TaiChi–blending Body, Mind and Spirit

How does Tai Chi provide us comprehensive guidance? And how can we consider applying the benefits to our own context? Consider the "body, mind and spirit" model...

BODY
Stretching the muscles. Loosening the joints. Improvement in circulation of the blood. Achieving flexibility of the body.
Movements come from what the Chinese call ‘wu-wei’ or ‘not- doing’; from letting go, from stillness.
‘Sinking the weight’ establishes roots; we re-learn our connection to the earth.
Suspending the skeleton from the crown of the head ensures the energy flows upward towards the spirit (shen).
Enjoyment of good health and longevity: ”Are you able to gather your intrinsic energy to attain the suppleness of a new-born baby?” (Lao Tzu).
Continuity in movement: the body should move like the rhythmic flow of water on a river or like the rolling waves of the ocean.

MIND
Find empty time not crowded with activity. Give yourself permission to be quiet, calm, relaxed.
We receive in proportion to what we give. Selfdiscipline is important and becomes a healthy compulsion. Initially, it’s an act of faith.
The mind should be calm; if it is not one cannot concentrate. Concentration serves as the medium to increase the feeling of awareness of Chi.
Use an imaginary opponent to enhance concentration.
Determination. Constancy in practice. Patience. Never give up. Keep trying even if you think you get it wrong. Persistence pays off.
Chang Sang-feng, the reputed father of Tai Chi and a Taoist monk wrote “Ultimately, everything depends on one’s will or mind and not on the external appearance of the movements.”

SPIRIT
Spirit (Shen) cannot be clearly put into words but is often referred to in Tai Chi.
It is one of the qualities considered when evaluating a Tai Chi performance in competition.
It is seen in the posture, in the concentration, in the wholeness and completeness of the art.
When we are really in the moment, in ‘the zone’, opened up to something greater than ourselves, we are possessed by and demonstrating spirit.
The form is but an empty shell filled with inner vitality; the spirit makes it live.
In giving form to energy the spirit is made physical.
Do not let the spirit extend outward and get lost; rather let it be condensed inward and recycled.
Give yourself up completely, both physically and mentally.
Yield totally to the universe.
Yield to the infinite.
Relax and merge into the unity which the Chinese philosophy describes as the ‘integration of sky and human’.

Compiled by Joe Pellone – Brighton

SOURCES:

  • Robert Parry (2005). Tai Chi for health and vitality. London: Hamlyn.
  • Waysun Liao (2007). The essence of T’ai Chi. Boston & London: Shambala.
    Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo, Martin Inn, Robert Amacker & Susan Foe (1979).
  • The essence of Tai Chi Chuan: The Literary Tradition. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.
  • Tem Horwitz & Susan Kimmelman with H. H. Lui (1983). Tai Chi Chuan: The Technique of Power. London: Rider & Co.
  • www.taiji-europa.eu