Spiritual Life: Simple But Not Easy

Justin F. Stone, TCC originator, explains what it means to "Do what is right."

How Our Lives Are Built

By Justin Stone, New Mexico T’ai Chi Chih News

In speaking or writing about Vashanas, it is easy to give the impression that they are something “bad.” Actually, these “habit energies” are neither good nor bad. It is impossible to live everyday life without building such habit energies. You would not be able to drive a car, play a piano, or cook a meal without having formed a pattern for performing these acts. Only a monk or a recluse can noticeably cut down the making of Vashanas and the eventual tendencies (Samskaras) that come from them. Patanjali, called the “Father of Yoga,” said that Yoga Practice was “Chit Vriti Narodha,” suppression of mental modifications. These mental modifications, called “Vritti,” are what dictate our lives, indeed, form us.

To live a life in which the making of mental modifications is attenuated or suppressed is impossible in ordinary life. Only the one determined to make the spiritual progress necessary to assure better lives in the future, with “Moksha” (Salvation) being the eventual goal, can live the kind of life necessary for progress, giving up all possibility of Greed, Anger and Delusion. And this includes the Greed for Life.

It is not difficult to see how these Vashanas form our Karma, or, rather, the Fruits of our Karma. “Karma” means “action,” though not in the ordinary sense, and we reap the fruit of our actions (the motive being all important). We can control our future by being careful of the Karma we build.

This is not an easy subject for people with only superficial interest to understand, but it, obviously, is the most important matter in the world. We are all born and we all die; this is inevitable. But how, in what state, are we born again? Remember, your future lies in your own hands. Recently I counseled a former student of mine, “In this life, do what is right, not what you think you can get away with.” Sounds like preaching, doesn’t it? Yet, in light of what is written above, it is necessary to add it for the good of all.

Reprinted with permission from the Tai Chi Chih website, taichichih.org.

Renewing Our Practice

Here, several very helpful tips are offered from the writings of TCC originator Justin F. Stone. These can refine our practice, a process we can continue as long as we do TCC. For more instruction, you can watch Justin on video here.

Teaching Tips For Teachers (Also Valuable For Students)

By Justin F. Stone

The Movements And Their Keys (or, what to look for) ~

"Working the Pulley" is a wonderful "exercise" for the waist. On the left side, the student starts by pushing forward the left hand as the body turns right from the waist; then, as the left hand pulls back and the right hand pushes forward, the torso (waist up) turns nearly 180 degrees to the left so it is facing the left side, not facing forward as careless students are apt to do.

The turn is completely to the opposite side, not facing forward, but in the opposing direction. Also, it should be stressed that the hand that is pulled back, palm up, comes back in a horizontal line at the waist or slightly above it. Then the hand pulls back slightly behind the body and comes up and over the shoulder (not way out to the side) in a swimming motion.

The ending will have to be taught by demonstration, so that the two hands come down together. The movement can be ended either by stepping forward or stepping back, but most teachers prefer to do it and teach it by stepping back.

. . . . . . . . . . .

"Light at the Top of the Head" is done softly. After the hands above the head swing out and back three times, the two hands are slowly twirled to the count of six (silent count), and then held stationary for a count of six, before swinging out again. On the descent to the "rest" position, be sure the right hand goes under the left.

. . . . . . . . . .

"Joyous Breath" is the only movement done with pressure, creating tension. After pushing down into the ground on an out-breath, we pull up to the chest, rising on the toes, with a deep in-breath. Then, after a very short pause (do not keep the student standing on the balls of the feet!) we come down stopping at four levels, each time breathing out more of the breath.

By the time we are flat on the feet, with turned- down hands along the legs, all the breath should have been exhaled. I have known students who like to do this movement at the beginning of practice, before "Rocking Motion," and there is nothing wrong with that.

. . . . . . . . . . .

"Passing Clouds" is to bring the hand sweeping low close to the opposing elbow. The elbows are held close to the side all through the movement; do not allow a wild, free-form waving of the hands. Naturally the sweeps are close to the face and the body, and the lower hand is almost fully extended toward the ground.

It may be easier for the teacher to work with one hand at a time, then putting them together in the opposing circular motion. Be sure the weight shifts from side to side. Do not allow the student to anchor the legs, then stand rigid and straight as the hands and arms do the work. The "yinning and yanging" of the legs is all important, with both feet flat on the ground.

. . . . . . . . . .

