Mariano from Argentina asks:
“Were there any moments in your practice when you felt you suddenly made big progress?”
Mariano, a lot of people talk about moments in their Tai Chi progress when they had a certain experience and all of the sudden understood things that previously they could not. Often it’s through an experience they had with a person they met, or a sudden flash of insight, or a dream.
My experience in Tai Chi has been quite different. Although there were times when I made a lot of progress, it came in the form of me realizing where I was deficient and had to improve. None of them came from external experiences or even inspired dreams. Rather, they all came in the form of me realizing that I had a lot further to go, but knew where it was I had to go. It was frustrating, but fulfilling. Previously, my cup had been somewhat full, although not by active choice or ego. Actually I felt I knew a lot, but also felt somewhat stagnant, not being able to see where I could progress. Upon having the insight to see where I had to go, my cup felt suitable empty and I found myself learning and progressing again. And that brought satisfaction.
The first time this occurred was early in my Tai Chi studies. I was a very young and strong external martial artist, with well-built muscles. I felt invincible in certain ways (although I knew Professor could easily handle anything I could throw at him), and I was very comfortable in my body. So comfortable, and enjoying my muscles, that I didn’t realize how stiff I was. I didn’t really know what relaxation was. However, I thought I did. Eventually I realized I was stiff, and not relaxed. I was frustrated with myself, but able to begin to appreciate relaxation and start learning new dimensions in relaxation. It was only after that, that I was able to make progress in this area, and with relaxation being such a key part of Tai Chi, I needed to make this progress.
Another time I experienced a jump in my progress was when I realized that I had to concentrate on my partner as well as myself in push hands. Before this point, I was content to focus only on things in my own body as I had been when I was doing the form. As soon as I expanded my horizon, and started looking at all the other things I needed to be concentrating on, I came to understand what Professor Cheng said when I spoke of listening to his partner. It’s not with the ears but through the body.
So for me, progress in Tai Chi has occurred when I understood how I was limiting myself when I could not see the next goal. It happened at times of clarity that I was able to see the road ahead of me. It was very frustrating to see what I was lacking, but at the same time was very important to progress see where I had to go to make progress in Tai Chi. Sometimes, we practice and practice, but don’t really see where we are going to. But other times, we practice and practice, and even though we may not feel we are making progress, as long as we understand in our mind where we need to go, our body will take us there when it is time. Strive to look ahead in your practice, and be patient. Be glad, when your horizon expands and you can see a lot of what you can not do, and you will make progress. Don’t judge yourself in weeks or months, but in the years of your practice.
In T’ai Chi,