Monday Morning Training Tip #216
Tai Chi Chuan – Meditation in Motion
There a many types of formal, systematized meditation techniques. From opening the body, to opening the heart, to opening the mind, there is a technique for everyone. I started meditating in my life by sitting and focusing on breath. Some meditation areas are :
Meditation through Breathing Exercises
Meditation by concentrating one’s mind on one point
Meditation through visualization
Meditation through reciting Mantras or mystic words
Meditation through absorbing one’s mind in Good Will, or devotional thoughts
Meditation by identifying the Mind essence
Meditation through movement
Mindfulness has become very popular as of late. Just sit and notice what is happening in the body and mind. No judgement, no trying to rid the body/mind of unwanted feelings or thoughts. Just sit and observe. This is duality meditation. There is the one part of the mind doing the action or having the thought, and the one part observing the part of the mind engaged in the thought. For instance, I am sitting, observing. A thought enters my mind – “What am I making for dinner?” While I am having that thought, I observe that I was having that thought. Or, I feel my back becoming painful, and I become aware that I feel a pain in the back.
Many people pride themselves in the ability to multi-task, doing more than one thing at a time. Eating dinner, watching TV, talking to the family, planning on tomorrows events – all at the same time. Most meditation techniques practice doing one thing at a time, and being fully present when this happens.
Most schools that teach Tai Chi and Qigong start with standing meditation instead of sitting. We do this in order to build up lower body strength, and upper and lower body connection. When sitting, the lower body is not energized – the lower body circulation is cut off in order to focus all the energy of the body up to the top of the head. Mindfulness can be practiced either sitting or standing, but is most often practiced sitting.
To use Tai Chi form as a meditation technique, one has to learn the movements to a point where one does not have to think what comes next. At that point one can start to narrow the focus into one path to follow. There are physical meditations. Focusing on one specific part of the body for the whole form, like the bottom of the foot, the knees, the kua, the belly, the neck, the top of the head, the alignment of the spine, the Lao Kung (center of the palm), the elbows, or shoulders.
Then more general, like making circles, one continuous movement, balance and counter-balance of each move. Then there is focusing on what the opponent or partner is doing which opens so many energy pathways form external to internal. One needs to know applications, and the Tai Chi philosophy that guides these self-defense movements.
I like playing “I am the camera” which means that I let my eyes have a soft focus and I just observe the world go by without letting my focus get stuck on any one thing as I move around. This is especially nice in the park, wharf, or a favorite place out of doors.
For advanced players, there is identifying the major energy points such as the three dantiens, the ming-men, the bubbling well on the bottom of the feet. The Hui Yin at the base of the spine and the Bei Hui at the top of the head. One can observe the energy rising up the back and down the front – circling in the microcosmic orbit. There is a lifetime of study to know the meridians – where they are, how the energy enters and leaves, what happens as a result of their being energized or drained.
How about the moment of change from yin to yang and yang to yin. Gather and release into various parts of the body really helps to unify the structure and energetic system. Controlling the moves so the result is slow, steady, continuous movement, circular in nature.
Matching breath with intention is a good one, but difficult because some movements are longer or shorter than others. For breathing, try some different techniques: in and out through the nose, in and out through the mouth, in the nose out the mouth, in through the mouth and out through the nose. How about in one nostril and out the other, and reverse that. One can feel the diaphragm rise and fall. Belly expand for inhale and contract for exhale (normal breathing), or reverse – belly contract for inhale and expand for exhale. A good exercise is to vocalize for reverse breathing. Heng for inhale, Ha for exhale. The breath can move the energy from the dantien in front to the ming men on the spine. Try both directions – first inhale to dantien, then move this to the ming men with the exhale, and then vice versa.
The list for possible focus points is endless. What is important is to choose a focus and stick with it through the whole form. If you find your mind wandering or changing focus, don’t fret. Just gently direct the mind back to the original focus point. Keep in mind that this is not easy. It takes lots of practice, and at first one may only get an occasional glimpse of the deep quiet within. Yet the more one trains this one point-ed-ness, the easier it gets to make this all natural.
No Saturday Push Hands Workshop July 6.
Due to the first Saturday of July being July 4thweek-end, many of our studio push hands participants are going to be out of town or busy, so we are cancelling the workshop for this month. I am planning on August 3rd. I’ll remind you as the time gets closer.