It should be explained to the student that the sounds of "Six Healing Sounds" are from ancient China and certainly did not originate with this writer, though the movements to which the sounds are set did begin here. It is not important that the student know which sound belongs to which internal organ. Actually, there is some controversy over one or two of the sounds, almost inevitable when we consider how long these sounds have been passed down by word of mouth. They were kept for really sincere seekers. 

 We push out and breathe (not shout) the sounds vigorously, aspirating them rather than saying them with the vocal chords. When we turn the wrists and push to one side or the other, the hands are at waist level, not hanging all the way down. This means the wrists are cocked, and both hands are turned in the same direction.

. . . . . . . . . .

The "Cosmic Consciousness" pose concludes practice, and it can be held for any length of time the teacher desires. Be sure to point out that the left heel is held against the little knob on the right leg (ankle bone) that separates the foot from the ankle. If a student has problems with balance, suggest that he or she practice the posture at home, and usually the difficulty will go away. 

- - - - -

From the booklet Teaching Tips For Teachers, excerpted and available for free download from Good Karma Publishing and in print form for a small fee from the New Mexico T’ai Chi Chih Center.

 

 

 

 

Happiness can be an inside job

Cultivating an inner peace prepares us to respond wisely and compassionately in the world while maintaining our center and balance. Bliss often is a product of such a practice, and is not dependent on external circumstances. 

Years of academic research as well as students' and teachers' experiences show us that T'ai Chi Chih effectively improves our well-being on so many levels. Below are several years of journal and news articles explaining how and why, all available on the TCC website as well.

2013

11/1/13
“T’ai Chih Chih Offers a Range of Benefits Over Time” 
The Daily Journal (Northeast Mississippi)
TCC teachers Ron Richardson, Stephen Thompson, Margaret Baker and their students discuss the many health improvements they’ve experienced as a result of maintaining this easy-to-learn practice.

10/24/13
“T’ai Chih (Chih) for Arthritis Relief” 
Healthline.com
Academic research increasingly shows that slow, gentle movements like those in T’ai Chi Chih® help relieve pain, stiffness and other symptoms of arthritis. TCC, this author notes, is increasingly popular because it provides similar benefits.

2/25/13

“A TED Talk: The Effects of Ta’i Chih Chih on High School Students” 
TEDx Albuquerque, NM: Innovations in Education
TCC teacher Amy Tyksinski and two students demonstrate this moving meditation while discussing the benefits high school students have experienced as result of the practice.

1/30/13
A T’ai Chi Chih Demonstration on TV program “Good Day Maine”
Channel 7, WPFO, Portland, ME
Teacher Raymond Reid demonstrates the practice of TCC and discussed its many health and other benefits.

2012

7/2/12
“Ta’i Chih Chih Class Takes Off at Manalapan Library” 
Asbury (NJ) Park Press
Teacher Dan Pienciak and students explain the many benefits of T’ai Chi Chih.

6/15/12
“Cancer Support Community Thanks Volunteers and Sponsors”
Messenger-Gazette (NJ)
T’ai Chi Chih student receives Spirit of Courage Award honoring her journey with cancer.

3/21/12
Portland (ME) Daily Sun
Teacher Raymond Reid and students discuss benefits of T’ai Chi Chih.

1/1/12
“Slow Motion: T’ai Chi Chih Classes Keep You Moving Without Sweating” 
Herald Net (Everett, WA)
Teacher Beth Preston and students describe benefits they’ve received from TCC practice.

2011

10/1/11
“Complementary Use of T’ai Chi Chih Augments Escitalopram Treatment of Geriatric Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial”
American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
UCLA research shows that TCC helps lessen depressive symptoms in seniors.

9/30/11
A Slow and Flowing Wave Hits Edmonds
Edmonds Beacon (Puget Sound, WA)
Students recount benefits of T’ai Chi Chih, growing in popularity in Washington.

Ongoing
“T’ai Chi Chih – Moving Meditation”
NationalPainFoundation.org
Chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS) sufferer describes how TCC helped reduce symptoms.

