Joy is Our 'Natural State'

The Vital Force, the quarterly print journal of T’ai Chi Chih, is available by subscription. We also publish a free monthly e-newsletter, below. You’ll also find info below on how to sign up for the free newsletter and how to subscribe to the journal.

March 2019

Inspiration from The Vital Force 

This month: Gifts of TCC


"Joy is your natural state....”

– 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, theChi. Practitioners of TCC experience peace, health benefits and more. 

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From a recent issue of The Vital Force:
 

Gifts of Presence: "I gave space to let my heart feel into what was important to share before sitting down to write this. The words 'powerful field of Presence' kept arising. Something very beautiful and miraculous happens when we gather together, especially over the course of a TCC retreat or Intensive. A powerful field of Presence is activated by the grounding in our practice. There is nothing we need to 'do.' TCC itself carries with it the intention of opening up Presence. This field we create together through TCC is so holding and supportive. It opens us up to the gifts of Presence: love, courage, strength, wisdom, inspiration, joy and lots of laughter. Presence creates a safe space that welcomes everything – including tears and pain. This compassionate space has the power to deeply heal and transform our soul." – MD, Loveland, CO

. . . . .
 

Gifts of Practice: "I learned to glide; to let my heels gently rise, rather than lifting them; to let my knees and elbows let go and move; to settle my shoulders, and to begin to feel the energy in my hands. Personal one-on-one guidance helped me discover new ways of making room for spirit in my body, offering cathartic emotional releases and glimpses of ecstasy." – RGB, Livingston, MT

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Gift of Relief: "Two years of TCC practice has proven to be a tremendous healing power in my life. Extreme foot pain and insomnia have vanished, my balance improved and my creativity expanded and deepened. Two months ago, my left knee was replaced and the first three weeks of recovery were wicked. It was extremely difficult and painful.  In week three post-surgery I woke up in tears and cried out, 'I can’t endure this pain one more day.'My inner voice said, 'TCC will help.' I finally put on Justin Stone’s DVD, played it over and over, fell in and out of sleep, trying to do some arm movements. After a while I was doing the movements in my mind. I fell gently asleep – my first good sleep in three weeks." – JW 

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Gift of Joy: "Joy is your natural state, although it is usually clouded over. When the Mind returns to its natural condition, you are joyful. Such Bliss is not the result of anything. 'To the Mind that is still the Universe surrenders.' The Life Force itself is joyous. All we have to do is get ourselves out of the way and enjoy it. This is not difficult for animals and plants, but few humans achieve the natural and the spontaneous." – Justin Stone, Climb The Joyous Mountain 

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

. . . . .

Want more inspiration? Connection with the global TCC community? Tips for a better practice? Join us:

1) Subscribe to the 24-page The Vital Force at http://www.taichichih.org/the-vital-force. Each issue offers 40-45 engaging stories, hints and insights. We also highlight wisdom by, and photos rarely seen of, originator Justin Stone. 

2) Subscribe to this monthly e-newsletter by emailing us here.

July issue of free TCC e-newsletter!

July 2018

Inspiration from The Vital Force

This month: Changing consciousness

...every word spoken to you will be a signpost to guide you,
if you let it
.”

– 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
 

Simple but not Easy: "As teachers of T’ai Chi Chih we have a tremendous responsibility to complete and carry on Justin Stone’s vision. He believed and taught that a daily practice of TCC – when practiced with integrity and sincerity – could and would raise our individual vibration and increase the speed of our personal evolution. Perhaps it could even speed the evolution for all humanity. This is a pretty tall order. …As I have grown as a teacher, I have come to learn that instead of rules, Justin gave us his teachings and his example. And, I have found, if we follow these guidelines we will not lose our way. Are the guidelines hard to follow? No. However, like TCC, they are simple but not easy. …TCC keeps us grounded and present. It keeps us in the moment and it brings clarity. " – EF, Glenwood Springs, CO

. . . . .

A Way of Healing: “TCC has been my form of stress relief, anxiety relief and a safe haven for about a year. Coming into it, I thought it would be ridiculous, but it proved me wrong. In a competitive school, I’m always thinking about what’s ahead. But TCC helped me be in the moment, slow down, make sure I’m okay. TCC really is a way of healing. I’m much less stressed and I feel like I have control over my emotions. I can feel them and I let them come out, but I don’t have to be scared of them. I’m glad I took TCC this year; it really has helped me.” – AN, Albuquerque, NM

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Identification with the Universal: "In a higher state of consciousness, this feeling of narrow, isolated individuality expands and develops into a closer identification with the Universal. At times such a one may feel his awareness going far beyond the walls of his room or the shell of his body and covering vast areas of consciousness. …There is no limit to which consciousness can expand, understandable when you realize that it is not 'our' consciousness. Sentience is everywhere." – Justin F. Stone

. . . . .

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

. . . . .

