Friday, June 3, 2011

Finding One's Place in Space and Time

Taiji is a mindfulness practice. But what exactly are we being mindful of? It is of course our movement, the execution, correct execution even, of the form, push hands, or Qigong. And it's stillness, awareness of our structure, our bodies, our breath, the qualities of peng and sung. And if we examine these experiences we generally notice that awareness of one is quite different than awareness of the other. But perhaps a deeper experience of Taiji is to look for Wuji in movement, and Taiji in stillness.

Try noticing your physical structure, spinal alignment, peng and sung qualities, and breath while doing the form, or better yet, while engaged in push hands. It is easier, relatively speaking, to maintain awareness of these qualities in stillness than in movement, mainly because we spend so much of our awareness in form on getting the movement right. This speaks to the benefit of Taiji form, and the importance of going beyond mere memorization of the choreography. Once we learn form with our mind, we begin to learn it with our bodies so that we can perform without so much mental effort. However, that doesn't let our mind off the hook. It's at this point that we go deeper in our experience and understanding of form. At this level of understanding we become aware of the small details. We start looking for the qualities we find in stillness, we ensure silk reeling, relaxation and expansion (sung and peng), and structural alignment are present, and we monitor our breathing and move so as to lead with Yi, and direct Qi from the dantien.

From here we also look to become aware of these qualities in push hands, thus expanding our awareness outside of form into a free form application, and adding the task of being mindful of our partner and his/her qualities as well. This is a lot, a major undertaking. But this is one of many reasons why Taiji is a life-long learning process, an eternal means with no end in sight.

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