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, 30 January 2014

Chi Ski

It has been a terrible ski season here in Vancouver this winter, so far.  There has been no new snow falling on our mountains since I can't remember when and the snow they make at the local ski spots gets quickly eroded away so you have to get up there early to really enjoy it. 

I finally got my lazy butt up there for the first time this winter and the run I picked to start on was so "slushy" I fell over within the first minute of skiing.  (So much for Tai Chi Master) As I'm struggling to get back up, one of the ski patrol folks comes over and asks if I'm ok.  I was ok, but very embarrassed and I have the most ridiculous time trying to get back upright once I've fallen over if both skis are still attached.  Maybe someday I'll have the necessary core strength, but what I did, and what I usually do is to just release one ski and then I can plant a foot and leverage myself back up to standing. 

Ok, so he tells me the other slopes are less slushy than this one and I should check them out.  So I make my way down the rest of the run without any major problems and head over to the other lift that's open.  And sure enough, he's right, the snow is way better on those runs.  Must be how the sun hits it. 

(I know, you're thinking "What has this got to do with Tai Chi?!" Relax, be patient.... )

But I'm still not feeling the "flow" of it.  I'm expending WAY more effort than I usually have to make it down a simple green run.  What's going on here.  And then, all of a sudden, I'm in the groove.  Huh, what is the difference?  I figure I'm back to ski-normal and I can start hitting the blue runs. 

Nope!  Well, yes, I can make it down the blue run but it was a LOT of effort and struggle.  Usually I just fly down these things!  And then it came to me.  Time to chi-ski! (which is what I was doing without being aware of it when it felt effortless for that brief couple of moments)

What is chi-ski?  I made up the word so I get to tell you what it is. And I really like how it sounds.  Kinda like cheeky only with an "s" in it. Essentially, it is just like chi running only you're skiing.  I get back up to start a new run and sure enough, as soon as I start chi-skiing, it's effortless again.  What I do when I chi-ski is get into my Tai Chi wu-ji posture while on the skis, relax, push off and sink my Tantien into the foot that I need to weight to execute my turn.  And then back into the other foot for the next turn, ad infinitum and before I know it, I'm back down at the entrance to the lift.  And skiing is fun again. Relaxed.  Easy.  Effortless. 

Of course, if you don't have the experience of using your Tantien to focus and execute your Tai Chi movements, you won't have any idea what I'm talking about.  In which case, you need to ask your teacher about it and whether your Tai Chi is ready for that kind of work. 

So I hope you all go out and chi-ski and let me know how it feels for you.  It's just another way of practicing Tai Chi while you're out having fun. 

Relaxing into my Tantien,


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Tai Chi Mind, Beginners Mind

With several years of teaching Tai Chi under my belt now, I have to admit that teaching beginners is the hardest thing I have ever done.  When I started up, I was never quite sure just what I should be telling them to do.  I was afraid that if I give them too much, they'd feel overwhelmed and not come back, and if I give them too little, they'd feel like they were wasting their time and money and not come back!  Essentially it boiled down to - I'm afraid they won't come back and I "turned them off" to Tai Chi. I was taking it very personally.  I have finally realized that it's time to let go of that!

The truth is that for the most part, it really doesn't matter what I give them in the first class or two, as far as material.  What's most important is how I treat them as people who are concerned about their health and well being and are interested in Tai Chi.  I especially don't try to hide anything from them;  not my lack of skill in certain areas, nor how difficult or easy they might find Tai Chi to be, and that there are better teachers out there than me. For whatever reason, they have come to my class and I will do my utmost to support and help them to learn this activity to the best of my ability. And that just like them, I also take classes and work with teachers to improve my own Tai Chi.  Really, that's all I can do.

What I have learned is that students flow in and out of Tai Chi classes, just like sticks going down a stream.  Some float into my pool for a quick break, swirl around for a bit, get caught up in the current again and are taken away downstream.  Some find my pool to be a nice pool and stay for quite a while, discovering more and more about just what's in there that sustains their practice.  Some find my pool is too deep for them, others find that it is too shallow, others, that it's just right.  Kinda like Goldilocks and the 3 bears.  It's all good.  I just welcome them when they arrive, show them what's in my pool, and wish them well if and when they move along. 

And for me, that's just like sitting on my zen cushion.  I watch my breath come and go, my thoughts come and go, other zen practitioners come and go.  Both Tai Chi and Zen are very deep pools for me and the more I experience of both, the more I see that they are different aspects of the same pool.  And that there's always more to discover.

One of the things that I always liked about Tai Chi is that we often say to other Tai Chi people, "would you like to play Tai Chi with me?".  It could be to do a form together, or to do some push hands.  Just that it's play, not work.  And that's what I invite all my students to do, come play some Tai Chi with me for a while.  It seems to be working, I'm still teaching and I still have students.

So come play some Tai Chi with me if you're ever in Vancouver, BC.