4/5/11
“The softer side of martial arts”
Metro News, Edmonton, CN
General feature on benefits of practicing T’ai Chi Chi; interview with Kim Grant, editor of The Vital Force (TCC journal)

3/20/11
“T’ai Chi (Chih) Beats Back Depression in Elderly, Study Shows”
ScienceDaily.com
Report on research at UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

3/18/11
“T’ai Chi (Chih) Eases Depression in Elderly”
The New York Times/Well blog

3/18/11
“Good News: T’ai Chi (Chih) Helps Fight Depression Among the Elderly”
TIME magazine

3/17/11
“Depressed Seniors Benefit from T’ai Chi (Chih)”
ThirdAge.com

3/16/11
“T’ai Chi (Chih) Beats Back Depression in Elderly, Study Shows”
Press release by UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

2/8/11
“New Strategies for Preventing Falls”
AARP.org
T’ai Chi Chih helps improve balance, build strength, and develop other qualities that help prevent falls.

2/2/11
“Mind-Body Relationship Key to Local Author’s Books on Health”
Capitola-Soquel (CA) Patch
TCC teacher Diane See discusses importance of mind-body harmony.

2/2011
5 Winter Workouts
Community Health magazine, Midwest U.S. distribution
TCC recommended as good exercise for indoors in winter.

1/11/11
“Missoula Baby Boomers Reflect on Turning 65”
NBC News, Missoula, MT
Interview with TCC teacher Lynne Roberts

1/6/11
“Arthritis Sufferer Says T’ai Chi Chih Has Changed Her Life”
Contra Costa (CA) Times (syndicated)
Interview with TCC teacher Maya Caudill

1/4/11
“Arthritis Sufferer Says T’ai Chi Chih Has Changed Her Life”
San Jose Mercury News
Interview with TCC teacher Maya Caudill

2010

11 & 12/2010
“T’ai Chi Chih: Exercise Without Breaking a Sweat”
AARP Magazine
TCC overview profiles TCC teacher Raymond Reid.

9/30/10
“Sleep Problems? T’ai Chi (Chih) May Help”
ValleyNewsLive.com, Fargo, ND
Research shows that practicing TCC helps improve sleep.

7/30/10
“Time for T’ai Chi (Chih) From Your Chair”
Daily Dose blog, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
Research shows that the seated version of TCC provides benefits to people with spinal cord injuries who cannot do the standing version.

7/29/10
“The Physical and Mental Benefits of Seated T’ai Chi Chih”
United Spinal Association Magazine
Research shows that the seated version of TCC provides benefits to people with spinal cord injuries who cannot do the standing version.

6/21/10
“T’ai Chi (Chih) Boosts Efficacy of Antidepressant Therapy in Older Adults”
Medscape Today News/Medscape.com
Adding TCC improves resilience, quality of life, and cognitive function in older adults with major depression.

5/25/10
“Better Your Mind with T’ai Chi Chih”
ABCNews.com
Research shows that practicing TCC can help relieve depression.

2009 & Earlier

8/3/09
“Friedbert Weimann, T’ai Chi Chih”
San Francisco Chronicle
Interview with TCC student Friedbert Weimann

7/1/08
“Improving Sleep Quality in Older Adults with Moderate Sleep Complaints: A Randomized Controlled Trial of T’ai Chi Chih”
SLEEP (academic journal)
Research shows that practicing TCC helps improve sleep.

11/07
“Get Energized” 
Natural Health
TCC is a great way to beat the daily fatigue of modern life and stresses.

3/24/07
“Practicing T’ai Chi (Chih) Boosts Immune System in Older Adults”
ScienceDaily.com
TCC practitioners in a research study experienced up to a 50 percent increase in the immune system’s memory T-cells.

11/2006
“T’ai Chi Chih Acutely Decreases Sympathetic Nervous System Activity in Older Adults”
The Journals of Gerontology, Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Shingles immunity is greatly strengthened by regular TCC practice. TCC practitioners experienced up to a 50 percent increase in the immune system’s memory T-cells, which are responsible for attacking the virus that causes shingles.

2005

7/28/05
“T’ai Chi Chih Practitioners Believe Balance of Energy Means Balance of Health”
Albuquerque (NM) Journal
Interview with TCC originator Justin Stone

12/1/04
“Shingles Immunity and Health Functioning in the Elderly: T’ai Chi Chih as a Behavioral Treatment”
Evidence-Based Complementary Medicine (academic journal)
TCC helps improve immunity and overall health, in part because it helps relieve depression.

9 & 10/2003
“Effects of a Behavioral Intervention, T’ai Chi Chih, on Varicella-Zoster Virus Specific Immunity and Health Functioning in Older Adults
Psychosomatic Medicine (academic journal)
TCC helps improve immunity and overall health, in part because it helps relieve depression.

