One of the ways I’m practicing Taoism this month is by practicing Tai Chi. There are a few classes in my neighborhood, but at $40 per class, the $10 Tai Chi for Beginners DVD suddenly seemed more “spiritual.” It appears as if the Tao guided me to purchasing the less expensive option….
Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art designed for many purposes, one of which is to cultivate awareness of the mind and body (like yoga).
One of the key features of Tai Chi is that it is very slow. That’s why our senior citizens can be found in the park on a Saturday morning doing Tai Chi.
An interesting thing happens when you’re trying to slow down your movements. You become incredibly….bored.
My god, the DVD lesson on the “Horse leaps the river” lasted an entire 30 minutes just repeating a single form.
After about 20 minutes of following along, I even tried fast-forwarding it. Of course, since it’s a Tai Chi video, the instructor in the video went from slow to less slow. Not even fast-forwarding could make Tai Chi fast and exciting!
Of course, the “boringness” of Tai Chi is not a flaw, rather, it’s a feature designed to expose our internal disturbances.
For example, I heard my phone vibrate when I received e-mails during the Tai Chi session. My mind immediately began wondering what the e-mails could be, even though they’re usually nothing. A phone vibration was enough to distract my focus.
Even without an external distraction, my mind began to wander to things I needed to do and other nonsense.
I also found that once I understood the steps of the form, I wanted to move on to the next lesson. The instructor in the DVD after each repetition would keep saying “and one more time” which drove me nuts since I didn’t know how many repetitions we were doing.
So, my first Tai Chi experienced revealed how susceptible I am to
- External distractions
- Internal distractions
- Need for “progress” or action
This is very similar to my experience with yoga and meditation. These seemingly passive practices can help you learn a great deal about your general state of mind.
Secular society lacks these sort of “awareness” disciplines that help people realize how flawed and off-center their minds are. It is only when the symptoms of excessive distraction and off-centeredness hit a threshold (perhaps an anxiety attack or sense of depression or exhaustion) do we begin to pay attention.
We then become susceptible to making extreme decisions, like quitting our jobs or ending relationships, decisions that could have lasting, harmful impacts.
So Tai Chi, or exercises like Tai Chi are important because they allow us to identify our problems before they become too severe, and handle them appropriately, by going with the Tao.
Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind rest at peace.
– Chapter 16 ,Tao Te Ching