A Note On Practice
T'ai Chi is an extremely well thought out, highly refined form of exercise. Strength, flexibility, coordination, balance and relaxation are just a few of the benefits that can be derived from REGULAR PRACTICE. T'ai Chi should be approached in the same way as running or lifting weights. In order to derive the maximum benefit from T'ai Chi as a form of exercise, frequency, duration and intensity of practice must be considered. Approached in the right way, T'ai Chi is a direct path to physical fitness of the highest order.
As far as FREQUENCY is concerned, practicing every day is recommended. Even if only for ten minutes, daily practice helps build the HABIT of exercising into your life. Your body will gradually begin to CRAVE T'ai Chi. As you reinforce the habit of daily practice, the DURATION of your practice should increase. Gradually building up the DURATION of your practice will help to increase your stamina and energy levels throughout your day. As you increase the DURATION of your practice to about thirty minutes per day, you will begin to experience an overall feeling of bodily strength and relaxation.
Having developed the habit of practicing up to thirty minutes every day, you will begin to increase the INTENSITY of your T'ai Chi. INTENSITY is increased primarily through LOWERING THE STANCES and EXPANDING THE POSTURES throughout your form. This increases the amount of strength, energy and stamina needed to move through your T'ai Chi work out. Because you have been doing up to a half-hour of T'ai Chi per day for quite a while, your legs are now ready for the lower stances and your body is prepared for the bigger postures.
The quality of one's Tai chi form practice is dependent upon many factors. One important ability to cultivate, for instance, is that of letting your attention drift softly down to the level of the "felt sense" of the body. Through performing the movements gently with a relaxed attention focused on the bodily felt sense of stretching and expanding, the conscious analytical faculty of the mind is abandoned and the intuitive "natural mind" given space. (At the moment that the "analytical mind" begins to speak, the natural intuitive modality of the mind is compromised.)
"Hey... I'm really feeling it now...This is good practice...This is the way it should feel..." These bits of internal dialog are the weeds in the garden of practice. To attempt to rid one's practice of these ongoing voices is a difficult task. By giving these voices any attention at all, including "Uh... don't think about that... or that... or..." you are feeding them energy and maintaining their root in your mind. A wiser way to deal with this situation is to move around comfortably, stretching and extending gently, with an attitude of relaxation and loosening and warming up. As the practice moves along, longer blocks of time will pass without the interruption of conscious monitoring of what's going on at the moment.
To attempt to "feel yourself feeling" the right way during practice is another way of missing the point. The point is to accept the experience as it occurs, without any desire to "hold on" to the positive moments. As you advance, you will develop the knack for ushering in this experience. You will not panic when a moment of quality in your practice fades away. You will develop an appreciation for these gems of practice and be content.
T'ai Chi is a work out. Just like any other form of exercise, you get out what you put in. The benefits of regular practice are powerful and real. Unfortunately, many people like to "theorize" about T'ai Chi instead of sweating. Their loss.
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