Tai chi: getting to the mind through the body

Coaching, Martial Arts, Self-AwarenessComments (0)

After over a week back in Shanghai, I’m everyday amazed at the tremendous changes that have been happening in my inner self for the past days.

It all started in Yangshuo, at Master Fu’s Tai Chi and Kungfu School, where I went back end of April with the only objective to get back on track with my Tai Chi practice. I had no expectations but that one. Getting my ass out of bed every morning and going through a day of five hours training: basics, forms, kicks, stretching, push hands and so on. The same routine for 10 consecutive days. Nothing else (so to speak) to worry about except improving my Tai Chi and stopping before it’s too much for my body to take. Sometimes I still think of myself as a super hero with super powers and forget that I’m just a short 1.6 meter flesh and blood thing with a weakened immune system since 2007.

One of the things that really fascinate me about Tai Chi is the relation between body and mind. How, by changing the body, the mind changes too, as a result of an interrelated and unconscious process.

Nowadays in our society, we are told to train our mind to be disciplined, to be strong, courageous, positive-thinking, in order to make the changes we want for ourselves and in our lives. I agree that focusing on the mind is a possible way to reach one’s objectives of change. A silly but common example: a woman living in the dictatorship of diets and anorexic models, obsessed with her figure, will mostly work on her mind to resist eating that chocolate bar. She believes a strong willpower (her mind) will help her lose weight (change her body). In that case, the mind is the master of the body.

In Tai Chi, you focus on the body, you train to make it more coordinated and more grounded. You learn that if one part of your body is too tensed, it will obstruct the other parts of your body. But if the whole body is too relaxed, there is no jing, no power, no grounding. You learn how to balance your body. Yin-Yang. And as the body becomes more balanced, more grounded, the mind becomes more balanced and grounded too. It is a natural process. The Mind follows the Body.

I remember how, in May 2011, Master Fu got tired of me: ‘Why you never finish your movements?! The last 2-3 centimeters, you don’t do them!’ He would then pinch my arm, pull it hard until it reaches the final centimeters, and leave me bruised, with the memory of how important it is to finish the movements. It took me another few months to correct this habit and get my form right, and to realize that this default was a metaphor for a trait of my personality: my entire life, I have had an issue with unfinished matters. By changing my body habits, could I possibly change my unconscious behavior dictated by my mind? It seemed so. Since then, I’ve been doing whatever it takes to never leave a matter unfinished. Be it a task, a fight, a sensitive conversation with a friend, a sadly ending relationship, even a chocolate bar! I go the last 2-3 centimeters. No matter how difficult and painful it is.

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