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Posts Tagged ‘energy’

RELEASING YOUR FLUID CONSCIOUSNESS

Waves on shoreIn Tai-chi training we first work with momentum flowing through the body and eliminate any tensions that block that flow. At a certain point, we feel a flow through the body even while we are still and we experience that flow in a finer and finer way. This is what we call “chi”. If we are still enough, the attention itself begins to flow. We can practice standing Qigong, using the state of the “passive observer” to notice the dynamics of these flows.

At the beginning we cannot maintain the flow of attention for long as the slightest distraction contracts the attention, locking it up. We practice allowing the flow of attention to last longer. When we practice a form we “long for” the flow of attention and chi. The attention “knows” the form. Each muscle and joint “knows” the form. And we discover that even chi “knows” the form. The only one interfering with the form is the calculating mind.

The form is no longer a series of postures where you move from one posture to another. It is a series of circular flows of momentum within the body, created by the movement of each part of the body. These momentums interact with each other causing patterns. The student’s creative ability is to move the parts of the body so they create interesting patterns of momentum. At the same time each such dynamic must have martial applications to be considered a legitimate Tai-chi form. So you can be creative as long as there is a martial reason for it and the body mechanics are sound.

We soon feel that the thinking mind can be defined as that which blocks the flow of attention and chi. The mind fights for its dominance to make the form happen, thinking about doing this movement and then the next movement – and you can see the result in someone’s form. Once you say to yourself, “Oh, stop it already” and let the form happen, a great change takes place inside of you. You notice another type of “knowing” besides thinking. You notice another type of flowing besides moving the body around.

And then you notice how much the calculating mind has created your relationship to the world around you and deprived you from experiencing the world directly. The mind has acted as an agent, negotiating your relationship to the world. You are not allowed at the meetings between the agent and the world. And you are not sure what secret deals your agent put in your contract. Tai-chi training encourages you to read the contract.

If the agent acts without your consent or knowledge, then he becomes you. In Gnosticism this is known as the demigod – it takes the place of your creative spirit. Moving in flows of momentum and then allowing attention to flow in the same way, drains the demigod of its power and restores your original creative identity. That identity, that spirit, functions by connection. It is what connects you to the world around you in a direct way.

For some, that way feels too personal. They are used to having an intermediary identity to deal with the world. They are not comfortable with direct connection for the following reasons:
They don’t want the responsibility of dealing with their lives directly and honestly so they play little games with people to give them a little “space” or wiggle room. That wiggle room of games is the agent.
They aren’t sure of their competence to deal with their lives directly.
If the games have become their identity, then that’s all they have as far as they know.

Tai-chi solves the last problem by giving them the experience of their Body-Mind, a more primordial level of consciousness. It lies underneath and provides the foundation for the thinking, scheming mind. It provides them with activities that require the Body-Mind to be competent. When they gain this competence, they are more confident to deal with their lives directly and honestly. As they gain confidence in handling their lives, they no longer fear the responsibility of their own choices but look forward to applying the Tai-chi principles to everyday life.

We originally made sense of the world by placing our experiences into convenient categories, like file folders, so any new experience could be dealt with by reviewing information from the files. This solidified our lives and also our view of the world. It removed the aliveness from the world, the three-dimensionality, so that it could fit into the files.

Tai-chi students are comfortable with, knowledgeable about and competent with fluidity in their attention and in the world around them. They are competent with the connection of their aliveness to the aliveness of the world. That connection is chi. Chi is felt and it is useful if you are living in this way. It is the substitute for the file cabinet and the agent. It is experienced when you are familiar with its dynamics and when you yield your attention and identity to it. You don’t really lose anything. You re-gain your original creative spirit – your true identity. You understand that you are the creator not the created. You are no longer impressed with deadness or strive to attain it. When you experience the fluid aliveness of the world around you, you know what your true identity must be.

