The Nature and Practice of Tai Chi

In the venerated Chinese text, the Tao Te Ching, we learn of the Tao manifesting itself into an inseparable pair. It is through this pair, yin and yang, that we can observe the workings of nature, through the interchanging display of rest and activity. It is through the balanced interplay of activity and rest that we receive our energy (or "chi"), which in turn allows us to possess health and serenity. The only constant in this world is change; therefore our stability is measured by our ability to interact with the tensions of life. Repeated exposure to a stable element allows the change in oneself to surface gracefully. One method of interaction which was developed centries ago is called Tai Chi.

We spend our lives accumulating perceptions and forming opinions. However, most of our lives are experienced in retrospect. We remember how much fun we had, the people we knew, the places we've seen, but very few of us are capable or aware of what is happening at the moment. Our vision seems to be fixed on what was, or what will be. Tai Chi works on our ability to witness this moment and experience it fully. The body is midpoint: an intersection existing between inner and outer, past and future. Like a pendulum, our focus seems to waver back and forth seeking to fixate itself on something constant and immoveable. The only thing in this universe that fits such a description is that which leads to unite the inner to the outer. We learn to communicate with ourselves.

The first obstacle in learning Tai Chi is the mind. Tai Chi cannot be experienced through the intellect. Tai Chi cannot be condensed in a sentence nor fully explained in a text. The mind sometimes needs help to get out of its own network of fanciful ideas and notions and allow room for the expansion of reality and feeling. Feeling is not merely a manifestation of the sense of touch. It is an expression of the intention of sensitivity to unfold itself. The consistency of movement of Tai Chi is necessary for the development of that sensitivity which brings us in contact with the oneness that ultimately exist above all duality.

The unfolding experienced in Tai Chi does not occur instantaneously. In the way that water patiently wears down stone over a long period of time, the fluidity of movement which we intend to embody needs a long gestation period. All along the way, however, the effort employed serves to break down existing tensions in both our bodeis and in the situations we encounter. By flowing to our rhythm, we establish a greater understanding of the mysteries of life and the part we play in the realization of the Tao.

Janet Makaris