9/22/03
“Mind over Matter: T’ai Chi Class Boosts Shingles Immunity, Improves Physical Functioning in Older Adults”
Press release by UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute
TCC helps improve immunity and overall health, in part because it helps relieve depression.

12/2000
“T’ai Chi Chih as an Intervention for Heart Failure”
The Nursing Clinics of North America (academic journal)
Researchers find that pre- and post-measures of heart failure symptoms, general health, mental health, functional capacity, and energy perceptions support the potential of T’ai Chi Chih in managing heart failure symptoms and improving quality of life.

10/1996
“T’ai Chi Chih: An Exercise Option for Older Adults”
Journal of Gerontological Nursing
Research shows that T’ai Chi Chih is a safe and enjoyable form of exercise that may improve balance in seniors.

1/27/90
“The Moving Joy of T’ai Chi Chih”
Los Angeles Times
Interview with TCC originator Justin Stone

 

Thoughts on Wisdom

“Can you only live in oneness? You have to live in this world, too.” – Justin F. Stone

Thoughts on Wisdom

By Justin F. Stone, TCC Originator

Confucius also spoke of Jen, human heartedness. Confucius said the most important thing is human heartedness. He believed in the power of inner sincerity. Here is a quotation from Confucius: “The life of the moral man is plain and yet it is not unattractive. It is simple and yet full of grace. It is easy and yet methodical. He knows that the accomplishment of great things consists in doing small things well, and that great effects are produced by small causes. He knows the evidence and reality of what cannot be perceived by the senses.”

Is there anything in Confucius’ statement you could quarrel with? Do you know anybody who has spoken more truth than Confucius?

The life of the moral man is plain and yet it is not unattractive. He’s saying that great things are produced by doing small things. If you do small things well, great things are done. He also knows the evidence and reality of what cannot be perceived by the senses. This is understandable. I hear sound waves from the radio but I can’t see them. To a primitive person, the sounds coming from the radio would be magic, wouldn’t they?

There are many stories of how Confucius went to Lao-tzu to talk to him. Lao-tzu lived at the same time as Confucius. In fact, we don’t even know if there was a Lao-tzu because Lao-tzu has to do with a Master, almost a cumulative Master. Lao-tzu said, “He who wants to spring, first must crouch. Push down to break attachment and lift. If something is heavy, don’t try to lift it, push down on it. He who stands on tip toe weakens himself.” 

Chuang-tzu is to Lao-tzu what Plato is to Socrates. Chuang-tzu said, “The wise man considers both sides of the question without partiality, sees them both in the light of Tao. This is called following two courses at once. Can a man cling only to heaven and not to earth? They are correlative. To know one is to know the other. To refuse one, is to refuse both.” Can you only live in oneness? You have to live in this world, too.

Chuang-tzu went on, “Can a man cling to the positive without any negative? If he claims to do so, he is either a rogue or a mad man.” Chuang-tzu also said, “Where the fountains of passion lie deep, the heavenly springs are soon dry.” One of Chuang-tzu’s most famous statements is the following: “Only the true man can have true knowledge.”

My Indian teacher once was asked, “Can you reach enlightenment through devotion?” He said, “You’ve got it backwards. Only the enlightened man is capable of devotion.”

Lao-tzu said, “To realize that knowledge is ignorance; this is a noble insight. To regard our ignorance as knowledge, this is mental disease.” So some of us are diseased. There are so many stories along this line. 

From the book Gateway to Eastern Philosophy & Religion by Justin Stone, excerpted and reprinted with permission from Good Karma Publishing, Inc.

Reprinted with permission from the  November 2014 issue of the Tai Chi Chih journal, The Vital Force.

 

 

 

Strength, Balance & Healthy Aging with TCC

Balance and leg strength are critical elements of healthy aging, research shows. Here, TCC teachers and students tell how the practice has helped them with both.

A Gift Beyond
MB, TCC student, Oxnard, CA

A fall in Tanzania, another in Spain, and another in Vietnam. These were not harmless tumbles quickly forgotten; each caused significant injuries. Perhaps they signaled an end to my traveling … but I am leaping ahead. To understand my experience of T’ai Chi Chih, we must look at the pathway to those places.

I had not welcomed retirement….my beloved husband sank into dementia and left this life….Travel saved me during those dark days…That solace would now end; it would be foolhardy to continue to risk injury so far from home….

(Then), I found a twice-weekly TCC practice. My teacher’s exacting but patient teaching served me well. As I learned, I experienced a quickening and a quieting, but I did not yet know all that the practice would bring.