SHAMAN PUSH HANDS

Tai-chi Push Hands Exercise

Tai-chi Push Hands Exercise

Push Hands is a shamanistic practice. The shaman heals by detecting patterns of behavior within the energy system of the body and dissolving those that create illness. To do this he or she has to perceive these patterns, to understand their dynamics, to understand how they affect the physical body, emotions and thoughts and how to affect these patterns for healing.

In the case of the Tai-chi exercise of Push Hands, the patient is not a passive receiver of healing. The patient must develop the same skills of the shaman in order to affect his own patterns of behavior. It is not a question of who is stronger and faster, but who is more willing to let go of patterns of behavior normally associated with battle.

The patient (student) has to recognize his or her own attitudes, which create his responses, which creates his life. The I-Ching describes this process in great detail. If you can change your responses you can change your future. But this means that your attitudes and responses need to be fluid and in some cases, abandoned. For most people, their attitudes are who they are, so this would mean letting go of themselves. Push hands suggests that there is another you, beneath your programmed attitudes and responses. The search for this “natural self” is the goal of push hands.

Your partner is more than willing to take advantage of any programmed behavior to throw you off balance. All it takes is the hint of an attitude forming, to create a blockage in your energy system, blocking off creative and effective responses. The creative responses are based on what is going on at the moment and on a thorough awareness and connection to your body. The programmed responses are based on defending your self-esteem. That “self” is based on battling your way to a more powerful position in your society so you can get more of what you want.

In traditional Push Hands, we concentrate on the empty spaces between you and your partner, rather than on his or her physical strength. Here in the spaces, we can function. When we can let go of the addiction to paying attention only to power, then we can become more aware of the “spaces” inside ourselves. These spaces are really the mobility of each part of the body. If your shoulder is pushed and you come to the end of your range of motion, you are stuck. But if you realize that the shoulder can rotate, then there is no “end” of mobility. The realization that there is no end of mobility creates the “space” to move.

So internal “space” is really the absence of programmed attitudes, which would limit your responses. If every part of the body is “empty” (of programmed attitudes), then it is “empty” of the “fake self” (which fights for its self esteem). At this point, Push Hands becomes joyful and healing takes place.

I have heard Taoists of old called, “Wu Shamans”, meaning “no excess Shamans” or “empty Shamans”. Push hands empties fear, on a physical, emotional and spiritual level, leading to gentleness, yet it also allows you to become powerful. You are powerful in your clarity of what is going on in front of you and inside of you. You are powerful in not getting trapped by the behavior of others. You are powerful in standing your ground yet not resisting, in sending out force yet not tensing. It is a healthier way to live.

Fear is the breeding ground of disease. To be relaxed, joyful and powerful, in spite of people trying to throw you off balance, makes life easier.

THE SUBTLE BODY

Zookenisis - The Laughing Dragon

Zookenisis – The Laughing Dragon

The term, “subtle body” refers to a person, having let go of habits, tensions and trauma, now experiences what is left of himself. For each habit or attitude released, he gains an experience of himself that is his connection to the world around him. The habits can no longer claim him as their own.

Devoid of his isolation from the world, he melts into it, returning to his original state. For a while, he is disoriented, not seeing the source of his intentions. That source is “relationship” – the relationship of each part of himself to the other, in which the term, “himself” is his total experience of his existence. His intentions arise from his biological state, trying to maintain health and balance.

It is at this point that the principles of the teaching in which he is involved, must be re-enforced, to keep him from going adrift and losing energy.

At this school, I call the tradition we provide as “zookinesis” or “animal exercises”. It is the study of the relationship between the consciousness and the physical bodies of animals, which then leads to an understanding of the complex dynamics of the same relationship in humans. While I teach Tai-chi and Qigong, there are many approaches to teaching these disciplines from strictly traditional to the modern “conventional” approach. I prefer the strictly traditional. My term, “zookinesis”, while sounding modern, is actually a reference to the original tradition.

The student then, lives in two worlds – the world of separation and a battle of programmed behavior – and the natural world. He must be able to live in both because, practically speaking, we need to be able to function in the world most people live in. Yet those habits cannot be allowed to control him. One of the ways habits control him is that they affect the senses.

