Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Nonverbal Attributes of Taiji

A central component of most Taiji practices is the Taiji form. And although there are various forms in the wide world of Taijiquan, they all convey the energies and principles of Taiji in such a way that we can practice, learn, and improve even if we practice alone. As we begin to understand our particular form, it should begin to speak to us, to teach. Accordingly, it should speak to those observing the form as well. This is one of the nonverbal attributes of Taiji.

Often the messages of Taiji are understood, but are not necessarily conducive to ordinary language. Of course we need teachers, and the imparted wisdom of those more familiar with, or with varying perspectives on our tradition. We could never start upon our paths, or follow them intelligently without informed guidance. But our teachers are not always with us. And typically, as we progress we move figuratively, and often literally, further from our teachers. We often don't have easy or frequent access to them. But we still have the need to learn, to progress. Therein is the beauty of Taiji's nonverbal attributes. We can still learn, we just have to teach ourselves to listen the right way.

The nonverbal attributes are not limited to the Taiji form. I have found much wisdom, strength, and knowledge inherent in Zhan Zhuang practice. As a matter of fact, as I mature in my Taiji practice, I am finding much more information in the simple practice of standing. Often, in various Qigong and Taiji forms, we will stop and hold a position. At that moment I can feel the latent power of Zhan Zhuang waiting to express, and concurrently to speak, to teach. Sharing that feeling is hard, because one can only feel it to understand it.

I did not begin my Taiji training with this knowledge, waiting for it to manifest. Rather, it just happened. Eventually, I caught on and started to listen. Of course, mindfulness, openness, and equanimity are essential for this type of listening. We need to be present, to reside in our bodies, and to receive the message(es) with discernment.

A further, and perhaps easier to understand nonverbal attribute is the listening of push hands. In this case we are still listening to our own bodies. In fact, for martial competence it is crucial that we listen to our own bodies in any partner practices. But, in following the tenets of push hands practice, we are also listening to our partners. The goals of this listening are manifold. We are listening for advantage, or for understanding those with whom we are engaged; we are listening so that we can instruct our partners, or others; and we are listening so that we can nurture our training partners as we nurture ourselves. None of these goals are obtainable without listening to the nonverbal attribute of push hands.

Considering the nonverbal attributes of Taiji broadens our practice. Further, it offers depth. And it opens the possibilities for knowledge way beyond what we may have thought possible. That is a good thing--the way it should be.

No comments: