People who've done TCC for decades have experienced, and seen in others, a wide range of physical, emotional and spiritual benefits. Here, a TCC teacher from Maine tells his story.
By RR, Portland, Maine
This is my journey. I went to my first T’ai Chi Chih class in Montclair, New Jersey, thinking it was a T’ai Chi Ch’uan class, which I had learned in San Francisco in 1983 and had pursued for many years. I had taken external and internal martial arts since I was 19 and the one thing I had always been searching for was a spiritual dimension. I knew it was out there; I had taken Aikido when I was younger and, because of its philosophy, I knew there could be a spiritual aspect to all this.
For the most part, T’ai Chi Ch’uan classes I had taken had no meditation feeling to them; it was all about the physical. I was ready for T’ai Chi Chih when it came along. It was a big surprise.
I think of T’ai Chi Chih as another qigong system and, although its principles are based on the physical foundation of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), which gave birth to the meridian system, by the fifth class I knew this was very different and I was hooked. I also remembered that Justin Stone was a T’ai Chi Ch’uan master. I was especially impressed by Justin's writings, especially Spiritual Odyssey, where he made reference to Krishnamurti, whom I had seen in New York City in the 1970’s and who had a great impact on me. Much of what Justin had to say resonated with me, especially being in the here and now, which I feel T’ai Chi Chih emphasizes. Justin’s focus on relaxing also rang a clear bell.
I didn’t get serious about T’ai Chi Chih until I suffered heart problems. In 2007 my doctor told me that my ejection fraction rate (the percentage of blood pumped from the left into the right chamber) was twenty-five percent. For most people it’s between fifty-five and sixty-five percent. After practicing T’ai Chi Chih for all these years, mine is now around seventy percent, which mystifies my cardiologist. I tell him it’s the Chi.
In 2009, I received my certification....
Maine’s population is 1.33 million, while Portland (where I’m the only full time T’ai Chi Chih teacher) has 66,000 people. The New England area, I think by temperament, has not fully embraced either T’ai Chi Chih or T’ai Chi Ch’uan, although there are many yoga studios around Portland. When I moved here, Maine had three other T’ai Chi Chih teachers in the north; now there are five. When I came there were no T’ai Chi Chih teachers in New Hampshire, Vermont or Massachusetts; now there are two or three in each. So T’ai Chi Chih is slowly growing.
My support comes from T’ai Chi Ch’uan teachers, from whom I still take classes (my roots). And I’ve demonstrated T’ai Chi Chih to my T’ai Chi Ch’uan class. One of my teachers offered plants for my T’ai Chi Chih studio and hooked me up with “Mended Hearts” for whom I did a demo....
My students are my inspiration. My best student (I always say half-kiddingly) is 90 years old and does T’ai Chi Chih daily – even when he suffered from mononucleosis and pneumonia. He loves T’ai Chi Chih, which has increased his balance and he considers it meditation, although he “could never meditate.” He helped me demonstrate T’ai Chi Chih on a local television station a few years ago. He has what Justin refers to as teh (inner sincerity).
I’d never taught before and it’s my students who have supported me and whom I’ve learned from. Students love the feeling they get from doing T’ai Chi Chih – the general feeling that it transports them to another plane.
I predominantly get female students between the ages of 50 and 90; a number of them belong to religious communities. (Students include four pastors and one Buddhist priest.) I also have multiple sclerosis students for whom T’ai Chi Chih has greatly helped with balance. For some, T’ai Chi Chih has had an immediate impact. My very first student reported that after five weeks of classes she asked her doctor to cut her arthritis medication in half (which he did). The doctor also reported that my student’s blood pressure had never been lower in 18 months.
A few students have expressed an interest in teaching T’ai Chi Chih; one is actively pursuing accreditation. As a teacher I look for that “inner sincerity” that Justin talks about. I leave the spiritual aspects up to the individual; my focus has been on preventive health aspects of T’ai Chi Chih. During the Mended Hearts demonstration, I learned that two of the biggest post-operative factors were depression and the inability to be active, both of which are positively affected by T’ai Chi Chih.
Excerpted by permission from the May 2015 issue of the TCC journal, The Vital Force.