TCC practice: Grounding by focusing on soles of our feet

"T'ai Chi Chih goes much deeper than merely helping us to be healthy." In this transcription of a taped lecture, excerpted and published in the August 2017 issue of the TCC quarterly journal, The Vital Force, TCC originator Justin F. Stone explains the benefits of grounding during TCC practice by keeping one's concentration in the soles of the feet.

Q: Why is it necessary to keep the concentration in the soles of the feet while doing T'ai Chi Chih?

A: Actually there are three reasons. First, having a point of concentration keeps the mind from wandering and from having extraneous thoughts. Second, the t'an tien, the spot two inches below the navel, is the all-important place Chi is stored. It is the seed of intuition and the most important spot from the Chinese (medicine) standpoint.

In T’ai Chi Ch’uan, the student is asked to keep his concentration in the t'an tien, but this is very difficult and often interferes with breathing. The Tu Mu meridian channel that comes down the front goes thru the t’an tien and reaches the soles of the feet, called the Chu or bubbling spring.

Therefore, by concentrating in the soles of the feet, we serve the same purpose – bringing the Chi down to the t’an tien by bringing it down to the soles of the feet. The Buddha once said, "He who keeps his concentration in the soles of his feet while walking, while sitting, and while lying down can heal a thousand illnesses."

Third, and most important from a health standpoint, we want to bring the heart fire, that is the Yang of the heart, down instead of letting the Yin of the kidneys rise. The great Japanese Zen Master Hakuin Zenji commented on this when he said:

"The essential of the molding of the outer form consists in allowing the inward spirit and vital force, that is the Chi, to penetrate into the space below the navel. Where the inward spirit is concentrated, that is when the elixir of life is made. When this elixir is thus made the outer form becomes firm, and when the outer form becomes firm, the inner spirit becomes perfected. When the inward spirit is perfected, long life ensues.This is the secret. It is entirely a matter of the heart fire descending into the space below the navel."

This gives us a pretty good idea of the importance to health of this practice. And it also graphically demonstrates that T’ai Chi Chih goes much deeper than merely helping us to be healthy. Incidentally, Hakuin made his own breakthrough to enlightenment and totally cured his ailing health by following these principles. After his enlightenment he said, "After this, seeing the things of the world was like observing the back of my own hand."

Reprinted with permission from Good Karma Publishing.

Benefits of Circulating & Balancing Chi

Want to get rid of bad habits? That takes a spiritual approach, says TCC originator Justin F. Stone. Practicing TCC helps balance the Chi and that helps change the ways we think and behave.

The Physical and the Spiritual in T'ai Chi Chih

By Justin Stone    Fall 1987 ©The Vital Force

Most people who come for T'ai Chi Chih lessons do it for physical reasons, either because of ailments or because they feel it will help them in the areas of energy, hypertension, etc. Thus, they think of TCC practice as a form of therapy, which it undoubtedly is. However, they may later find that they have derived much deeper – Spiritual –  benefits, which they did not expect.

How do these come about? How does TCC affect our Karma?

We are the products of our Habit Energies (“Vashana” in Sanskrit), and we in turn have built these Habit Energies. Thus it can be a vicious circle. When these Energies grow too strong they become Tendencies (“Samskara” in Sanskrit), and these may last through many lifetimes. These Tendencies are some of the reasons people have uncontrollable drinking problems – which they don”t understand – explosive temper outbursts, fits of despondency, etc. It is hard to fight against such things when you don't know what you're fighting.

How does all this begin? When there is a release of energy, accompanied by the mental stimulus associated with it, a “Vritti” (Sanskrit) or shallow groove is formed on the brain. Repeated release of the same energy – as when one finds solace in drink and therefore imbibes each time a disappointment is encountered – develops the shallow groove into a deeper Habit Energy. This in turn takes over our lives. If you will introspect, you will find that most of our actions are habitual. We practice piano to develop these Habit Energies so our playing becomes “muscle memory.” We learn languages this way. Some actions become so habitual, such as shaving in the morning, that we often don't remember whether we performed them or not.

So we are a product of these Vashanas, which we ourselves built! We are, in a sense, our own creators! We build our own Karma.