I began to feel restless. Would one more journey be possible? I traveled to ancient villages and monasteries in Turkey where walking often was treacherous. But I did not fall. Emboldened, I signed on for voyages across the Atlantic and Pacific on traditional clipper ships. As we moved with the sea, I did not fall. I traveled to Budapest and on to Transylvanian villages, and still I did not fall. It began to seem like a miracle, and I wondered how it had come about. I wonder no more: The practice of TCC has gifted me in a remarkable way.

The quieting and calming of TCC movements will insure my lifelong practice. Focus and attention, balance and strength are the unexpected and wonderful bonuses. I now stand and move with a steadier strength. I do not fear the rough terrain, broken walkways, and countless stairways that are routine in the off-the-beaten path places to which I travel. TCC has given back to me the adventures of world travel. On my 81st birthday, I will travel to Morocco.

 

Better Balance for Students of All Ages

"I heard from another rock climber that TCC practice would give me more focus and balance. It was true; I advanced one whole level in climbing skill. I used to feel that my feet were separate from my hands; now they are not. I am with the rock.” – DZ, TCC teacher and rock climbing instructor, Albuquerque, NM (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences)

"I’ve had a problem with balance. My first (TCC) class was spent using a chair. My second class – much better, as I had been practicing at home. I’m 83 years young.” – JR, TCC student (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences, Vol. II)

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Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are printed with permission from The Vital Force, the quarterly journal of T’ai Chi Chih. The Blooming the Flower series and Blooming the Spirit are published by the T’ai Chi Chih Association, Albuquerque, NM.

 

Peace through TCC practice

These articles from The Vital Force tell students’ stories of T’ai Chi Chih’s gifts.

 

“I did my practice to find peace”

By RH, Parma, Ohio

 Without a doubt, the last 18 months have been the most difficult in my life. My son was diagnosed with a brain tumor in May 2012. From that day until his death in October 2013, and through this grieving process, life has been a very different process. The world seems to move in a strange way, as if my life is separate from the whole.

 I did my best to focus on the positive through each of the three brain surgeries. Watching the process of radiation and chemotherapy was difficult – being aware of all that these protocols destroy. My son had been so physically fit and healthy.  He was an avid athlete (he qualified for the SWAT team of the FBI when he was 40), so the worst part was watching the gradual physical deterioration.

Through this incredibly difficult journey, I had one constant: my regular T’ai Chi Chih practice. I did my practice to find peace. I did my practice to find courage. I did it at the hospital when I needed to calm myself. I did my practice looking for hope. Each time I did my practice I felt a new beginning, and I could face it all again.

TCC brought me to the groundedness I needed to remain in the moment and with it came peace and knowing that in the end, we would all be okay. This too was part of the process of life experience.

I talk to my son, Joe every day, as I know he is near and I will see him again. I miss him in the physical. I do my TCC practice each day to find peace, hope and joy in this moment.

 

TCC’s Gentle Power

By SB, Richfield, Minnesota

In October 2012, my beloved husband of 40 years was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was a terrifying and devastating diagnosis. My T'ai Chi Chih practice helped me to stay grounded through all of the tests, scans, biopsies, surgeries and visits to the various doctors. We were told in the beginning that Jim's cancer was curable because it was contained in his left lung and that once removed, the cancer would be gone. That was not what the cancer had in mind.

Jim recovered well from the lung removal surgery in December but then something went terribly wrong in January. He could no longer tolerate the smell or taste of food and, in the end, lost over 100 pounds from October to mid-March. TCC kept me calm and helped me focus. Jim was in terrible pain that was helped by watching Sandy's seated TCC DVD. He could not physically follow the movements but watching her and listening to her voice helped him relax, decreased his pain and allowed him to sleep. We were also blessed by a healing visit from Antonia when she came to Minnesota for her annual retreat.

Jim died on March 16, 2013 surrounded by family. TCC helped both of us stay grounded through this difficult experience. It provided comfort and helped us accept what was happening and to transition from one life to a new one for us both. TCC helped me carry on, offering quiet strength and comfort in the gentle rhythmic movements that transcend the present realities of life.

Reprinted by permission from the February 2014 issue of The Vital Force.


"You might even call it joy"

Watching someone practice TCC, the grace is evident. Doing TCC, the benefits are clear. Teaching TCC, we pass on to students these precious movements in many ways beyond language.

