Chi Kung Position Five

Left. In the fifth position, the hands are more flattened with the fingers together, and are held with the little-Jinger side of the hands directed downwards. Imagine your energy running from the shoulders along the little-finger side of the arms and into the fingertips - though do make sure there is still space between your elhou s and your sides. Use this stance to visualize the energy flow in movements such as Play Guitar (see page 33). Fist Under Elbow {see page 51) or the early stages of Rollback and Press (see page 28).

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CHI KUNG POSITION SIX Above. The sixth anil final position simply requires that you turn your hands over and relax the fingers. With both hands now in a typical yin shape, think of energy coming in through the fingertips, or of the fingers themselves growing in length. Use this stance to visualize the energyJlow in movements such as the in-hreath stage of Pal the Horse (see page 66). the Opening (see page 23) or the early stages of the Single Whip (see page 30).

more of the tai chi movements. It may only be one arm, or both - but there is always an echo of the form itself.

Throughout these exercises, your mind should be focused on the cycle of the breath and on the cyclical movements of energy around the body - rising up the spine, along the arms, or over the head and down the front of the body back to the Tcin Tien. And try to disregard any feelings of impatience or discomfort. Those who specialize in chi kung often hold these positions for ten or fifteen minutes at a time, though as an adjunct to tai chi practice, just a few minutes is quite sufficient. Remember, too, that you do not need to do all the exercises together in series. Just explore each one occasionally at the beginning or end of your tai chi session; hold the stance for as long as is comfortable, looking - without effort - for that point of stillness within, and see how you feel. Bear in mind that chi kung, like tai chi itself, is as much about using the mind as it is about using the body.

Returning is the motion of the Tao. Yielding is the way of the Tao. The ten thousand things are horn of being. Being is born of non-being.

Tao Te Ching

The Journey Continues

Although a book of this kind is a good intro-

.duction to learning tai chi, eventually you may well wish to locate someone who can demonstrate movements, correct your form if necessary and and perhaps even impart to you some of the spirit of tai chi itself.

There are many places where you can study tai chi these days (advice on finding a school or teacher is given on page 141). Most towns have their own adult education centres, not to mention university or college campus. Tai chi is also being incorporated as a teaching medium into the programmes of numerous arts and therapy organizations. In fact, it can crop up almost anywhere: ii is used in drama training, in holiday centres, in acupuncture colleges and on board ocean liners; it appears in homes for the elderly, in hospital rehabilitation units, in dance studios, and in educational institutes to help those with learning difficulties - anywhere where people are looking for a means of developing relaxation, balance and a sense of harmony between body and mind.

So how do you know if the kind of tai chi you are being taught is the right kind for you? Simple: look for the harmony of yin and yang! There are many ways in which your teacher can demonstrate a knowledge of yin and yang. He or she may be a superb martial artist, for instance, able to use the forces of retreat and attack, yielding and advancing, to stunning effect. Or perhaps they might be a medical practitioner, skilled in the diagnosis of disease using the principles of oriental medicine. Or your teacher might simply be a strong and vibrant personality who is able to display a combination of both sympathy and authority in their teaching.

In the world of tai chi, this understanding of the interplay of yin and yang is paramount, and any teacher in whom it is lacking will only be able to go through the motions in a rather mechanical way. It may work for them, and it may work for you - but only up to a point. Thereafter, it will always have its limitations and will only be able to take you so far upon your journey.

Practice

It may be a tough message, but even with the best teacher in the world, without regular practice it is impossible to gain the numerous benefits that tai chi can offer. There are no short cuts in the learning process, either. A good instructor will help you to minimize the amount of time required in the 'classroom', but the rest is up to you. Daily practice is best - in fact without it the mind often tends to forget what has been learned, resulting in a rather erratic progress in which for every advantage yon gain, for every step forward, there is yet another step back. In the end, the tai chi goes nowhere, and neither do you.

Try, therefore, to set aside a little time for yourself each day, ideally around ten to fifteen minutes if you can. Some people may protest that this is unfeasible, but really it only means getting out of bed a little earlier than usual, or perhaps finding a space in the even-ing or at lunch-time when you would be doing other things anyway. Ultimately, it all comes down to weighing up the advantages of various activities within your daily routine and then setting your own priorities. Will you benefit more, for example, from watching the news on television again before you go to bed, or by relaxing your body and illuminating your mind a little by doing some tai chi?

When you practise, try to make sure you will not be disturbed. Naturally, this may not always be easy if you are sharing space with others, but it is best not to be secretive. Tell people what you are doing - even show them if they are curious - and do not be put off if their initial reaction is somewhat less than encouraging. People like to poke fun at others who are trying to improve themselves. They will soon get used to it, however, and once they start to notice the positive changes in you that tai chi can bring, it is more than likely that they will become thoroughly supportive.