I have often spoken of the “Reciprocal Character of Mind and Chi” (“Prana” in Sanskrit). The character of the Chi greatly influences our State of Mind, and our State of Mind greatly influences “our” Chi. How can we break into that circle to change influences for a more desirable effect? We do T'ai Chi Chih, circulating and balancing the Chi. As the Yin-Yang elements are brought into better balance, this not only balances the Chi but it also influences how we think. Ultimately we are what we think; this creates our Karma.

The state of someone's Chi creates “vibes." as we all know. Sometimes we meet someone and get “bad vibes” when that person's Chi is out of balance. We can't explain it – and we often ignore it – but we are reacting to that individual's energy field. Such reactions are usually reliable.

By changing the quality of the Chi (thru TCC practice) we are actually performing the deepest Yoga, going back to the cause and erasing it so the affect will be improved or will disappear. This is, in a sense, “de-hypnotization.”

In this respect TCC has the same deep purpose as Yoga and Zen, but it is a much easier practice. Few are capable of following either Zen or Yogic life to their deepest levels, particularly in our busy society. But we can practice TCC and have the deepest Spiritual effect on ourselves.

Justin Stone
Reprinted with permission from The Vital Force, Fall, 1987

News reports of TCC's effectiveness spread globally!

Reports of the results of the recent UCLA study showing that TCC helps relieve insomnia among breast cancer survivors have made news headlines around the world. A sample of articles is provided below.

To read even more news reports of TCC's effectiveness, go to the In The News page of the TCC website,

“T’ai Chih Chih Compared With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Treatment of Insomnia in Survivors of Breast Cancer” 
Journal of Clinical Oncology
Academic research at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine shows that practicing T'ai Chi Chih helps relieve insomnia in survivors of breast cancer. The study compared the effectiveness of TCC with cognitive behavioral therapy.

. . . . .

'Breast cancer survivors often don’t just come to physicians with insomnia. They have insomnia, fatigue and depression,' said Dr. Michael Irwin, the lead author and a professor of psychiatry at UCLA. 'And this intervention, T'ai Chi Chih, impacted all those outcomes in a similar way, with benefits that were as robust as the gold standard treatment for insomnia.'

"The American Academy of Sleep Medicine considers cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) the treatment of choice for insomnia. 'While CBT treats insomnia, it’s too expensive for some people and there is a shortage of trained professionals in the field,' said Irwin, who is also a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology. 'Because of those limitations, we need community-based interventions like T'ai Chi Chih.'" -- Excerpts from May 2017 UCLA press release

. . .

The UCLA findings have been reported around the world:

“T’ai Chi (Chih) Effective, Affordable Alternative to CBT-I for Insomnia in Breast Cancer Survivors”

“Forscher: Diese T’ai Chi-Übungen wirken gegen Schlafprobleme” (in German)

“T’ai Chi (Chih) Can Help Breast Cancer Survivors Sleep”

"T’ai Chi (Chih) Relieves Insomnia in Many Breast Cancer Survivors"

“T’ai Chi (Chih) Bantu Kurangi Masalah Insomnia pada Penderita Kanker Payudara” (in Indonesian)

“T’ai Chi Chih Improves Insomnia Among Breast Cancer Survivors”


UCLA research: TCC helps relieve insomnia for breast cancer survivors

A group of prominent academic researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) this week announced study results showing that T'ai Chi Chih (TCC) works as well as the "golden standard," cognitive behavioral therapy, in relieving insomnia symptoms among breast cancer survivors. The article was published by the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Oncology online on May 10, 2017 with print publication to follow.

Lead author of the paper Michael R. Irwin, MD is "one of the world’s foremost experts on the psychoneuroimmunological pathways by which psychosocial and behavioral factors influence health and disease," his UCLA web page says. Dr. Irwin, second author Richard Olmstead, PhD, Helen Lavretsky, MD and other researchers at UCLA have published several papers about TCC since at least 2003. Their research has shown that practicing TCC improves immune system function, can help relieve depression and, now, that TCC can help relieve symptoms of insomnia.

Below you'll find an abstract describing the new insomnia research. To learn about other research documenting TCC's effectiveness, visit our website.



Tai Chi Chih Compared With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Treatment of Insomnia in Survivors of Breast Cancer: A Randomized, Partially Blinded, Noninferiority Trial.

