Greetings. There is a saying in our area – June Gloom. When most of the rest of the country is starting summer like conditions, Port Townsend, like Seattle, seems stuck in spring. Yet, being raised in San Francisco, I like the cooler conditions. But it is hard to ripen tomatoes here!

Progress in Tai Chi
Progress in Tai Chi is hard to gage. In most martial arts there are levels of attainment as signified by belts. A black belt is said to have reached a higher level than a brown belt, for instance. In Tai Chi we have no belts, so our progress is mostly an individualistic inner knowing, or if you are lucky enough to have a good teacher, the teacher can help you see how far you have come, and how you can move forward. I feel there are three basic training levels in Tai Chi and these relate to the Three Dan Tiens.

The first level is physical or martial correctness, and this relates to the lower Dan Tien. The body is moving according to the Tai Chi principles and the student knows what he or she is doing, and has attained external control.

The next level is the integration of the external and the internal. There is a feeling of calmness and comfortable looseness to the form. The form is inwardly directed and the chi leads the movement as directed by the mind. The principles are now in firm control of the external movements. This represents the Middle Dan Tien.

The highest level is that of spiritual attainment. The individual is functioning in accordance with, and in harmony with, the Dao. The spirit leads the movements directly without thought or obstruction. The individual radiates peace and good health, as well as the universal principles of brotherly love, concern for others, and a positive nature. He functions in the Upper Dan Tien with no fear of the next step in the path of life.

Once you have reached a level, you can function at that level or the one below it. You can sometimes function at a higher level, but that is mostly hit or miss. I feel the key to progress is practice and meditation. This will surely be your ladder if only you use it.