Want more inspiration? Want connection with the global TCC community? Want tips for a better practice? Join us:

1) Subscribe to The Vital Force at https://www.taichichih.org/subscribe. 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. 

2) Subscribe to this monthly e-newsletter by sending an email with heading marked SUBSCRIBE to kim.grant@taichichih.org.
 

*TCC watercolors by Judy Kistler-Robinson

Minding Our Minds

Experience is subjective - each of us sees a situation slightly differently. How does our relationship to the Chi influence our perspective? 

TCC e-Newsletter April 2018

Inspiration from The Vital Force 

This month: Minding Our Minds

“For each state of mind there is a corresponding character of Chi and, in turn, each aspect of Chi influences the state of mind.”

– Justin F. Stone, TCC Originator

____________________

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. 

_______________


Quotations from the most recent issue of The Vital Force
 

Discipline of Gratitude: “Five years ago my husband was recovering from surgery to save his life from cancer.... His recovery was short-lived, and he died three months later. I have been paying attention to my life's new direction. I have three fabulous children married to wonderful people. I have four amazing grandchildren who fill me with joy. I am thankful for what I have in my life and that I continued to live. Now I have the opportunity to refocus, and live purposefully with a discipline of gratitude, finding the good in life. It's my responsibility to bring light where there is darkness, healing where there is pain, and joy where there is sorrow.” – SB, Richfield, MN

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Effort of No Effort: "No thought, no mind, no problems. Focusing on the soles of the feet. Yinning and yanging, one leg in emptiness while the other leg full. Emptiness of weight. Weightlessness in the forward and back movements. Flowing from the tan t'ien. No effort, a slow steady swim through air." – KL with DM, Wildwood, IL

. . . . .

Empty Cup: "In Heightened Awareness, Justin Stone writes: 'For one to follow the methods of the book in working toward heightened awareness ... it is necessary to "empty the cup." A full cup will hold no more.' I considered what I'd like to remove from my cup (fear, worry, envy, resentment, anger, disappointment, busyness) to make room for gratitude, love, sharing. Then i realize my error. Again, my cup fills, this time with anticipation, expectation, a prelude to disappointment. By seeking, I may miss what (if anything) comes. Better to be empty." – GG with DM, Wildwood, IL

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Interrelatedness: "It may be difficult for some to understand how the outer and the inner are related and how the circumstances of our lives can be affected by the quality of the Chi. But unless one feels that all life is an accident and all events coincidental and without cause, it would be relatively simple to comprehend..(how) all things are intertwined (and) the interrelatedness of all life." – Justin F. Stone 

. . . . .

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

. . . . .

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. 

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.

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. 

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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.

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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.]

 

Gratitude - A practice that leads to joy

"If you want a happy life, be grateful," Justin Stone, founder of T'ai Chi Chih, used to say frequently. This simple practice brings deep and profound results - including, yes, joy.

After Justin died in 2012, an outpouring of gratitude from TCC students and teachers from around the globe followed. As many in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving this week, here's a sample of grateful tributes:

Would that he could have stayed here forever … but that is not the way. Justin’s gift, T’ai Chi Chih, will continue to serve as we continue to practice. Thank you, and blessings on your journey. -- Diana Daffner

The T’ai Chi Chih community will miss Justin very much. There will be many more teachers and students who will continue to practise and teach this life enhancing, loving meditation now and in the future. We owe great thanks to this very special man. Special thoughts are with those closest to him…lots of love to you Justin x -- Tracy Gibbons

Thank you, Justin. Your chi is still in the universe, and we will continue to share you and T’ai Chi Chih with all we meet. What love! -- Terry Slaney

The core of my life has been softened by continued mastering of the gentle movements of the inner discipline called 'T’ai Chi Chih: Joy Thru Movement.' Your legacy to humankind will be passed on by the crowning “jewels of T’ai Chi Chih" – its teachers. Thank you, Justin. With deep respect. -- Rose J. Alvarez-Diosdado

I never planned to be a teacher, but the Universe provides us a path if we chose to follow. After learning and practicing T’ai Chi Chih I began wanting to be of service to others by sharing the peace and joy through movement I have found when doing T’ai Chi Chih. When I went to Teacher Training and met Justin I was moved and inspired by his desire that T’ai Chi Chih not become a business, that it is a gift to humanity. I honor this wish through my volunteer teaching of T’ai Chi Chih, and I am thankful we have been blessed to have had Justin as our Guide and Leader for so many years. May we all continue to honor his gift to humanity through our practices of T’ai Chi Chih. -- May Swanson

I experience a long list of health and personal benefits. T’ai Chi Chih brightens me, my family and those I touch each day. Many thanks to Justin and the teachers of T’ai Chi Chih.

T’ai Chi Chih practice feels like the truth of who we are. It’s a gift that keeps on teaching and giving, and so the gratitude continues. -- Carol Spicer