A blog about the intersection of Tai Chi, Zen and Dao. I hope that you find something of value for your own practice.

Thanks for stopping by,


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Merging Zen, Tao and Tai Chi

It has been a long time since I put up a post in Reeling Silk's blog because I wasn't sure that I actually had anything to say that hadn't already said by others, and better than I could have said it.  And with what I was considering saying at the time, that was certainly true.

But I have finally discovered the place that I want to come from and talk about in this blog; the merging of Tai Chi practice with my Soto Zen Buddhist practice and my curiosity about how the Tao and Zen speak to one another through the medium of Tai Chi. So let's talk a little bit about my practice of both, so you know where I'm coming from.

Every morning before I begin my Tai Chi forms, I sit zazen.  Sometimes for as little as 25 minutes, sometimes as long as an hour.  Then after a stretch, I do a short bowing practice and then either begin my Tai Chi form practice or further warm up with a Qi-qong routine I learned from one of my former teachers, Master Xu Gong Wei (you learn a bit more about him here).  Then I practice 1-3 forms before beginning my regular morning routine.  They will either be chuan (hand/fist), jian (sword) or some of each, although lately I have been doing a chuan form and then Yang jian 51-form.

Sitting meditation before doing Tai Chi offers several benefits.  First, I get to wake up a bit more gradually, my zazen practice being to follow my breath.  Second, the slow awakening and the focus on breathing results in a very nice accumulation of energy, which I get to carry over into my form work.  And I can also carry my meditation breath work into my form work. Both aspects are especially helpful when doing my Chen forms, which require a bit more speed and oomph to them with the fa-jin moves than Yang or Wu styles.

Then it's on to the rest of day, whatever that may be; work, play, relaxing, etc.

That's a quick summary of how I physically approach Tai Chi from a Zen meditation point of reference.  Stay tuned for more regular posts in the future now that I know what I want to say.

Salute and Gassho,


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

What Moves What?

One of the first things I learned in Tai Chi was that parts of the body never really moved the way you were used to thinking of moving them.  Let me illustrate. 

Your teacher tells you to raise your hand so you think ok, no problem, I'll just raise my hand.  Ding, Ding, Ding....my alarm bells just went off.  Not really.....If you only do that you're just waving your hand and why would that be of any use, either for martial or health benefits?  So how actually do you raise your hand?

Well, let's get really simple and add complexity as we go.  You remember that song  Dry Bones?  Here's just one verse but I highly recommend you check out all the others.

"With the finger bone connected
to the hand bone,
and the hand bone connected
to the arm bone,
and the arm bone connected
to the shoulder bone,
Oh mercy how they scare!
and so on....  What's important is to keep in mind all those connections. 

Ok, let's get back to raising the hand.  Hold your arm out in front of you at shoulder height with your hand nice and relaxed, same for the shoulder.  Now, just raise your hand.  You can do that by flexing your wrist and tightening the wrist muscles.  But notice that it doesn't get your hand very much higher and now your wrist is all tensed up.  Not an ideal situation. 

Extend your arm and hand again and this time, drop and close your elbow joint.  Hey, look at that, your hand just got raised up and now, it's still nice and relaxed and ready for action.  This works even if you're sitting down.  That's because the hand bone's connected to the arm bone, the arm bone connected to the elbow bone, the elbow bone connected to the.....you get the idea :)

Now, let's take it a step further.  I assume you're standing. If not, stand up and extend your hand and arm.  This time, drop and close your elbow joint but do that by using Dan Tien chi energy.  If it's your right hand we're raising, visualize sinking Dan Tien chi  into and through your lower back and down into the right heel as you sit down and open into your lower back.  If done properly, the sinking of the chi into the heel will automatically lower and close the elbow while raising the hand.  Practice connecting these pieces and your on your way to beginning to understand how use your whole body to move a single part. 

As you deepen this awareness, because that's what your really doing, you will begin to feel it in your muscles, your tendons, your ligaments and your bones.  And that's what the song's really about, isn't it?  All those connected bones. 

Keeping it all connected until next time,


Thursday, 31 January 2013

Tai Chi is not Exercise

Tai Chi is not Exercise

Recently, in my Creekside class, I talked about how Tai Chi is not really exercise and that to do it only as such is to miss the point. The reason I was talking about this is because one of my friends told me that he had re-injured himself while doing Tai Chi and I immediately thought, "he's not doing Tai Chi, he's doing exercise that he thinks is Tai Chi." 

If you are really doing Tai Chi, the slow, deliberate motions done properly will not EVER re-injure or cause you any discomfort, IF you are LISTENING to your body. And you can't direct energy if you aren't listening. Tai Chi is good for healing, restoring a feeling of wellness, and strengthening your body in subtle ways, not for reinjuring yourself!!

When you do Tai Chi, you DO get some exercise, but more importantly, you are beginning to learn how to direct your energy (ji) with your mind (shen). Done properly, your internal organs get massaged, energy channels open and chi accumulates. 

If you want exercise, go to the gym and workout, go ride a bike, go for a run, go skiing, go swimming, go for a long walk, etc.... I enjoy all those, too, but it has nothing to do with my Tai Chi. Unless, of course, you incorporate Tai Chi principles into these activities! 

I'll have more to say about this in the future but this is a good place to stop for now. I'm happy to entertain questions, feedback, comments, etc.

Searching for Balance,