Thursday, May 5, 2011

T'ai Chi Chih Philosophy 101

How do I experience T'ai Chi Chih as effortless movement? By moving slowly.

How do I move slowly? By softening the forward knee and--instead of pushing myself from behind (i.e., doing something)--simply allowing the weight to flow softly and evenly forward, then back. No effort. No need to create movement. No desire to be somewhere (forward? back?) within a particular span of time.

It's taken me approximately 14 years to realize this simple but highly sophisticated fact. And, though I've repeated the concept of NO EFFORT to my students for as long as I've taught, it seems that I've only truly embodied that principle in the past several years.

To be, or not to be, that is the question....

Though Hamlet spoke those words in Shakespeare's play in 1602, this phrase seems equally appropriate to consider when we engage in T'ai Chi Chih practice in 2011. Are we being or doing? Are we letting go into peace and relaxation or are we holding tension in our bodies and minds in order to feel that we have some thing to do?

Perhaps our tense bodies are an automatic response to the dramatic, often traumatic world in which we live. How, then, can we simply be human beings when we've been trained to believe that our value and worth (our humanity) is evaluated by what we do not by who we are?

These questions arose in my mind after today's T'ai Chi Chih class. I have no answers.

I recognize that the thoughts we hold in our minds and the tensions we carry in our muscles are reflected in our T'ai Chi Chih practices. When we move faster than the rest of the group, are we being chased by our thoughts? Avoiding pain in our bodies? Opening ourselves up to our practice or pushing ourselves through it?

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