Many people find meditation difficult. The reason is that once you calm down and get quiet, your mind’s racing and incessant thoughts can be challenging to manage. That’s why many eastern traditions like Taoism and Buddhism refer to the mind as a “monkey” — it’s always jumping around, chattering, hard to control.
Another reason meditation can be hard is that we might be carrying stress, sadness, fear, anger, or be preoccupied by the problems of the day. It can be hard to even want to practice. We’d rather distract ourselves with work, television, conversation, or numb them with addictions.
The good news is that Taichi moving meditation provides a time-tested way to calm your mind, rebalance your emotions, and help you increase your mindfulness and your ability to “let go.”
Taichi provides a great regimen for regaining mindfulness and learning how to let go of negative thinking and difficult emotions. Instead of requiring that you “quiet” your mind, it provides a gentle technique for refocusing your mind on something positive, renewing, and balancing.
Taichi accepts the monkey nature of the mind instead of fighting with it. How? Taichi moving meditation gives the mind something to do. Our mind is too powerful to squelch. Instead, we harness that power for our own benefit.
We focus on breathing, our vertical suspension and alignment, our motion, precise details in our form as we work with energy. Most of all, we use our mind — especialy its capability to feel — in order to search for that subtle sensation of life energy as we move.
Like Master Liao says, “If you want to get a monkey to calm down, give it a banana!”
Why We Do Taichi So Slowly
That’s why we practice our Taichi slowly. It takes time to teach our mind on how to focus and sense so many things at once. We want to pick up the subtlest sensations from both inside and outside of ourselves. Master Liao loves to say: “The reason we do Taichi so slow is that we are so busy!”
Over time, through practice, our sensation of the Chi grows. Taichi becomes very pleasurable as we feel and relax into every moment of our meditative movement. Eventually we move slowly not just because we are so busy with details or perfecting our form, but because Taichi feels so wonderful! We want to experience every nuance, every bit of it. “It’s as if we are driving through a beautiful park full of wonderful scenery. If you drive too fast, you won’t be able to see and savor it all,” says Master Liao. “So you go very slowly so that you can take it all in!”
Learning to Let Go
Both before and during Taichi, our practice yields more benefit when we can let go of mental preoccupations. When our mind is consumed with worries, musing about what to do later in the day, or using our practice time for problem-solving, it can weigh down our practice. How? It puts our physical movement on automatic pilot and prevents us from feeling, flowing, and following our Chi. If our mind is off somewhere else, our body just resorts back to artificial robotic motion, and we can’t connect to our Chi.
Since joining our focused mind to the feeling of our Chi is what delivers the powerful benefits of Taichi, learning to let go of such mental burdens and distractions is key.
The good news is that Taichi itself is a great exercise for learning how to let go of distracted or unproductive thinking. How? As we practice, whenever we catch our mind running off on a topic or stream of thought, we gently bring our mind back to focus on the feeling of our movement, our breathing, our life energy. Some days, we may have to practice this redirection a hundred times in a single practice session. Gradually, though, we become very good at monitoring, redirecting, and focusing our mind.
In our regular daily life, we start noticing our thoughts, catching ourselves when we get stuck in negative thinking. We’re more aware and in tune with our mind’s activity. We also know how to redirect those thoughts somewhere else, somewhere productive, somewhere calmer. We’ve built that ability, those “mental muscles,” through mindfulness in our Taichi practice.
“Start your Taichi ‘light’ – with no burden… Carrying a mental burden like worrying, fear, an agenda, or anger, like trying to carry a piece of furniture while you are doing Taichi. Let it go. Before you do Taichi, drop that burden!”
Master Waysun Liao
from the video “Begin Taichi by Letting Go”
Taichi’s Positive Feedback Loop
Another way Taichi helps us focus our mind and let go is that it burns off negative energy and rebalances our Chi. Chi is key to physical vitality and health, but it can also effect our emotional and mental health.
Strengthening and purifying our Chi gives us a greater sense of inner peace, harmony, and confidence. We feel centered and clear. Our Chi serves as a buttress against the daily assaults on our peace of mind, helping us focus on what is real and true and good for us. The more we practice, the more our mind can calmly focus, and the more our mind can calmly focus, the more rewards we gain from our practice. Instead of falling into a spinning vortex of racing thoughts or negativity, we start building a positive feedback loop of mindful centeredness and self-care.
We all know that mindfulness and the ability to let go are keys to self-growth and a more peaceful and productive life. If these are qualities you’d like to cultivate, but they’ve eluded you in the past, why not try Taichi?