Lao Tsu in Tao Te Ching
Tai Chi Chuan is a moving meditation form developed in China and growing in popularity in the West. Considered a martial art, it is more often practiced for its calming, health enhancing qualities than for its self-defense value. Tai Chi consists of a sequence of movements that relate to fighting moves, but that carry such poetic names as Part the Horse's Mane, Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain, Grasp the Sparrow's Tail, White Crane Spreads Wings. The movements are performed gracefully and slowly. One move follows another. The pattern of moves and the moves themselves have a roughly circular character. The Tai Chi practitioner is balanced, responsive and fluid. A Tai Chi master described this state as being such that a fly could not land on your hand. As the fly approached, the hand would fall away offering no resistance and no opportunity for the bug.
Tai Chi is practiced by young and old. It does not require quickness or strength, but if you practice it you will gain balance, flexibility, groundedness, and many other mental and physical benefits.
As mentioned, Tai Chi has its foundation in the marital arts. What if we applied the consciousness, grace, balance, and fluidity of Tai Chi to other activities? Why not treat any other movement pattern as an opportunity to practice grounded, calming, graceful, conscious movement? Here is an example:
The Bath Moves:
You have just finished your morning shower. Moment by moment you are growing more alert as you shake off your sleepiness. Having turned off the water, you prepare to emerge. Exhale emptying your lungs. Allow the breath to return naturally. Set your feet shoulder width apart and settle your weight into your hips. Elongate your spine as if the crown of your head was suspended from the sky. Feel your body becoming balanced. Relax your muscles. Let go of unnecessary tension. Feel yourself connected to the earth. Your center of gravity is aligned with the center of the planet.
1) Opening the curtain:
Place both hands on your hips. Slowly raise your hands in a graceful, curving motion so that they are chest high in front of you. They rise like steam from water. No effort. Your joints are relaxed. Reaching forward with one hand you push the curtain aside in one smooth movement. Carefully, consciously, smoothly. At the same time you return your other hand to your hip. Bring your hand back to your side as you prepare for. . .
2) Stepping out of the tub:
Carefully, you shift your weight to your left leg. As you do, your right leg becomes lighter. It rises almost on its own. It comes up from the ground as if you were a heron on a river bank lifting its foot from the water. All of your weight can now rest on your left leg. You are perfectly balanced there, but without pausing, you place your right leg on the ground outside the tub. Now shift your weight to your right foot and as you do, your left leg comes up slowly carefully, gracefully and with the same kind of movement, you place your foot on the ground a foot or so from your other foot.
3) Grasping the Towel (may be done before step two):
Centering your weight on both feet, you may need to pivot to reach your towel. Do this in a balanced way. Allow your knees to bend slightly. As you gracefully raise your hands, allow more of your weight to shift to one leg. As you reach for the towel, stay centered and reach as you would reach to give a gift to a king or queen. Grasp the towel with both hands and bring it toward you. Shift your weight back to both legs, so that bringing the towel towards your body and bringing your weight back to center are one movement. Hold the towel as if it were a precious garment.
4) Drying off:
Same sort of thing. You get the idea.
This kind of mindful movement can be applied to just about any activity. One might develop a full 480 step routine for starting the day. Including the "getting the newspaper" moves, the "taking vitamins" moves, and "cleaning the catbox" moves (also known as serving the master). It is helpful if you are the first one out of bed, so that these practices can be done alone away from the odd looks and head scratching of uninitiated observers.
Whenever you move consciously, pay attention to your breath. Your life energy, your chi, moves with the breath.
The History & Application of Tai Chi Chuan
© 2002 Tom Barrett