May the (Vital) Force Be With You!

This monthly TCC e-newsletter, free to all subscribers, offers inspiration from the TCC journal, The Vital Force. Text from the most recent issue is below. To subscribe, send your email address to kim.grant@taichichih.org. May the Vital Force be with you!

Inspiration from The Vital Force 
February 2018


This month: TCC practice in all circumstances


“As the clouds are brushed away, awareness grows from the inside, and it always goes from the limited individual outlook to the universal.”

– Justin F. Stone, TCC Originator

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This e-newsletter offers inspiration between quarterly issues of the T'ai Chi Chih (TCC) journal, The Vital Force. TCC is a series of 19 movements and one pose, a moving meditation practice that helps circulate the Vital Energy, the Chi. Practitioners experience peace, health benefits and more. 

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Quotations from the most recent issue of The Vital Force
 

“TCC For All Seasons: It’s early March in Philadelphia. Twelve degrees and gusty winds. Biting icy snow and sleet still falling on already icy streets…. I’m going to the annual Philadelphia Flower Show. By the time I board my home-bound train later, I’m happily exhausted, fall asleep, and wake to hear the conductor announcing the next stop – not on my route. I had boarded the train heading the opposite direction from home. The next stop is an isolated one with no indoor shelter…. I gather my belongings and am the only person leaving the train.
 
It’s even colder, even windier, and the icy snow is still blowing. Ah...a sheltered bench and enough time to do a full TCC practice. It’s cold, but I’m mostly out of the wind, and Rocking Motion feels like the greatest blessing ever. Bird Flaps its Wings stares a gust of wind in the face. The “Platters,” Bass Drum and the “Daughters” are solid against the elements. Carrying the Ball – of persistence – to the Side. Pushing the cold away and Pulling in the warming Chi…. With the final grounding, I realize I’m warm and centered.” – ND, Wallingford, PA

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"Evolution Through ChiAfter 30 years of teaching TCC, I’m experiencing a deeper appreciation of Justin Stone’s approach to ‘Evolution Through Chi’ (1991 booklet)…. I’ve always approached my TCC practice and teaching with as much teh (inner sincerity) as possible, including gratefully accepting movement corrections over the years. I’m still trying to incorporate the many personal suggestions made by Justin. But after four years of teaching at a nursing home, I don’t focus on correcting students doing their very best to follow the movements….

My experiences increasingly bear witness to Justin’s claim that teaching TCC is an important way for us to serve as ‘Divine Agents of evolution.’ I feel that my most important ‘service to mankind,’ right here, right now, is to allow the TCC movements to support the evolution these residents are undergoing in the final years or months of their lives. Many of them are too demented to communicate with others at any significant level. It touches my heart more deeply than I can express when I see the eyes of stroke survivors and people with Alzheimer’s begin to shine as they feel enhanced Chi circulation." – HH, Fern Forest, HI

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Boulder: It had been two years since Andy passed. He loved attending the TCC teacher conferences, and we had attended most since our certification in San Antonio in 2000. Since he and I co-taught all our TCC classes, the thought of attending without him was something I couldn’t consider until this year.… It was wonderful seeing old friends, teachers and making new friends. But it brought back many bittersweet memories of the fun and learning Andy and I had together…. I hadn’t taught TCC since Andy’s passing but before the conference, I was asked to teach the residents of The Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. After much consideration, I took this as a sign. Andy would have wanted me to do it.

After the first class I received a request to teach at an assisted living complex, where I now offer standing and seated TCC. Andy and I had never taught seated TCC, and learning more about seated TCC was one of my main focuses at the conference. I am so thankful to have attended. Being with teachers was very healing, and I thank everyone for their kindness and friendship." – BA, Highland, IL

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Teachers, please forward this email to your students.
Students, please forward this email to your friends.

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Want more inspiration? Want connection with the global TCC community? Want tips for a better practice? Join us  subscribe to The Vital Force. Our quarterly journal offers engaging stories, hints and insights from TCC teachers and students. We also highlight wisdom by, and photos rarely seen of, originator Justin Stone. 

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.

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
 
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"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

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“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
 
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“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

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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. 

Shift Beyond Your Comfort Zone

By AL, Prospect Park, PA

Justin has said that if we do T’ai Chi Chih regularly, we will begin to enter into the Cosmic Rhythm. In fact we are all already in the Cosmic Rhythm, however practicing TCC consistently enables us to be consciously aware of being in the Rhythm. It’s been said that when a person becomes one with that Rhythm, things flow smoothly.

How do we become one with the Cosmic Rhythm? Simply by letting go (i.e. of tension, of effort and of resistance to what is).  This also requires letting go of the attachment to the outcome of plans, letting go of logical and rational thoughts, and trusting in prajna.* Let go of figuring-it-out and embrace feeling-it-out, which requires an aware presence, moment to moment.

Interestingly, we do this with every mindful TCC practice. When we are not practicing carelessly, we are feeling, in the moment, moment to moment.

I’ve always believed that the practice of TCC is analogous to the practice of life. Mindful TCC practices are preparing us to live life mindfully and in accord with the Cosmic Rhythm. While the tan t’ien knows the truth of this, the ego has other thoughts on the subject.

This year new TCC opportunities beyond my comfort zone have come to me. I was invited (by a student preparing for accreditation) to teach 20 hours worth of TCC over a weekend to a disciplined group of 17 meditators. Gulp. My student was the only one with any TCC experience. I also had the opportunity to facilitate a full day program on TCC and Heightened Awareness (a book by TCC originator Justin F. Stone) at a local spiritual center. Within the group, individual experiences of TCC ranged from brand new students to accredited teachers.

The tan t’ien (center) was thrilled with these prospects but my head was saying, 'Who me?' I knew in my gut that both opportunities felt right, however, the ego was quick to point out several things about which to worry. Witness the conversation:

Ego: You've never taught anything beyond a typical class, much less teaching 20 hours over a weekend. You've never done a full day program before and certainly not on heightened awareness. And now you've agreed to teach both? Are you friggin' kidding me?

Prajna: Thank you for sharing; it'll be fine.

Ego: Why not just stay with what you know (e.g., eight- to ten-week classes, ongoing hour-long classes at the Y, teaching your college students about the importance of grounding, hosting TCC events)?

Prajna: Thanks again for sharing; we're doing this.

Ego: How the heck do I convey heightened awareness to people? What will I say? What will we do? Twenty hours of TCC? I don’t know if I'm ready for this.

Prajna: Now hear this: You (and everyone else) are being guided; just listen. Ground yourself; trust the process and breathe.

Ego: Sigh. Gulp. Be-Here-Now. Be-Here-Now. Be-Here-Now.

So I ventured into unknown waters in facilitating both of these TCC events with some mental trepidation. My tan t’ien ironically was very reassuring, especially during the actual programs. I had the humbling experience of feeling prajna guiding me – in the moment – to say and do certain things. I actually felt comforted in the silences and, unbelievably to the ego, found myself simply waiting, listening and feeling for prajna to guide the direction of each TCC group in both class experiences.

Prajna knew what to do, and my job was to listen, trust it and follow it humbly as its servant.

What is your relationship to the Cosmic Rhythm? Are you flowing with it or swimming against the current in resistance? Prajna can expertly guide you if you allow it to and you most assuredly will feel the flow (although the ego doesn’t believe this). Have you been thinking of trying something outside of your TCC comfort zone? Have you been invited to try something new? Since TCC is a service to humanity, wouldn’t it be nice to shift beyond your comfort zone and see where the Cosmic Rhythm takes you?

* Editor’s note: Prajna is a Sanskrit word Justin often used, meaning inherent wisdom.

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