Purpose: Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) and Tai Chi Chih (TCC), a movement meditation, improve insomnia symptoms. Here, we evaluated whether TCC is noninferior to CBT-I for the treatment of insomnia in survivors of breast cancer.

Patients and Methods: This was a randomized, partially blinded, noninferiority trial that involved survivors of breast cancer with insomnia who were recruited from the Los Angeles community from April 2008 to July 2012. After a 2-month phase-in period with repeated baseline assessment, participants were randomly assigned to 3 months of CBT-I or TCC and evaluated at months 2, 3 (post-treatment), 6, and 15 (follow-up).

Primary outcome was insomnia treatment response - that is, marked clinical improvement of symptoms by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index - at 15 months. Secondary outcomes were clinician-assessed remission of insomnia; sleep quality; total sleep time, sleep onset latency, sleep efficiency, and awake after sleep onset, derived from sleep diaries; polysomnography; and symptoms of fatigue, sleepiness, and depression.

Results: Of 145 participants who were screened, 90 were randomly assigned (CBT-I: n = 45; TCC: n = 45). The proportion of participants who showed insomnia treatment response at 15 months was 43.7% and 46.7% in CBT-I and TCC, respectively. Tests of noninferiority showed that TCC was noninferior to CBT-I at 15 months ( P = .02) and at months 3 ( P = .02) and 6 ( P < .01). For secondary outcomes, insomnia remission was 46.2% and 37.9% in CBT-I and TCC, respectively. CBT-I and TCC groups showed robust improvements in sleep quality, sleep diary measures, and related symptoms (all P < .01), but not polysomnography, with similar improvements in both groups. Conclusion CBT-I and TCC produce clinically meaningful improvements in insomnia. TCC, a mindful movement meditation, was found to be statistically noninferior to CBT-I, the gold standard for behavioral treatment of insomnia.



Best Reason To Practice TCC

People who practice T’ai Chi Chih regularly often report feeling more joyful, experiencing considerable health benefits, and more. How does this happen? Justin F. Stone, originator of TCC, explains here how balancing and circulating the Chi, or Vital Force, brings about such change.

The Best Reason To Practice

by Justin F. Stone

Karma is an important and frequently used word, so it is important to understand what it means. In the Sanskrit language, karma means “action,” that and no more. So, when we glibly speak of “our karma,” we really mean the fruit of our action, not the action itself. Even this is not totally correct. The motivation behind our action is what establishes our karma – that is a result and not blind destiny.

Usually the motivation that causes us to act is the result of our established “habit patterns” (vashanas in Sanskrit). This is cause and effect. We establish patterns of thought and reaction, and these – formed by ourselves – coerce us into acting in certain ways. So we have created the very force that molds us. Should we not be careful in our thoughts and the habits we create?

There is always a result, neither “good” nor “bad” (which can be seen as “favorable” or “unfavorable” from a personal viewpoint), which is appropriate to the action. When a gun is fired, there is recoil commensurate with the force of the shot. This adequately explains karma for us. People usually believe not what is logical, but what they want to believe. Thus their actions are rationalized. This has no effect on the inexorable karma, which is not concerned with sentiment or rationalization. As one practices T'ai Chi Chih, the quality of the Chi definitely changes. So many say, “I really can‘t remember what I was like before TCC.”

As the Chi is circulated and balanced, habit energies tend to fade and one no longer feels compelled to follow dubious paths of action. One now feels more in control of (and responsible for) his or her actions.

This is “burning the karmic seeds.” It is the best reason I know to practice TCC, aside from the joyful feeling such practice brings. The serenity and better health are the results of this balancing and circulation. And it is so easy to accomplish.

. . . . .

Reprinted with permission from the February 2017 issue of The Vital Force. Original public in the December 1992 issue of The Vital Force.

Moving Meditation + Sitting Meditation = Winning Combination

People who practice the moving meditation of Tai Chi Chih count many benefits, including increased serenity, joy and health benefits. Here, a TCC teacher describes following sessions of TCC with sitting meditation as well.

TCC for Meditators

By LR, Seattle, Washington

For the last three years I have enjoyed doing T'ai Chi Chih with a Buddhist meditation community, have taught classes at a neighborhood church and then invited longer-term practitioners to my house for a group practice, followed by a 20-minute silent meditation. The results have been deep and rewarding.

