled by ancient circuits in the brain involving the amygdala and its neural partners, and is automatically set into motion by external threats. By contrast, the kinds of intentional actions implied by “run, hide, fight” require newer circuits in the neocortex.

Contemporary science has refined the old “fight or flight” concept — the idea that those are the two hard-wired options when in mortal danger — to the updated “freeze, flee, fight.” While “freeze, flee, fight” is superficially similar to “run, hide, fight,” the two expressions make fundamentally different assumptions about how and why we do what we do, when in danger.

Why do we freeze? It’s part of a predatory defense system that is wired to keep the organism alive. Not only do we do it, but so do other mammals and other vertebrates. Even invertebrates — like flies — freeze. If you are freezing, you are less likely to be detected if the predator is far away, and if the predator is close by, you can postpone the attack (movement by the prey is a trigger for attack).

The freezing reaction is accompanied by a hormonal surge that helps mobilize your energy and focus your attention. While the hormonal and other physiological responses that accompany freezing are there for good reason, in highly stressful situations the secretions can be excessive and create impediments to making informed choices.

A vivid example of freezing was captured in a video of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. After the bomb went off, many people froze. Then, some began to try to escape (run), while others were slower on the uptake.

This variation in response is typical. Sometimes freezing is brief and sometimes it persists. This can reflect the particular situation you are in, but also your individual predisposition. Some people naturally have the ability to think through a stressful situation, or to even be motivated by it, and will more readily run, hide or fight as required. But for others, additional help is needed.

In my lab at New York University, we have created a version of this predicament using rats. The animals have been trained, through trial and error, to “know” how to escape in a certain dangerous situation. But when they are actually placed in the dangerous situation, some rats simply cannot execute the response — they stay frozen. If, however, we artificially shut down a key subregion of the amygdala in these rats, they are able to overcome the built-in impulse to freeze and use their “knowledge” about what to do.

We can learn a great deal about the basic mechanisms of how the brain detects and responds to threats through studies of rats. But people are not rats. We have additional cognitive resources, such as the ability to conceptualize our situation and re-evaluate it.

Studies by the psychologists James Gross at Stanford, Kevin Ochsner at Columbia and Elizabeth Phelps and me at New York University have shown that if people cognitively reappraise a situation, it can dampen their amygdala activity. This dampening may open the way for conceptually based actions, like “run, hide, fight,” to replace freezing and other hard-wired impulses.

How to encourage this kind of cognitive reappraisal? Perhaps we could harness the power of social media to conduct a kind of collective cultural training in which we learn to reappraise the freezing that occurs in dangerous situations. In most of us, freezing will occur no matter what. It’s just a matter of how long it will last.

If we could come to use the fact that we are freezing to trigger a reappraisal in a moment of danger, we might just be able to dampen the amygdala enough to accelerate our ability to shift into the action mode required for “run, hide, fight.” Even if this cut only a few seconds off our freezing, it might be the difference between life and death.

Joseph LeDoux, a professor of science at New York University, directs the Emotional Brain Institute. He is the author of “Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety.”

 

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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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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.

Posted in Philosophy
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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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