Greetings. We will start to explore more specific tips to help your appreciation of Tai Chi practice. A little theory and then off we go.
Imagination Becomes Reality
T.T. Liang, one of America’s great Tai Chi teachers, used the phrase “Imagination Becomes Reality”. He even wrote a book using that title. Master Liang was still teaching at age 100! That idea has directed my practice and teaching for decades. Let me explain.
Yi – Chi – Jing is a vital concept in Tai Chi practice. Yi represents the mind. This is the thinking mind as opposed to the instinctual mind. Chi is energy in any and all of its forms, but especially the energy as it manifests in the body. And Jing is how the energy expresses itself in the body. An example: Say you want to lift something. You first get the idea that you want to lift the object. This is Yi or the mind deciding it wants to lift. Next, the mind directs the body to gather and focus energy for the task. Is the object heavy, a strange shape, sharp edged, etc? The body must prepare for the action in a different way depending on the task. The mind decides how much energy the body needs to complete the task and the body starts to gather the resources for the job. This is the Chi phase. Finally, the object gets lifted. This is the Jing phase.
If the object is heavy, one has to build up more Chi in order to lift it. The mind directs this build up, on a conscious or unconscious level. Experience helps with this knowledge. We prepare the muscles to do just the right amount of effort. One of the ways people hurt themselves doing tasks is if he or she expects the load to be light, for instance, and the body is not well prepared for the task. This Yi-Chi-Jing idea is especially important in push hands and martial applications. We want to spend just the right amount of energy to get the job done – not too much and not too little.
Every move in Tai Chi goes through this three part cycle.We can also use this idea to condition (yang), or relax (yin) the body during our practice. If you have a good imagination (Yi), you can increase the Chi by imagining resistance (being under water, or having the space filled with honey), and your body will go through the same psycho/physical changes as if it was real. We can build up muscles, stretch connective tissues, improve balance, etc. This idea also improves martial ability, and is important in the meditative aspects of Tai Chi.
For the next period of Daily Tips, I will share some ways to improve your forms using the Yi-Chi-Jing concept.