Meditators bring a deep understanding that out of stillness and silence we can touch the spiritual. Even though I continue to offer some reminders and corrections during the practice, we basically move together following the energetic rhythm of the routine. We deepen our silence as we sink into each shift, “allowing the Chi to do the work."

After TCC, we slide onto chairs or the couch, feet on the floor, allowing the energy to continue to settle into our bones, our tan t'ien, and to root into the soles of our feet. Although I’m seated and still, the rhythm from shifting my weight during TCC continues to inform my breath, which gets slower and more relaxed.

My mind no longer seeks distracting thoughts. It seems as if TCC allows more direct access to the present and spiritual connection we seek in sitting meditation. When the bell rings, our eyes open to a brighter world, a more centered way of being and an intimate connection to our selves and each other.

 Below are comments by fellow participants:

''I experience TCC as meditation. Its flowing, rhythmic movements cultivate a centered, peaceful and calm mind."

 "The TCC sessions are a wonderful source of community and spiritual practice."

 "There is no better way to prepare for the week ahead than our Monday morning meetings. Our Chi flows, increased by the presence of each other. Our minds are peaceful and full of gratitude after completing the meditation. We are revitalized and energized to better face the world."

"TCC movements are a meditation in and of themselves and as we move together, I become focused and connected in spirit to those with whom I move. When we settle into meditation, my ‘monkey mind’ is already quieted; the Chi we have moved is grounding and unmistakable. These past few years of TCC practice have carried me through some of the most difficult periods of my life, moving my stuck places in the wordless communion of intention and movement."

Excerpted with permission from the February 2017 issue of the TCC journal, The Vital Force. Learn more about T'ai Chi Chih here.

10 Ways to Know TCC Practice is 'Working'

 “…if lives are enhanced, that is enough and no more has to be said.” – Justin F. Stone, TCC Originator

 [T’ai Chi Chih] is not meditation, though it seems to bring the serenity of the most successful meditation – a serenity that teachers often notice in the faces of their students near the end of classes. Indeed some students who come to class under a lot of tension are then embarrassed to begin yawning, [which is] obviously a release of tension. One who is tied in knots does not yawn. 

 And T’ai Chi Chih is not exercise, though it seems to be the easiest and most effective form of exercise. It is one of the few practices that exercise the internal organs. …

One is naturally gratified to receive these benefits from regular practice of T’ai Chi Chih, but there are deeper effects that must be experienced personally. The practicing student will first notice a tingling in the fingers, and soon a slight shaking of the fingers as the Chi spreads. Heat may appear at points where there is blockage or has been an injury. And often this heat (which is very healing) will appear sometime after practice – while walking down the street or engaging in some other activity. A surge of energy is common, and students are advised not to practice T’ai Chi Chih after the evening meal, as the heightened energy may interfere with sleep. 

 The tingling in the fingers may appear in the very first practice session of T’ai Chi Chih. And the inadvertent trembling only confirms the flow of the energy, which the student feels quickly. This is the first manifestation of the circulation of the yin and yang Chi, which separate when we begin to do the movements, and then come together when we rest.

If we practice regularly and get the habit of doing the movements when we arise in the morning, we will probably continue faithfully because we will notice the effect in our lives, and experience the ‘joy thru movement.’  As we continue we should one day have the ecstatic feeling that nobody is doing anything, that the Chi is flowing by itself, and T’ai Chi Chih is doing T’ai Chi Chih. I first had this experience at dawn in a Japanese garden. And it was almost like a Satori or enlightenment experience. It will take some time before this occurs.

The third confirmatory sign of our success in T’ai Chi practice will come only after we have been doing T’ai Chi Chih for a long time, to the point where the balanced Chi begins to flow the moment we lift our hands – and probably flows through us most of the day while we are carrying out other activities. Then we will be surprised to learn that we can do T’ai Chi Chih mentally. We can be sitting at a boring lecture or on a plane and, closing our eyes, begin to do the movements in our minds. The Chi then begins to flow just as if we were standing and moving. No one around us will even know we are doing it, but we are getting the benefits of T’ai Chi Chih practice while sitting quietly.