Zen Koan: “Give your flesh to your mother and your bones to your father and show me your original face”. You can think of the bones as the habits and conditioning. The flesh would be the way these habits affect how you actually see things. The world looks, sounds, smells and feels different each time you let go of some habit. The world, including your experience of yourself, becomes fluid.

That fluidity is the living quality of the world. Most people try to stop the fluidity as if we were preparing a slice of muscle tissue on a slide so we can view it through a microscope. They want the world to stay in place so they don’t have to deal with its complexity. The zookinesis teacher (or teacher of any other training) convinces the student that the fluidity is extremely beautiful and is life itself. “Fixing” each moment in time (as you would “fix” a tissue slide with a stain) is not as fulfilling and not an effective way to live your life. In fact it is really the “living dead”.

Such training can only be taught individually as it is not just a question of memorizing movements. I also do “energy healing” in which I physically re-align the student’s body structure and energetically re-align their flow of energy (chi). In reality, I am just removing the effects of the habits, attitudes and programming so the body and energy can do their natural thing.

The result is that the student feels very “light”, free, energized, aware, creative and connected to the rest of life. “Zookinesis” isn’t just exercises imitating animal movements, it is a return to our biological selves, which of course is spiritual. The “spirit world” we then enter is not a different world; it is just a world that is not warped by our habits, attitudes, programming and fears. It is a very “light” world, yet very dense with life.

The “subtle body” is the living body that is completely connected to the living world.

HEALING THE PRIMORDIAL SPLIT

Tai chi as a Bridge to Healing

Tai chi as a Bridge to Healing

When we are born, we are all attention. We soon learn to divide our attention into “self” and “other”. “Self” is what we can control most. “Other” is what we can control least. This is the most basic division, on which the rest of our consciousness is structured.

A great problem arises when we place our body in the category of “other”. If we are not involved in exercise that trains us to have a connection to our body, the body seems to be just a “vehicle” that carries around our head – where we “really live”.

As children we learn about time – which is a line from past to future. We seem disconnected from both past and future and the present is very fleeting. This disconnects us from the world around us.

If we are involved in a teaching that trains us to have a connection to the natural world around us, we re-invest our consciousness in the only time we really have, which is now. Past and future no longer rob us of the richness of our experience of life.

It seems to me that the political antagonism and the violence we are experiencing in our country is a natural result of the widening of the original split. Training such as Tai chi, which specifically heals that split can be very helpful. So can gardening, working with animals and anything else that reminds us that all life on this earth is one inter-connected living being.

As much as we strive to be individuals and achieve greatness, we need also need to deepen our roots into the living earth. When a tree’s branches grow wider, the roots also grow wider and deeper to balance the weight above. Let us not, as a society, be a tree with thick, wide branches and shallow roots.

Animal Push Hands

The Tayra - a powerful and playful animal.

The Tayra – a powerful and playful animal.


When I studied Tai-chi-Chuan with Grandmaster William Chen I was a zoologist. One of my jobs was to import animals from around the world for captive breeding programs. Most of my time was spent working with hundreds of species of animals.

They were often much stronger and quicker than I and were sometimes in a bad mood. I had to learn the dynamics of their movements, attention and their body energy to survive day to day. There was something they all did that took me a while to understand. That dynamic is the basis of what I teach in the Tai-chi exercise of “push hands”. This makes my push hands different from that of other teachers.

We talk about “energy” in Tai-chi. The animals were doing something with that energy. In most push hands interactions you will see each partner trying to keep the other partner away from them. Hands are flying and each tries to impose their force on the other. In some cases a partner may be mechanically well grounded and very fast and so it goes well for him. Their attention is always on counteracting the partner and imposing their will.

The animals were doing something very different. They were extending their energy into me, and allowing my energy to enter them. They were certainly not trying to “keep me away” in the normal push hands sense. Yet they were very powerful and I could do nothing with them – until I learned their method.