 

Teaching How To Let Chi Flow From The Center

By C N-S, San Luis Obispo, California

 

Letting The Form Move The Chi

Teaching T’ai Chi Chih in a health club presents its own challenges and rewards. The greatest challenge is that attendance is always in flux: one week I have almost all veteran practitioners, and another week half the class might be newcomers or students who attend sporadically because of health or work issues. As a result, I need to teach the basics at almost every session. The greatest reward, though, is that I teach basics at almost every session. As a result, I have had to find ways to teach the core of TCC (flowing from the center) in a way that works for students at all stages of their practice.

 

Teaching How It Feels, Not How It Looks

I often have the group start by making a circle, and with their hands loosely held behind their backs, begin the side-to-side locomotion of Carry the Ball to the Side. I choose this move for beginners because any compromise to the completeness of the sideways weight shift is more easily recognized since we actually bring in the “empty” or yin leg on the third step. If the student leans to the side or reaches to bring in that “giving” (or empty) leg, he or she immediately realizes that the weight has not yet been centered on the “receiving” (or “filling”) leg.

Once the students internalize the sense of a soft, unwavering vertical plumb line (running between the weight-bearing part of the foot up through the tan t’ien, heart and to the spot between their eyes) and realize that the body is not moved by pushing or effort, but rather by relaxing both legs and letting the body’s weight “pour” completely from one side to the next as the straightened leg is bent, they are ready to try the yinning and yanging step.

I sometimes ask them to think of their spine as a slightly melting stack of little ice cream sandwiches on a plate (the hips) so that they are not tempted to lean their shoulders into the movement, or reach with their arms when we add them later.

 

Chi Flows From Side-To-Side Like Water Being Poured From One Vessel To The Other

I ask students to consider that even the forward step is also side-to-side, and that the feeling of allowing the energy to be given up by one side in order to be received by the other is the same in both types of move. Again, with the hands resting behind us and an upright relaxed body and gently bent legs, heels together, we begin to orient their body’s center plumb line over the right foot, always moving from the tan t’ien. When all of the weight is over the right foot, we gently set the heel of the left foot forward and slightly to the side (without reaching), set the left heel down, then immediately bend the left leg and allow the hips, which are bearing our relaxed upright body, to flow into that side until the right side is empty. All of the weight is now on the left leg and the body is centered right above that left foot.

It is essential that absolutely no energy is put into the back foot during this weight shift, because that would cause the body to lean forward, and more importantly, it would hold yang energy in the side that needs to be waning into a yin stage (becoming the empty vessel). As with any energy exchange (think a piston or a battery), the more energy that is taken out, the more energy that can be put in.

 

Chi Flows Because The Center Is Moving – Wait For It To Happen

The other element of this approach is letting the hands become like dinghies pulled behind the powered craft (the tan t’ien). The hands are always pulled by the power source and have no power of their own. Once I took power away from my arms/hands I began to truly experience TCC doing TCC.

To help students feel this, I verbalize the idea that the energy that moves the arms comes from, and actually mentally follows, the generation of movement that starts with the tan t’ien. In each move students are asked to relax, think of where the center weight is and where it is going, and once that core weight shift starts, then they can let something happen with their arms/hands.

Think of the hands in Bass Drum moving forward because the tan t’ien has started forward, energizing them. Think of the arms in the various platter shapes moving to the right or left because the tan t’ien has started off to the right or left dragging them with it, then let the hands refine the circular shape (rather than thinking of the arm movement as making circles on their own related to which foot is forward).

Think of the arms rising in the “Daughters” because the tan t’ien has started moving forward, creating the energy which motivates them to gracefully rise, then allowing them to gently fall in their beautiful patterns, like raindrops flowing down a window, or the glittering stars of fireworks in the night fading as the tan t’ien moves backward: a gravity-powered energy pump, each yin becoming the genesis of the following yang. Forward and back, rising and falling, filling and emptying: part of everything that lives.

 

Moving From The Center Prevents Fatigue And Injuries

This shifting of all of our weight when we walk and practice TCC in this natural way protects our knees, because they correctly align themselves between the weight-bearing part of the foot. The hip socket can then relax until called upon again. I have observed with my older or injured students that the size of the step or the depth of knee bend is much less important to achieving a deeply-felt practice than is the completeness of the weight shift. Even people who have to use walkers can experience a wonderful flow of Chi although they are only able to take small, shallow steps.