Starting at the point of the circulation of the Vital Force we have now arrived at the point where it is completely influenced mind. I leave you to imagine how wonderful such a realization will be, but it will only come after considerable time. One of the first effects we will notice is the absence of fatigue in activities that usually tire us. 

 I remember hearing from a former student, a nurse, who said, ‘I don’t seem to yell at the kids anymore or kick the cat. And when I come home from work, fixing the evening meal doesn’t seem to be a chore. This doesn’t have anything to do with T’ai Chi Chih, does it?’

‘What’s the difference?’ I replied, ‘As long as it’s happening.’

I’m not going to burden her with the information that I’ve heard scores of such comments. If lives are enhanced, that is enough and no more has to be said.

* * *

From Justin Stone Speaks (a CD), transcribed from an oral talk; excerpted and reprinted with permission from Good Karma Publishing.

Reprinted from the November 2016 issue of the TCC journal, The Vital Force. To subscribe to The Vital Force, click here.



Climbing Half Dome in Yosemite w TCC

As a person who doesn't like heights, I was facing the possibility of an extremely frightening experience - as well as one of profound beauty. Both opposites are often found in life experiences: birth, death and even marriage can seem frightening.

A Daughter On The Mountaintop Experience, By T & J S, Minneapolis, MN

My husband wanted to climb Half Dome during our trip to Yosemite. Because I love him, I wanted to give him this experience. While we trained our bodies, I trained my mind and spirit to tame the fear and be open to the beauty. I visualized staying grounded in earth energy and opening to heavenly beauty. This is exactly what I experience in Cosmic Consciousness pose.

When the day arrived, we huffed and puffed for eight hours until we reached the start of the climb. Waterfalls along the way were spectacular and some of the ascents treacherous, but at every pause, I remained calm and took in the beauty. I only swore once, which was in itself amazing considering the magnitude of the feat.

The base of Half Dome presented the hardest aspect of the climb, with frequent close encounters with sheer drops. Then came the final, cable-assisted ascent. This was harder than expected, but I stayed calm and rested when needed. The calm, grace-filled voice of a park ranger behind me offered encouraging words to climbers.

When we reached the summit, it felt very much like the top of the world. Panoramas were breathtakingly beautiful. Every mountain exuded power while reaching heavenward. Moving with "Daughter on the Mountaintop" I was one with the mountain. 

* * *

Reprinted with permission from the August 2016 issue of TCC journal, The Vital Force.

To learn more about TCC movements, including Daughter on the Mountaintop and Cosmic Consciousness Pose, visit this page on our website

Why we become TCC teachers


Many T'ai Chi Chih students eventually become TCC teachers, some many years after first experiencing the practice. Why do they then undertake the extra level of study and commitment? In the August 2016 issue of the TCC journal, The Vital Force, several newly accredited TCC teachers explained their reasons. Excerpts follow below.

“I don't remember when I chose to become a teacher, but I do know that it came to me slowly – only after I started studying Justin Stone's book, Spiritual Odyssey. I initially rebelled, but when I finally started reading this book my heart was joyous. … Let me be clear: TCC is not a religion. Yet Justin's background is steeped in (older eastern) religions, and that spirituality shines through in his writings. It's this inherent spirituality in TCC that calls me to teach. I want to share this heartfelt Joy, this oneness of humanity, with others.” – S.R., Fort Collins, CO
. . . . . .
"My TCC journey began more than 20 years ago. As a teenager attending community college in Arizona, I saw a T’ai Chi class listed. It sounded cool, far eastern and maybe a little mystical, so I signed up. I’m glad I did. The wonderful class turned out to be T’ai Chi Chih. I even wrote a poem about it for The Vital Force (December 1994). And I enjoyed class so much that I enrolled in Seijaku the next semester to deepen my practice.

