One of the more fascinating aspects of Tai Chi is its multi-dimensionality. I often view it as a giant three-dimensional puzzle, with rotating parts composed of physical moves, energy centers, emotional states and spiritual components.
There are two core ideas that need to be kept in mind at all times in order to grasp this strange puzzle.
The first is that “As Above, So Below”. The work on the body is a mirror to the work on the spirit, and working on the spirit affects the body. For Taoists, the Chi, or life-energy (or simply the breath) is the connective tissue between the physical body and the spiritual body. The whole forms a system that is integrated, and talks to itself. There is no body without spirit, and no spirit without body ( more on that later).
Secondly, fighting is the metaphor for the interaction of our ego with the world around us. A fist flying towards our face traces the same pattern within us as an insult hurtled towards our self-esteem. Similarly, there is no distinction between an object falling and a fist thrown, both are kinetic events, both require a reaction, but the quality of the reaction is shaded by our ego’s perception of the event. One is a surprise, the other feels like a threat, but both are physically similar. So the martial art aspect of Tai Chi is our training ground, the place we come to in order to learn how to face our daily life with calm and serenity.
The Tai Chi form becomes a place of enquiry. Each move expresses a specific response to a physical act. Some kinetic event has occurred and the body must move. As I step, questions arise; where is my center, what is the quality of the movement (soft? Forceful?), how is the energy directed towards me handled?
These same questions are mirrored on an emotional level. This kinetic event can be an emotional one, an insult. How is it handled? Where is my emotional center? Do I fight back or side-step the insult or the argument? Where is my response coming from?
The beauty of Tai Chi is that it gives us a unified set of answers. How do I react to a physical event? How do I react to an emotional event?
Find your core, nurture it, strengthen it, move from it.
And that’s why Tai Chi is also a moving meditation. The meditation allows the Tai Chi “player”, or practitioner, to find that core, and nurture it.