Tag Archives: flow

When Do You Turn Your Tai Chi Off?

While practicing, you are relaxed, aligned, your movements are smooth, deliberate. In other words, you are actively maintaining your tai chi composure.

The question is, when do you stop?

Do you turn your tai chi on when you practice the form, and turn it off when you stop? Do you turn it off when class is over? Or when you get interrupted or distracted?

Why turn it off deliberately at all? Why not at least try to keep it on all the time?

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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Tai Chi Practice


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Healing With Tai Chi

There’s an old joke where the patient says, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this…”. Tai chi gives the same response as the doctor, who says “Well, don’t do that.”

Tai chi engages the body’s natural healing mechanisms, which depend on both sensitivity and activity. If a movement makes you feel light-headed, aggravates an injury, or otherwise triggers negative internal feedback, then don’t do it. However, this is not a license to be passive or stagnant; instead engage what you can engage, and move in ways that don’t trip your body’s internal alarm systems. It is not a matter of enduring, but rather discovering the freedom you have within your constraints, which lets you gradually expand your range of motion and strengthen your body’s weak points. Practice moving in such a way that you could continue to do so for an hour, even if you actually only do so for five minutes. If you find a movement that you can’t endure, ease up, slow down, make changes until you are comfortable, but don’t simply give up. It is within a state of comfortable flow that you will access the resources that will accelerate your body’s healing capacity.

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Posted by on December 8, 2013 in Health


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Structure, Balance, Flow

Tai chi teaches us to move with structure, balance and flow.

Structure is alignment of the joints that takes forces into the bones, giving muscles mechanical advantage.

Balance is alignment with gravity that provides central equilibrium, keeping the body planted and upright.

Flow is complimentary muscular activation, allowing us to move without stress by literally getting out of our own way.

The combination of structure, balance, and flow gives rise to effortless power; deficiency in any one gives rise to powerless effort.

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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Flow, Tai Chi


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Mirror Neurons

There is a certain subset of our motor neurons, called mirror neurons, that activates in response to the movements of others as if we were making identical movements. When you see another person, these neurons create an internal representation of that person’s posture, movements, sensations, and even their emotional state.

Normally these signals from our own nervous system are very subtle and faint, so that we are unaware of them, but they may be very strong at times, as when seeing another person become injured compels you to feel their injury in your body, and flinch as if to avoid it. They are also responsible for emotional contagion, the effect whereby moods are transferable.

In tai chi we train ourselves to be more sensitive to these signals, among other things. By stilling the body and quieting the mind, we become attuned to the subtle play of neurological impulses resonating within us, including those that link us to others, allowing us to both feel and follow their intent. The practice of mirroring is one way of directly exercising this capacity. Standing in front of a partner, take turns mirroring one another’s slow, gentle, continuous movements. At first there will need to be a leader and follower, but with practice and attunement you can eventually drop the roles and engage in free-form flowing together.

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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Flow, Tai Chi Practice


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The Three Regulations of Qigong

Tai chi (moving energy) is a form of qigong (energy work).  The practice of qigong, including tai chi, involves the engagement of three ongoing regulations, which are the elements of what I refer to as tai chi composure.

The Three Regulations are body regulation, breath regulation, and mind regulation.  Body is the physical aspect of our experience, mind is the cognitive aspect, and breath is the link between the two.  This corresponds to the fact that breathing is controlled by both the somatic and autonomic nervous system, making it at once both voluntary and automatic.  In a sense, the breathing impulse exists in two worlds at once, spanning the gap between mind and body, or conscious and subconscious.

Body regulation consists of relaxing and aligning.  As you practice, continually scan your body for excess tension and misalignment, relaxing the muscles, expanding the joints, and aligning the bones with gravity.

Breath regulation consists of breathing in a natural way.  As you practice, continually return to consciousness of your breathing, while allowing the breath to flow smoothly, continuously, fully, and evenly.

Mind regulation consists of present moment awareness and sensory activation.  As you practice, continually return your awareness to the present moment and fill it with the physical sensations within your body and the sensory inputs from your surroundings.


Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Qigong, Tai Chi


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McKenna on Flow

Excerpted from Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment, by Jed McKenna:

In the movie The Matrix, there’s a scene where the adept Morpheus effortlessly glides through throngs of people on a bustling city sidewalk while inept Neo bumbles and collides and apologizes. Flow and non-flow. Having no preferences, having no ego that requires constant monitoring and reinforcing, having a calm, untroubled mind, most of my life resembles Morpheus’ smooth navigation rather than Neo’s manic, pinball mode. When that flow is disrupted, even in a small way, I am acutely aware of it. I stop what I’m doing until I find the obstruction that caused the error. I make sure my breathing is deep and stable, my mind clear, and get myself back to the place of smooth, effortless functioning. The error itself doesn’t matter so much as eradicating or circumnavigating the source of the error. When something impedes flow, returning to smooth flow is the objective, not making a study of obstructions.

Everyone navigates in this higher mode to one degree or another, and anyone can learn to do it better and more often. Actually, most people would function a lot more smoothly and easily a lot more of the time if they’d just learn to breathe correctly. Practically everyone restricts their breathing to the upper part of the lungs, so that the chest expands and not the belly. The result of this shallow breathing is that we operate in a perpetual panic mode, as if all of life was a fight-or-flight situation. This causes the mental state of dis-ease that we accept as normal and from which we seek escape through addictions and distractions. It disrupts our activity during the day and our rest at night. When we breathe into our entire lungs by expanding the diaphragm, we automatically create a mental state of composure and ease, which is then reflected in our environment.

How telling is it that we are a society of people who don’t even know how to breathe? Hello? At what more basic level could we possibly fail? And what’s more than that, how telling is it that when we are made aware of this crippling flaw, most of us will do absolutely nothing to correct it because our vanity won’t allow us to expand our tummies?

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Posted by on March 24, 2012 in Flow


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