Meditation isn’t just sitting. Many moving meditation techniques can work just as well as the sitting variations. Often a beginner finds a walking meditation, or a meditation with hand movements to be very soothing…. where trying to sit still feels frustrating.
Tai Chi is more than just meditation, as it has elements of marital arts and physical health and development. But it can also be seen as primarily a moving meditation technique.
Moving Meditation Techniques of Tai Chi
The physical techniques of tai chi chuan are described in the tai chi classics, a set of writings by traditional masters, as being characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension, in order to neutralize, yield, or initiate attacks. The slow, repetitive work involved in the process of learning how that leverage is generated gently and measurably increases, opens the internal circulation (breath, body heat, blood, lymph, peristalsis, etc.)
The study of tai chi chuan primarily involves three aspects:
- Health: An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person may find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use tai chi as a martial art. Tai chi’s health training, therefore, concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. For those focused on tai chi’s martial application, good physical fitness is an important step towards effective self-defense.
- Meditation: The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of tai chi is seen as necessary in maintaining optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis) and in application of the form as a soft style martial art.
- Martial art: The ability to use tai chi as a form of self-defense in combat is the test of a student’s understanding of the art. Tai chi chuan is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces, the study of yielding and “sticking” to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force. The use of tai chi as a martial art is quite challenging and requires a great deal of training. (from wikipedia)
I met up with TTCS international director Andrew Hung in Grange Park in Toronto with a small group of disciples. They were very accepting and encouraging of my newbie status, gently introducing movements with exotic names like Grasping the Bird’s Tail and Single Whip.
Learning tai chi is entirely different than, say, learning to dance like Usher (for anyone who’s ever tried). There is a beautiful yin and yang or oppositional rhythm when the movements flow into each other. This carries over from its martial arts origins; the point is to meet an incoming attack softly, follow the motion and redirect swiftly with the force of an elastic band.
To help me understand the necessity of a relaxed body, Mr. Siadatan used the analogy of how young trees have flexible branches whereas the ones on dead trees are brittle and break easily.
All of this made perfect sense; but it would take several sessions before I could feel the difference. Breathing adds another layer; inhaling happens when the abdominal wall contracts and exhaling happens when it expands. Apparently, this helps stimulate chi in the tan tien, an area below the navel that stores all our internal energy. This is why tai chi is said to increase energy rather than expend it (as running does, for example).
Among the most important points of tai chi according to Master Yang, who died in 1936, is the ability to “Distinguish Full and Empty.” In a list of his instructions, recorded in 1925, he states, “If the weight of the whole body rests on the right leg, then the right leg is full and the left leg is empty… Only after distinguishing full and empty will our turning movements be light, nimble and effortless. If we are not able to make this distinction, then our steps will be heavy and stiff. Our stance will be unsteady and we will be easily pulled off balance.”
Mr. Hung could not reinforce the notion of balance enough. It is the first step to achieving skeletal alignment.
Mr. Siadatan reassured me that I wasn’t a failure for not feeling my chi. “It’s like a radio frequency,” he insisted, adding that he is constantly aware of its energy around him. “You’re just not tuned into the right dial.” original story here