“Tai Chi is not about trying harder; it’s about letting go, being in the moment, feeling balance and the fluidity of energy.” This is my experience of Tai Chi of which I write and highlight in my published memoir “Walking on Pins and Needles: A Memoir of Chronic Resilience in the Face of Multiple Sclerosis“.
I also emphasize letting go in my classes. Having just completed two new Tai Chi beginner’s classes, early on II saw quizzical looks on students’ faces when I talked about letting go rather than trying harder. Our culture emphasizes ‘trying harder’, getting it right, moving our bodies like the instructor does.
In our 8th class of the current series, I see and hear some changes from the first class, from beginning students saying “I don’t remember any of the moves from class” to “I now come to class and look forward to learning something new, whether I get it right or not”. Another comment from a student last week was, “I’m paying attention to how I’m standing and walking now.” Another comment. “I’ve learned that I hold my breath when I’m trying to do a move I’m not familiar with.”
Great! Paying attention and being in the moment. That’s what starting to happen. When we pay attention to how we’re standing, where our weight is, we are in the moment. That’s Tai Chi. That’s starting to let go.
Tai Chi creates stillness within by emptying out our thoughts and focusing on moving our energy in effective ways. Emptying out. Creating stillness. Expanding space within our body.
To reinforce these principles for my students this week, I read a piece from the Tao Te Ching, by ancient philosopher Lao Tzu:
“We put 30 spokes together and call it a wheel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends.
We turn clay to make a vessel; but it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.
We pierce doors and windows to make a house; and it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends.
Therefore, just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.”
Translated by Arthur Waley