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

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.

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.

 

 

TCC Improves Our Inner State Of Being

A T'ai Chi Chih student explains how TCC practice brings a sense of inner peace.

By TI, Illinois

(All quotations are from the book Spiritual Odyssey by TCC originator Justin F. Stone)

The Buddha said, All that you are, all that you ever have been, and all that you ever will be is the result of what you have thought. To which Justin adds, If we are not content with our lives, we might take a look in the direction of these habit patterns.

Practicing T'ai Chi Chih affects our thoughts, which affects our emotions, which affects our perceptions of our world, which affects our reality. Justin writes, Our attitudes change and we become more like the bamboo, rather than the oak. Then the outer world reflects this inner serenity....

For each frame of mind there is a corresponding Chi. Our thinking cultures our Vital Force. Thus we can influence what we are and what we become by what we think. The most common response I hear about how TCC has benefited people is a feeling of inner peace. The mindfulness we employ while practicing TCC, and the circulating and balancing of the Chi, help lead people to a more peaceful state of being and helps them be less reactive to the world around them.

Along these lines Justin also states, [TCC]...permeates the lifestyle of the practitioner. We do not all see the same world, which is a reflection of ourselves. With the accumulation of the Chi (Vital Force) through [TCC] practice, permanent changes in metabolism and the thinking process take place and renewed energy conditions the whole way of life.

I want to be in this peaceful, joyful state more often than not, and TCC helps me accomplish this. The more often I practice, the easier it is for me to maintain a sense of calm and to respond to situations rather than react.

As Justin says, When this Chi is circulated and the positive and negative aspects (the Yin and the Yang) are brought into balance, not only does health improve, but an inner serenity seems to follow naturally. The increased energy (because Chi is energy) brings vast changes in the practitioner's life, both inner and outer.

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

The Physical & the Spiritual in TCC

 

T'ai Chi Chih originator Justin F. Stone explains how the many benefits of practicing TCC come about.

By Justin F. Stone

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 (through TCC practice) we are actually performing the deepest Yoga, going back to the cause and erasing it so the effect 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 its deepest levels, particularly in our busy society. But we can practice TCC and have the deepest spiritual effect on ourselves. 

Reprinted with permission from the February 2016 and Fall 1987 issues of the TCC journal, The Vital Force.

TCC & Non-Duality

 

 

Advaita in Sanskrit means Non-Duality. This is a difficult concept for most people as we look about us and see multiple objects. But what we see are only transformations, not permanent forms, whether we are speaking of a chair, a tree or a human being. Each exists provisionally but is certainly not lasting. One day the tree may become the chair and the human body will be eaten by worms. The I that observes all this may disappear and become another I. To bank on permanence is to promote suffering.

When we perform T’ai Chi Chih properly we feel the results. Since we are, essentially, a conflux of moving energies, stimulating and balancing the Intrinsic Energy (Chi) affects our whole being. The effects seem to be personal, but, in truth, they are widespread. Just as our Enlightenment is saving all beings, so does the balancing of the Universal Energy affect both the outer and the inner.

So many students have written me about how their lives have changed with the practice of T’ai Chi Chih. Those who truly practice note that their attitudes change – and others notice it, too. We do not heal symptoms; we become whole.

So, to practice regularly and sincerely is to promote the positive in this world; we reap the benefits. This is Advaita in action.

Photo: TCC originator Justin F. Stone practices in his home in Albuquerque, NM in the early 1980s.

Reprinted with permission from the November 2015 and Spring 1988 issues of the TCC journal, The Vital Force.

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.

 

 

 

 

A Thousand Kinds of (Spiritual) Joy

Anecdotes from T'ai Chi Chih founder Justin Stone from the August 2014 issue of The Vital Force journal:

More 20th Century Psalms

By Justin Stone

I only once met Roshi Suzuki, the Zen Master who helped found Tassajara, but was deeply impressed. It is a difficult drive up to Tassajara in the winter and I had an old car. After speaking with me for a while in Japanese, in the mistaken impression I was a well-known scholar he was expecting from Kyoto, Roshi invited me to share a Japanese ofuro (hot bath in a wooden tub) with him. Looking hesitantly at the fading sun as the day drew to a close, I replied that I had better start back while there was still some sunlight to see by. "The moon gives light, too," was his soft answer.

~~~~~~

 One of my T'ai Chi Chih teachers brought some students to see me on the Monterey Peninsula. We talked of this and that, and then one of the students asked me about reincarnation (a misleading word).

"What do you mean by reincarnation?" I asked. "What is it that reincarnates? That tree in the garden is shedding leaves, which is natural in autumn. But those leaves will return next spring. Is that what you mean?"

"The leaves that come in the springtime will not be the same leaves," the student protested.

"Why identify with the leaves?" I asked. "Why not identify with the tree?"

~~~~~~

Lynette Wooliver, a profound Christian Scientist, is one of the most spiritually advanced people I have known. She once remarked to me that she saw her daughters as two nice girls who occasionally visited the house. When the home she and her husband were building in Santa Fe tragically burned to the ground just before completion, she told me that they had watched the fire with interest for a while, then went home to enjoy a night's sleep. As her mother was dying, she remarked to Lynette on the beauty of the flowers in a vase by her bedside, and Lynette answered: "I picked them myself in the garden."

One time, in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, Lynette and some friends were eating lunch with me at a sidewalk cafe owned by an Austrian man. For dessert he brought us each a rich Sachertorte from Vienna, so good one always wants a second. As I was bringing my fork to my mouth with the first succulent piece, salivating in anticipation of this tasty morsel, Lynette suddenly asked: "Can we do without this?"

I immediately put my fork down and pushed the plate away, and she did the same. Seeing this, she remarked: "Then we might as well eat it" – which we proceeded to do with gusto. I believe the lesson was completely lost on her friends, but it is true that we can only enjoy that which we can do without.

 ~~~~~~

Swami Ramdas, who died in the middle of the twentieth century, was like a joyous child who saw God in everything and everybody. One day a man robbed a bank in an Indian town and, when he was apprehended, there was Swami Ramdas carrying some of the bags of loot for him.

In court the Judge asked Swamiji, "What is a Holy Man like you doing mixed up with this thief?"

Swami Ramdas replied: "By the Grace of God I was standing on the corner when, by the Grace of God, a man ran by, carrying some bags. ‘Here, carry this,’ he yelled at me, and, by the Grace of God, he threw two bags for me to carry. So, by the Grace of God, I was running alongside him when, by the Grace of God, two policemen …"

"Get out of here," interrupted the magistrate, laughing, and Swamiji was set free – by the Grace of God. The Sanskrit scholar, Judith Tyberg, told me this story of the great Saint who had become like a simple child, dancing for Joy.

[Reprinted with permission from Good Karma Publishing. This title is out-of-print.]