In the West people tend to be rather reticent and wary of displaying themselves. And although outdoor practice is best, in the fresh air where there is an abundance of chi, beginners do not always feel confident enough to do tai chi outdoors - even in their own garden or back yard! However, do try, once you feel reasonably proficient at the form, to work outdoors. Early in the morning is best, since the parks and open spaces are often busy with people engaged in all manner of curious exercises anyway. Join the club! Get out in the fresh air and do some tai chi warm-ups. Then, when you are satisfied that nobody is staring at you (but what does it matter if they are!), go on to do the form. Breathe! Open your kings and enjoy the energy and freshness all around you! It really makes a world of difference to how you feel. Groups of tai chi enthusiasts often meet on prearranged dates in parks or even on beaches in order to practise together. Look out for these. They will usually be early in the mornings and at weekends. This is a good way of tracking down local teachers in your area if you have not already found one.

TAI CHI PRACTICE: WHERE, WHEN AND HOW

You will find that it is worth bearing in mind the following recommendations when you practise lai chi. These will help you to gain the maximum benefit from your practice.

• Mornings and evenings are best.

• Fresh air is preferable to being indoors.

• Never practise on a full stomach.

• Never practise when tired.

• Always practise in loose, comfortable, dean clothing.

• Keep the kidneys, throat and feet warm and dry.

• Work for at least ten minutes at a time.

In China, lai chi practice is pa>1 of the daily routine. And the Chinese have no qualms about practising in public, as you can see!

Meditation

Tai chi is often called a 'moving meditation' -and that's exactly what it is. All forms of meditation have the following in common: the breath is rhythmic, the mind is empty and still, and the physical world is, in some sense, transcended. Usually this is only accomplished after a great deal of training and self-discipline, since for most of us it is extremely hard to remain still and quiet long enough for this process to occur.

In many of the more static forms of meditation, one is urged to kneel on the ground or sit with the legs crossed in a lotus position, or upon a chair, and to close the eyes and still the mind. For most of us two minutes can seem like a very long time when attempting such a feat; ten minutes becomes an eternity! And sadly many aspirants to the world of meditation are forced to admit defeat before they have barely begun.

Tai chi is different. Because the body is in motion, and because its nervous, motive energy is taken care of to a certain extent by the slow, cyclical movements of the form, the mind is able to wind down and eventually switch off and let go of the endless internal dialogue of mental chatter with which it is normally filled. This, of course, can only be achieved once the movements themselves have become so familiar that they no longer require any conscious effort to perform - so that the tai chi just happens, by itself. The slow, repetitive rhythm of the breath combined with the ebb and flow of the movements becomes your guide to inner quiet; the threshold of meditation is reached, and then ... you can simply let go. It is precisely this 'letting go' that is at the heart of all meditative and mystical experience.

There is one curious feature to meditation, however. You should never be aware of doing it! Once you cross over the boundary into the meditative state, there is, by definition, no longer any conscious thought. And the moment you think to yourself, 'Oh good, I'm sure I'm meditating now!' you are not! You have drifted back into the world of conscious thought. Meditation, like the Tao itself, is without thought.

Simply Being Once we have reached the stage of moving meditation, the journey of tai chi ultimately takes us to a space which is both deeply internal and yet also universal. This may seem like a contradiction in terms, but the further we can go towards the inner meditative experience, the more vast our horizons become. People often travel to broaden the mind; some have an overwhelming urge to constantly revitalize their lives with fresh experiences, new faces, new places. This is fine, but it may also be doing things the hard way.

In the pursuit of learning, every clay something is acquired.

In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.

Tao Te Ching

This was known, and is still known, by all those who retreat from the world in order to focus on the inner experience. It is the guiding principle behind monastic orders of all cultures and ages. Of course, this can always be taken to extremes and lead to dullness - a contraction of the mind rather than an expansion of it. We all need to experience the real world out there, and embrace it with enthusiasm and courage at every opportunity. But in so doing we also must not neglect the inner self, for this is where the learning process and evolution ultimately takes place.

In the end, both types of experience are valid, so that a combination of the two becomes, once again, a state of harmony between the forces of yang and yin - the yang experience of outward exploration tempered by the yin experience of inner contemplation. Blend them together in a life that is rich and rewarding on all levels, and let the adventure begin! Above all, recognize that in the eternal cycle that is tai chi, you have met with something greater than yourself. Be at peace with this understanding, and then set about finding a way to let this great impulse enter your life and change it for the better.

Yin Yang Balance

Yin Yang Balance

Achieve Health, Wealth And Body Balance Through Yin Yang Mastery. Cut up on the old stone drums of Republic of China, inscribed in books handed down through thousands of years, traced on ancient saucers and on saucers made today, is a sign and a symbol. It is woven into textiles, stitched into embroideries, emblazoned over house gates, wrought into shop emblems, a circle, locked together inside it yang and yin yang, light, yin, dark, each carrying inside itself the essence of the other, each shaped to the other

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