05 Jan It Ain’t What We Do, It’s The Way That We Do It
Mindfulness Tai Chi is an embodiment practice and as such it’s a method of using whole-body listening to develop awareness, find balance, feel connected, and to be able to respond to experience as it unfolds.
To make swift progress in our practice it is less about what we do and more about the way we do it. On many occasions during mindfulness and tai chi practice, I used to let myself be side-tracked, usually by thoughts about the past, the future or judgements about myself or others. Without realising that it was happening I was going through the motions, the mind unfocused, easily reacting to experience, all resulting in slowing down progress.
Over time and with the kind support of teachers I have introduced mindfulness tools into tai chi practice and have become particularly interested in developing the three core elements to strengthen mindful awareness and so refine tai chi skills.
This is ‘why’ we practise, our motivation and what we would like to get out of it. What brought us to the practice and what is keeping us practising? It’s helpful to check in with our intention and to renew it on an ongoing basis. Setting a simple and clear intention for a practice session is part of this factor and helpful in strengthening our ability to focus. We choose one aspect we would like to work on during a session, maybe alignment, grounding or a specific section of the form. This type of intentionality is a particularly effective method to maximise our training time.
It is ‘what’ we are focusing on in the moment that matters. Paying attention and bringing curiosity to our moment to moment embodied experience. When the mind wanders, we notice it as soon as possible and gently invite it to wander back to the body. In mindfulness tai chi training we are growing more present through whole body listening. Stillness in movement and movement in stillness develops with time and practice. This will manifest as being more balanced, easeful and flowing.
This is the ‘how’ of our practice and it helps bring substance to it. We are invited to cultivate acceptance, curiosity, patience and compassion. As awareness of habits and patterns that are no longer helpful grows, we learn to let go of judgements and allow the body and mind to orient towards effortlessness. As an outcome of practising with an open attitude, we also gain greater overall resilience and ability to navigate life’s ups and downs with more grace, joy and kindness.
Intention, attention and attitude are essential in developing presence. With presence comes clarity and the ability to choose how we wish to relate to what is arising in any one moment. As we deepen into practice the ability to respond mindfully rather than react automatically grows. Mindfulness tai chi provides an opportunity to cultivate wise communication with ourselves as we engage in solo practice and with others if we care to explore our skills in partner practice. For me, this approach to tai chi has become an effective way of supporting an enquiry-based process for strengthening mindfulness. It’s also invaluable for embodying tai chi principles and for refining the art.
As we travel the path from healing to wholeness I will be inviting you to listen deeply to the rhythm of your body during mindfulness tai chi sessions and to get curious about what delights it is revealing.