Tip on starting your tai chi practice

They say that practicing at “same time, same place” everyday is best, but I say anywhere, anytime is superior. This is because fluidity is a key strength of your practice. It is an achievement that you reach through practice. Might as well start with it as a goal rather that adhere to an imposed rule of when and where. Of course, often enough it turns out to be a regular place and time. But it is not a hard and fast rule. Follow your intuition. Listen to your body. Step into your desire. Your place will probably be where you feel comfortable and calm and your time might be when you can practice regularly. The early Read More …

The Spinning Top Approach

When it comes to how to move, starting off for a beginner can be compared to a spinning top. Many beginners start moving similarly to where a spinning top is slowing down and begins to wobble off its axis. Some masters refer to this as wai dan, or the external leading. Your task in practice is to narrow down the wobble towards the center core of the axis, what we call the zhong ding, or central equilibrium. When you do this your moves will be better aligned, you will feel a quicker spin at your core. Some master call this nei dan, or the internal leading. At a more sophisticated level, you’ll see the yin-yang relationship: Read More …

THE CLOCK

We live by the clock. You might say we’re slaves to it. A lot of our discordant feelings are due to our yearning to be free from the clock. That’s one reason why we do tai chi—to get away from THE CLOCK. I see people looking at the clock in tai chi class. That means that they’re not concentrating enough on why they’re there in the first place. That’s OK though, because it’s not easy. But it’s easier than we think. Just showing up to practice is a masterful act of at least trying to break the chains of THE CLOCK. There’s a lot to be said for that.

A simple trick for learning tai chi

As with many things in life there is a trick to doing tai chi. Knowing this makes learning easier, quicker, and more fulfilling. This trick, which really isn’t a trick as much as a rather useful technique, is to remember something. Something remembered is something learned. You might feel overwhelmed by the amount of information we’re exposed to in class. That feeling may cause you to lose interest in learning. Which, of course, could harm why you chose to practice in the first place. Here is a suggestion for solving the problem of remembering. Remember just one thing that you have learned in class and practice it until you have mastered it, or at least feel Read More …

Looking for solutions rather than process?

One problem we run into—and often don’t realize—is that we’re looking for solutions, rather than engaging in the process of learning. We’re leaping ahead of ourselves. Tai chi and Qigong are processes that offer powerful opportunities to learn without worrying about whether we’re doing it correctly. Perfection comes with practice. It’s taken care of eventually as a result of paying attention to learning itself. As they say, “The journey is the destination.” Shifting your view of what you’re doing is key. How do you do that? Simply practice what you know. This will build stronger and more-permanent connections gradually. The phrase, “slowly but surely” comes to mind as a good metaphor for what I’m getting at. Read More …

Overcoming resistance to learning

Build and strengthen your memory of tai chi through regular, sustained practice. Part of your practice is trying to remember a move or sequence of moves despite whether you actually do recall exactly what they or even how to do them. This process is part of overall learning. Many of us have difficulty doing this, because, well…it seems difficult and it’s easier to not try instead. When this happens, we are procrastinating or suffering from a mild case of mental inertia. Fortunately, if you try anyway, in spite of how you feel, chances are likely that you will overcome your resistance. Research shows as much. In the popular Coursera.org course “Learning How To Learn” with Barbara Read More …

Breath, energy and movement

In qigong and tai chi, especially if you are a beginner, you can get good results by coordinating breath with movement. For example, you can inhale or exhale while your arms expand out or draw in as you time the speed of the movement to match the inhale and exhale. In another level of awareness you can place attention more singlemindedly on Qi (life force). Qi can extend beyond the body. Mind intention directs it. You simply have to practice the moves and discover this for yourself. The message here is: don’t let breath be the only focus of your attention. Keep in mind that breath is part of greater context in which Qi plays a Read More …

All Change is Self-Change

“You want to change the world? Change yourself.” My Chinese martial arts teacher, George Xu, told me that once. Of course, I already knew that, but it’s always good to be reminded. You can’t get enough reminding, especially in the midst of living under the barrage that is this world in this time. Not that I think I can change the world, but I am interested in changing myself. I’ve read also in a wellness course I’m taking that “all change is self-change.” For me, tai chi and qigong certainly are tools for self-change. I began my practice for that reason, although it wasn’t foremost in my mind. I was taking a chance that it would Read More …