Tai Chi is an intensely individual and personal journey that is best undertaken with a group.

I just love the paradoxes that one always seems to encounter when pursuing a path of truth.

My teacher would consistently remind that growth in Tai Chi is based upon four main pillars;  Lifestyle, Master’s Method, Practice Partner and Place.  The first, Lifestyle, tops the list because it is most important.  If we have to work 18 hours a day just to feed a family, if we abuse alcohol or drugs, if we are excessively stressed, etc. and so forth, then progress in Tai Chi will be minimal at best.  We need to be able to devote time to practice while not having our non-practice activities be a drain on the energy that is cultivated and stored by correct Tai Chi practice.  As we progress along the Tai Chi path, however, the modifications one needs to make in Lifestyle in order to further and support growth become ever more subtle and at the same time increasingly more important.  Each of us must make those Lifestyle determinations and implementations on our own.

The selection of a Master’s Method is also an individual decision. It is comforting to note that, according to the teaching, one does not need to actually have a Master present in one’s life to progress in Tai Chi.  All that is necessary is a method, a system, that can serve as a guide in how to practice.  One will no doubt adopt a Master’s Method that is most consistent with one’s personality and philosophy.  It is most important to practice sincerely and diligently along the teachings of whatever Master’s Method is selected and not be in a hurry to discard one method and pick up another just because we might become frustrated in our practice or impatient with a seeming lack of results.

And now we get to Practice Partner.  Some people incorrectly interpret this to mean ‘only one’.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The more practice partners we have in our life the quicker and purer will be our progress in Tai Chi.  Certainly the relationship with practice partners can vary.  Some may be people you just practice with in class and be somewhat of a casual relationship.  Others may become serious and in-depth two person (push hands) practice partners with whom an intimate relationship develops.  I use the term ‘intimate’ in the sense of a deeply sharing, nurturing and open relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties, helping each other get to where you both want to go.  No matter where a practice partner falls in that continuum they are part of your ‘group’, a group that is essential to developing your Tai Chi abilities.

It is easy to overlook the importance of Place sometimes unless, of course, you don’t have one.  A good place to practice is one that is safe, secure, quiet, aesthetically pleasing and private.

These four elements have been passed down by the Old Masters for centuries.  They hold as much importance now as they did a thousand years ago.  One would be well served to use them as a guide to evaluate current practices.

Think right and happy practice!

Paul

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