My drive to Cornucopia for morning t'ai chi chih class whisked me past frosted trees and branches sparkling with crystalline light. Once assembled, our group melded into a wonderful stone soup of practice, refinement, reading, and discussion.
After our circle practice I handed out Sr. Antonia's distillation of the Principles of Movement based on Justin Stone's writings and teachings. Then we dipped into Principle #1: Flowing from the Center. We experienced t'an t'ien's lead through the Basic Taffy Pull following t'an t'ien with our hands and arms only--no feet or legs. When we break our movements down into segments like this, there are occasional 'ah ha' moments; something that's been missing is rediscovered or something that was never found is newly uncovered.
It was a delight to share questions, ideas, and personal experiences with body movement as we moved and felt our bodies move. For some of us it's easy to follow the flow of t'an t'ien, for others it takes concentration and practice. One thing is certain: every person's body is different, each person's experience with the Chi is individual and personal, everyone's learning style is unique. Practice--repeated, regular practice--helps us to gain a deeper understanding of how to relax the body, how to minimize overdoing, how to flow from the center.
Our reading of the Tao centered on Verse 50 (Living as an Immortal per Wayne Dyer and Love of Life per Ursula LeGuin). It asked us to notice how we experience life and death. Could we choose to do it differently? As Leonardo da Vinci said: "While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die." (Dyer, p. 245)
For me, that's one of the gifts of t'ai chi chih practice. It allows me to let go of my ego identifications: mind, body, and emotions. It encourages me to die to the past and the future, rooting myself firmly in what is in this moment, now.
When we flow from the center, we release ourselves from the control and constant direction of our minds. We let go and let God, as those who study the 12 steps might say. We taste freedom and sometimes ... it puts a smile on our face.