I have had my share of arthritis and other age-related physical issues, and many of my students come to me because they are not able to do much exercise due to health problems. We have all found that by religiously focusing on experiencing a full weight shift with each move, the body is always relaxed, and the “empty” side gets to rest, so the legs do not tire no matter how long we practice. In fact, most students find they have much more energy after class than when we began, and go on to the rest of their day with a very positive attitude. You might even call it joy.

Reprinted with permission from the May 2015 issue of the T'ai Chi Chih journal, The Vital Force.


TCC from a Beginner's Perspective: Thoughts from a Newbie

A TCC student describes her sudden awareness that “Chi is spreading like rings in water to other aspects of my life.”

 By MSK, Seal Beach, California

To be Present

 One of my close girlfriends asked me why I liked this T’ai Chi Chih so much and what it was all about and it got me thinking. I have never tried any traditional T’ai Chi practices so I wouldn’t know the difference. But I know what I like about T’ai Chi Chih and what got me to going to it in the first place.

 In a world where time can feel like riding a tiger through water and hours just slip through one’s fingers, it's so important to find something that helps you live in the moment and be 100 percent present. I searched and tried many things. I tried a circle group meditation where we stared into a circle of candles, and for 35 minutes I did nothing but think about my back hurting, the itching behind my left knee, and buying milk on my way home. I've tried mindfulness CDs where I sat still and got increasingly stressed about spending 14 minutes listening to the ocean … when I had e-mails to answer.

I also practiced a morning meditation where I lay on my back listening to one quiet song all the way to the end (never longer than 5 minutes), and during that time, I managed to make multiple shopping lists, a list of calls to make that day, and to plan Christmas gifts for years to come.

I tried several relaxation techniques where I often just fell asleep. I tried a few types of yoga where I either mentally beat myself up for not doing a daily practice, or I focused too much on doing the poses properly, until realized it would take years (if not decades) before I could relax into it. So when I saw an advertisement in a local magazine in Seal Beach for TCC I thought, you have nothing to lose my friend. I must say I was very skeptical.

 My first time

I arrived a little early to peek at the intermediate class. Students stood in a circle and pulled taffy. Wow, I thought, I will never learn that; it looks so easy that it must be extremely difficult. But I have never tried any martial art, meditation practice, or anything that is so easy to catch and get into the flow. Suzanne Roady-Ross, our patient and smiling instructor, got us started in no time. Luckily, Suzanne explained that we should not be surprised if we felt energy in our hands while doing the exercises. Otherwise I might have run away and never returned because the feeling of something was there almost immediately – the feeling of polarity between the palms and a tingling in the palms that flowed up through the arms. I was speechless.

 To be or not to be

I did not flee and returned again and again to Suzanne's classes. After five weeks, I joined the more experienced class and followed as best I could through all 19 movements. It was an absolutely amazing experience. My brain simply logged off. For the first time in my life my mind quieted. I followed the others from one movement into the next. No shopping lists, phone calls, or anything else emerged in my mind. I experienced for a short while just being. Then we reached “Daughter on the Mountain Top” and my body needed my brain to coordinate my arms.

 The Future

I'm still a beginner, but I’m now able to do all 19 movements, and I keep being impressed by how easy it is to get in the flow and just be. As Suzanne made me focus more on my legs, I realized I had never really felt my legs. I am often unsure if they are bent or straight when they are supposed to be, but that will slowly come. 

I can feel little glimpses of being and the sudden awareness that Chi is spreading like rings in water to other aspects of my life. I now find that in other meditation forms, being in the moment and feeling joy comes more easily. I believe that TCC will continue giving in body awareness and inner peace and joy. I will definitely be practicing TCC for years to come, and I will continue recommending it to people like me, those who often feel more stressed than relaxed when lying down rather than being through motion.

 Reprinted with permission from the November 2014 issue of the TCC journal, The Vital Force.

 

 

It's Monday: Got #Energy?

"T‘ai Chi Chih has changed my life,” say many people who practice TCC regularly. In fact, it's one of the most common statements of gratitude TCC originator Justin Stone heard from students over many years. Improvements in physical, emotional and mental health are enjoyed by students of all ages – children, teens, young adults, mid-lifers and seniors. The benefits are often quickly apparent to newcomers, as well as cumulative for those who have practiced TCC for years and decades.

Quotes below are from students and teachers, provided here as inspiration and an invitation. This information is not intended to replace any medical treatment by, or perspectives from, your own health care provider. 

High Energy Is Often a Benefit of Practicing TCC

For more stories about ways practicing TCC has helped improve other aspects of health, visit taichichih.org.

