My students have gotten frustrated that I continue to correct their postures in the Tai-chi form. They feel their postures should be perfect by now. In the last class I explained that, while they know how to achieve perfect postures, there is an issue that is interfering with their form.
I correct their postures to get them to achieve an “emotionless state”. This means ending the battle of the mind and emotions in which the natural, relaxed state of body feeling is disturbed by the worries and fears of the thinking mind. This battle then gets represented in the postures of the body. The body is expressing the battles of the mind and emotions.
In the “emotionless state” you are still feeling things such as your connection to the world around you, your energy and enthusiasm, etc. But your body is not being used to express internal battles.
When students try to remember the proper stance in a particular part of the form, they try to remember the feeling associated with that stance and duplicate the feeling, hoping that will make the body assume the proper shape. But they are also dragging along all sorts of other emotional expressions. It is difficult to remember the proper “stance feeling” cleanly without other emotional expressions hanging on.
Instead, they need to “clean house” by freeing every joint and muscle of the body from emotional control and letting each part of the body “sit” comfortably and yet be fluid enough to move in any direction at every moment. It is a “suspended” state in which the body is open to anything – to any sort of response. It is that openness; that relaxed and suspended state that they need to use as a reference.
They already know the right way to hold their bodies for a particular stance in the form. But they need to be free of conflict in that stance. This is something they can do by themselves. If they depend on me to correct their outer form all the time, they will be depending on me for the rest of their lives.
Now that they know the form in and out, they need to know themselves in and out. They need to know when their inner emotional state is trying to take control of their body postures and instead let their postures be controlled by proper body mechanics (which they are also very familiar with by this time).
In other words, it is time for them to correct themselves. The Tai-chi forms were developed to serve as a tool to teach you to end slavery to your inner conflict. Once you have learned the form, the real work begins. The teacher teaches you the tools but only the student can use those tools for his own progress.
One of my students is an actor. If he has just finished one role and must now begin working on a completely different role, there must be a time in between where he sheds the first role before taking on the second role. At this time he has to be neutral – not one role or another role. He can clean himself out of the first role so that he can be open to something completely different.
We try to remain in this “neutral state” throughout the form. The form is not a movement from one attitude to another but must be free of attitude throughout. In this way the body and mind are always open and ready for anything new. The mind does not cling to any frozen state or feeling. It is a state of non-attachment.
During the last class, my students expressed their frustrations that they are not progressing as fast as they would like. When frustrations build to a head, the students are usually ready for a breakthrough. They are ready to let go of the conflict of mind and emotions. Their frustration is an expression of the last gasp of that conflict.