“After completing my degree and moving to Las Vegas, I couldn’t find a TCC teacher so I practiced on and off for years – sometimes more, sometimes less.
“Fast forward to 2015. I decided to reconnect deeply with my practice and was delighted to find a retreat just over 100 miles from my home in Arizona. The softness and beauty of the retreat leader’s practice made me fall in love again. I was determined to connect with a community to practice and share the Chi. Unfortunately, there were no instructors teaching near my home. I was going to need to build the community I wanted to be a part of, so I would have to become an accredited teacher myself.” – N.P., Surprise, AZ

. . . . . 
“In the early 1990s I was living in Arizona and could not get through the pain from a major loss. So I sought out a grief counselor who was also a T’ai Chi Chih teacher. She had me doing TCC weekly with her for almost five years, which was a big help with the grief process. When I returned home to Colorado, I stopped doing TCC for about 15 years because I was busy as a single mom. I may have left TCC but it never left me.
“Once again I found myself with another major loss so I sought out TCC again. I realized then that I really want to help others by teaching because it has helped me so much. I want to help seniors with their health, and possibly grief, since as they get older they start losing so much.” – B.F., Arvada, CO
. . . . .
“I had been introduced to the practice in 1998 and had been attracted to its benefits and its lovely practitioners. However, I had not been active for many years, and now … I knew I had been called to teach and I began to believe in myself, and to believe that my sincere effort would allow me to be successful and to pass the teacher accreditation process. However, as with all of life, once this hurdle was passed, I would then be called to begin again – this time as a new teacher. Isn’t life grand?” – E.F., Glenwood Springs, CO

. . . . .

Would you like more inspiration? Connection with the global TCC community? Hints and tips for a better practice? Join us  subscribe to The Vital Force
In each issue, T’ai Chi Chih teachers and students describe their experiences and benefits gained from this practice of 19 movements and one pose. And we always highlight wisdom by, and photos rarely seen of, originator Justin Stone. 

The joy of becoming a TCC teacher

Learning TCC is more than learning a set of movements. It’s also welcoming a growing awareness of the movement of the Chi and the wonderful cumulative effects of practice. Below, two newly accredited TCC teachers translate these unique experiences into words to inspire us all.

TCC Accreditation in Pennsylvania, June 2016   Compiled by AL, Prospect Park, PA

* * * * *

My intention at the start of this accreditation week was to: be open to peace and joy; allow softness and continuity; be friends with my Chi and the Chi of each who is helping and hoping for growth; and be in balance of giving and receiving.

During the humbling first days, I let go of insecurity and expectation. All the countless hours of practice were represented in its raw reality. I let it be and accepted all that was offered in feedback. Then I discovered that my intention to make friends also applied to the Chi of each movement and I was finally able to make a fuller flowing connection with Carry the Ball to the Side. Making friends with this new favorite movement has softened all of my previous favorite movements. So I recommend learning to love the one movement that challenges you – to overcome the hidden blockage in your practice.

I am thankful for every minute of driving (including some great distances) to TCC classes; the extra months I gave myself to prepare for accreditation; the indoor and outdoor practices; the practices when I felt sick or healthy; the time studying Justin's videos; the time reading and listening to Justin’s other sources; and (most of all) helpful clues from multiple teachers. All of it, it was all necessary beforehand.

Even so I arrived without a pre-set presentation. It percolated until the day it was done. The Chi flowed and I let it write itself in a succinct testimony of balance. This sounds idealistic but I am a scrappy-rewrite-it-again speechwriter so this seemed like a crazy miracle of spirit. I think my presentation ended up giving a glimpse of how TCC has brought balance to my life.

I completed accreditation full of joy and peace. I really can feel the bubbling springs

beneath my feet, in my heart, head and soul. I am letting go of rigid control and allowing gentleness to flow in my knees and joints. I honor my core truth daily with more awareness than before I arrived. Plus I met my tribe in the TCC community and you are absolutely wonderful. Looking forward to our next in person reunion. – JS

* * * * *

It was surprising and enriching in ways I suspect will unfold little by little. When auditing teachers shared on the first day how much fun we would have, I was skeptical, my vashannas (habit energies) firmly in operation.

The breakdown came on the second day, with the first correction. The noise in my head began; I made a panicked call to my instructor for reassurance. Did I really belong here? Was I a worthy candidate? Prajna comes (softly as it tends to), inviting me to trust and let go. And then suddenly it comes rushing in, surrounding me, connecting me, making me a part of it. I find warmth and laughter, joy and love, in everyone. – LL

Reprinted by permission from the August 2016 issue of the TCC journal, The Vital Force.