"TCC has helped me face the challenges of a lifetime. It has given me the courage to change the patterns that have exhausted me, to leave my native hometown in California and move to New Mexico to start making art again (my true love) and to explore new career opportunities.” – Christa Keller, TCC teacher (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences, Vol. II)

"My TCC practice has reawakened the knowledge that there really is energy inside, and that we can summon it….” – Dan, TCC student (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences, Vol. II)

"I sleep better, I’m more relaxed, I have more energy. Ideas at work flow more clearly and faster. I’m less depressed, friends and coworkers continually compliment me on a ‘glow’ that I have now, and I just feel better about life all around. I’m recommending TCC to everyone in my life!” – Catherine McNair, TCC student, Syracuse, NY (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences)

"In Monterey for the Big Sur Marathon, I finished a full 12 minutes in front of my training partner. In our nine years of running together, he had always outpaced me in races. As all runners know, many factors – physical, mental, and environmental – influence the outcome of any run or race, but this time, in the pre-dawn hours waiting for the (starting) gun to go off, I had time for a complete T’ai Chi Chih practice.” – Kathy Grassel, TCC teacher, Albuquerque, NM (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences)

"In the beginning, it was hard to muster the energy to practice, but I always ended with more energy than I had started with, and so I continued. The benefits that I derived were increased energy and improved mental focus.” – Eddy Perez, TCC student, Newark, CA (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences)

"The main reason [I continue practicing] is for the benefits it provides me right after doing the (practice): the wakefulness, the alertness, and how ready I am for the day. After these (movements), I am ready to go out and do things and do not need to rely on massive amounts of coffee to get me ready.” – Dan Carpenter, TCC student, Columbia, MD (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences)

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are printed with permission from The Vital Force, the quarterly journal of T’ai Chi Chih. The Blooming the Flower series and Blooming the Spirit are published by the T’ai Chi Chih Association, Albuquerque, NM.

Reflections of a Senior TCC Teacher: "All Benefit 100%"

This longtime TCC teacher reflects on her current practice in Hawaii as well as her history as the first TCC teacher in Chicago.

All Benefit 100%

By HH, Mountain View, Hawaii

I treasure our teacher community beyond words; the organic evolution keeps me Chi-ful.

My practice and approach to teaching change as I "mature" (at 76 years young). I practice because it is an energy-balancing practice that I can share with others. Each class is its own "spiritual community." I currently teach at a nursing home, a senior residence, the Hawaii Island Home for Recovery (people transitioning from homelessness), and Hope Services' program for recently released offenders. Participants range from being severely limited physically and mentally, to physically and emotionally fragile, to amazingly strong from working out while incarcerated, to regular middle-aged women (and a couple of men).

Students in my classes have health concerns ranging from COPD and diabetes to cancer and strokes. So I won't be training any "next generations" of TCC teachers. I'm grateful for the opportunities I had, as the first accredited teacher in Chicago, to have hosted accreditation courses and even a national conference. Then and now, “personal, spiritual connectivity” forged a relationship that led toward teaching (then) and toward shared practice (now). 

I've always perceived ''stumbling blocks" as stepping stones toward a destination appropriate for the students, and I'm grateful for the many times when that destination turned out to be accreditation followed by active teaching, even on a very small scale.

Connecting with other teachers has been the same kind of "personal, spiritual connectivity" I experience with students. I have seldom missed an annual conference since I was accredited in 1986. The affinity of our devotion to TCC creates an immediate bond with teachers I am meeting for the first time, even if I interact with them for only a few minutes.

"All Benefit 100%" refers to my experience that any one who practices TCC at any level receives 100% of the benefits available to that person at that time in that personal and physical place/space. While my intention is always to practice with integrity, I do so with mindfulness rather than yardsticks or expectations.

I experienced great joy recently when visiting one of my students at a rehab center after she had fallen and fractured her foot in several places. I anticipated the worst, since she has extreme scoliosis and walks with a walker; she does seated TCC. Her face lit up when she saw me and she could not wait to show me all of the TCC movements she could do while lying down, including Light at the Top of the Head!

She explained to the attendant that the attendant could do these movements standing up just by shifting her weight back and forth (which I demonstrated). L was receiving 100% of the benefits of TCC because she was not only doing the movements with as much integrity as possible, she was also sharing her "Joy Through Movement."

Reprinted with permission from the May 2015 issue of the TCC journal, The Vital Force