Pay Attention
Life is a journey, filled with constant changes. It is how we perceive these moments that determines how effective and joy filled our life can be. Tai Chi can be an important piece of the puzzle of life.
I would venture to say that most Tai Chi players study our art in order to increase the awareness of their present condition. In order to gain this awareness, one has to pay attention to the physical (what are the signals my body is sending to my mind), the emotional (how do I feel about the world around me), and the intellectual (am I satisfied with the direction of my life).
These questions are most effectively answered by paying attention. After all, by paying attention to the reactions of the body, you will be able to hear the wisdom of the self speaking to you.
The most common way is to meditate. To sit quietly and observe what is going on with the body and mind. No goals, no judgement, no effort. Just sit and pay attention. The process of learning to sit for a period of time without doing anything is not easy, especially in our digital social media age. That is one of the reasons meditation retreats are a good thing – taking one’s self to a place where there are few distractions. I call this Yin Meditation.
In the Internal Arts, we tend to use standing meditation as our preferred method. In sitting meditation, only the upper body is involved in the energy moving process (the legs are effectively shut off by crossing one’s legs), while standing allows the entire body to experience the energy flow.
Tai Chi Chuan is what I call “active meditation” or Yang Meditation. Master Choy called it “meditation in motion”. In Yin Meditation, one allows the mind to focus on one point, for instance breathing, to allow the mind to quiet. Then, at some point, even this one pointed focus is dropped and one then becomes enlightened or self realized.
In Yang Meditation, one learns to focus on multiple points at the same time. The martial arts require a person to be aware of distance, direction, multiple objects (arms, legs, torso) of one’s self and the opponent. Our mind becomes like a computer – able to make instantaneous decisions while remaining objective.
So the pathway I recommend to achieve the best results is this: first sit and allow the mind to focus on one thing, for instance breathing. Then move to standing and do the same, focus on breath. Next, do the form with full attention to one’s own body until every cell is tied together like a spider web, and all this is under control of the mind. Finally, do partner forms to include awareness of one’s self and another person at the same time. Going carefully through this sequence, one should hope to master this in several years. In any case, time should not matter, as the journey pays off with life long enrichment.