[Path to Mastery 4/16/10 – Wk31 D5 (Str 9.12.09)(Ph2 11.15.09)]
Continuing our Tai-Chi Journey:
I was talking to my buddy Alexis, a very enlightened individual, and I learned a lot.
We talked about the different aspects that bring about the enlightened state of mind, the mind that is free and full of light. In a sense this is the state of mind we all are trying to get to, whether it is through success, money, meditation, prayer or stealing your sister’s candy. We do things so we can be free, so we can all get to a place where we are happy.
While we were discussing this, we were discussing how important it is to create a reliable system that would allow people to consistently get to that place of the mind and body where there was fulfillment.
Then it dawned on me. The Tai-Chi system is a system of feedback.
We learn through feedback. Without feedback, we cannot learn. Our senses are nothing more than the feedback the brain receives so it has data to take another action appropriate for the next situation. If your interpretation of the feedback is incorrect, you could be in a lot of trouble. If you were looking at a wild animal, and you thought it was smiling but really it was baring teeth, you could end up with a lot of teeth marks.
People often have this mistaken idea that the system is there so you can learn a bunch of techniques. Well, that would make a very limiting system. What if you come across a situation where the technique doesn’t apply? You cannot enough techniques to account for all situations. Instead, it would be more helpful to have an understanding a guidance system that allows you to navigate through the changes and allow you to come up with techniques that suit the situation. This way, you don’t need to rely on memory. Instead, you can let the moment guide you.
Then why is there a Tai-Chi system with forms and 2 person forms, which are basically techniques? The form has 2 functions:
First, it helps you get into an ideal state of mind and body, where emotionally you are feeling free and in awe, as if you are looking at the world from the top of the mountain. Physically you are feeling relaxed and powerful, as if you just woke up from a nap in the Bahamas and you are feeling energized and refreshed. Techniques are not as useful when you try to make them happen in a natural environment where things are constantly changing. But if you set up the environment to be ideal for the technique then you limit the variables, and you can have an ideal experience through the technique without distractions. For instance, it is good for a basketball player to practice free throws. It gives them the feel of an ideal shot. But then the player has to practice shooting the ball from all kinds of different angles while the other players are coming at them while maintaining that same feel. The form is for practicing an ideal state of mind and body like a basket player practices free throw for the feel of an ideal throw.
Second, you start using the form as a feedback system to check whether you are in your state or not. Since you become more and more familiar with your ideal state while doing the form or 2 person forms you learn to carry over that state into your daily life. In the beginning, the durations are short, but as you increase the amount of times you are in it, it becomes natural. According to Alex, in Tibetan Buddhism, they express this thought by saying “Short duration many moments”. Once you are thoroughly familiar with how the form is supposed to feel, you have an accurate feedback system to get you into that state by yourself without anybody’s help.
By the way the ideal state is nothing special. Ideal state is a state of mind when you are natural, and you are happy. For instance, it is any state where your emotions and physical sensations are positive. For instance, you could be involved in drawing a painting and you are so absorbed that you have lost all sense of time, or you could be playing music and you are the music, you are out in nature and just caught up by the beauty, or you just enjoy the simple pleasure of the breeze and you are present enough to enjoy it. In some ways, you could say that this ideal state is nothing more than you not being so caught up in your thoughts and mind that you don’t know that life is passing by you. I wanted to mention this because I have seen so many people make this experience so grand and so great that it is unattainable. The great pleasures in life are inevitable. When you learn to appreciate the simple pleasures, then there are many more great pleasures.
Now that you know the system is to act as a feedback mechanisms, I would like to give some pointers for your training. We all have an innate inborn wisdom. Nobody taught us what grace is, but even people who have never seen Tai-Chi when they see it they think it is graceful. Not only that, but if we have a novice and a master practicing together, they all know who the master is, even if no one told them. How do we know? How do we know what looks good and what looks bad? Somehow we just know. That doesn’t mean you will know what to do, but when you do something right, you will be able to recognize it because it looks better than it did before.
Using this concept, when you practice, do it in front of a mirror. You will see the discrepancy between what you are actually doing and what you think you are doing. It is a great teacher. A barber can cut his own hair. He just needs lots of practice, patience and a mirror.
Last, when doing the form you are not sure whether you are doing it correctly or not, imagine that the gravity increased 10 times. This will help with the sense of gravity and will give you a much better sense on what your alignment should be.
These 2 tools should become of great treasure to you if you use them. Have a great weekend!