When I watch push hands competitions, my main interest is in the “orientation” of the joints of the body. If each joint was an arrow, pointing in the direction of its energy, to which direction would the arrow be pointing? What I see in most push hands is that the orientation is downward into the partner. It is as if each partner is falling onto the other.

When I worked with the animals, the orientation of each of their joints was upwards, in an approximately 45 degree angle. In addition, they seemed to absorb my force, which in turn, was fed back to me. With further study, I found that they were absorbing my force into their ligaments and tendons, which they used like a bowstring. My own force, stored in their bodies, was then released back into me.

My degree in “ethology” (the evolution of animal behavior) came in handy, as I had learned how to study animal behavior in a systematic way. My training in Tai-chi-Chuan, including push hands, gave me another approach to understanding this behavior, that of thinking in terms of energy flow.

I realized that they were manipulating my energy within their bodies, and their energy within my body to control me. We became in essence, a single energetic system and their attention was at the center of that system. Mine was not. It was only on my side. Furthermore, they could place the fulcrum of interaction at any point that was must beneficial for them. The fulcrum in this case, refers to the reference point their joints use to pivot around. For example, I can move my body pivoting around my tai-tien (about an inch and a half below the navel at the center of the body) or around my sternum. Just by placing my concentration at such a point, the joints function with that point as their reference.

As I fought or played with the animal (depending on its disposition), it could constantly change that fulcrum point which confused the heck out of me. Tayras and grisons were my favorite. These Central and South American weasel-like mammals are about eight to fifteen pounds. They are like little wolverines. There were many species of cats, monkeys, honey bears, coati mundis, anteaters, as well as pythons up to thirteen feet, monitor (dragon) lizards up to eight feet long, many birds and others. Each had its own way of using energy and I had to learn them all.

When I practiced push hands with the other students, I would use these methods of using energy, and push hands became more fun than competition. Many of the animals could throw me off just by using their breath and I brought this into class. When I learned something in class, I brought it back to the animals. Eventually, the animals all learned to do push hands with me and their moods were always good.

So now when I teach push hands to my students, I substitute for the animals, using one dynamic in one class and another dynamic another day. When I still had the animal importing set-up, I used to bring the animals themselves into class. Now I just bring in the energy so my students can get a similar experience.

I found dozens of energy dynamics in the many species and integrated them into what Grandmaster Chen taught me. Today my push hands is not so much about how many times a student can push over another student to get points. It is about learning these energy dynamics, which can then be used in everyday life. These dynamics don’t necessarily require physical contact. They can be done even in a verbal interaction, because there are always energy dynamics going on underneath.

My students regularly tell me how they used a particular dynamic in an interaction, often at work. Translating push hands dynamics into everyday life is the greatest benefit of this exercise. It is also humbling to realize that animals are so much smarter in certain ways, than people.

WHAT IS MIND?

Bob Klein

Bob Klein

When practicing Tai-chi form (or any other activity in life), it is important to distinguish the two parts of “Mind” or what I call “attention”. A Tai-chi saying is that, “Mind leads, body follows”. This does NOT mean that your thoughts tell your body what to do.

This saying is a clue to the real relationship between Mind (attention) and body. There are two aspects of Mind when you are practicing. One is knowing the movements and mechanics behind the movements. The other aspect of Mind is the ebb and flow of attention, its expansion and relaxing. This aspect is like the ocean currents. The “knowing” aspect is like a scuba diver who wants to get from here to there and get things done. He still has to yield to the ocean currents, which are much stronger than him.

The flowing aspect of Mind is not fixed at one spot, such as in the head. It does not give orders to the body. It flows, and the body responds because that is its nature. I also want to make clear that I am NOT talking about imagining the movement in your head first and then doing it. Attention simply flows here or there, it sinks or expands. It is Yin. It is the job of the other aspect of Mind, Yang, to exert influence on the body so that the movements are specific. But Yang Mind does not interfere or overcome Yin Mind.

Another saying is that “The one begets the two, the two begets the three and the three begets the ten thousand things”. At a beginners stage of training, the two aspects of Mind and the body are fused. Everything is tight. There is no relationship among these parts of us. In order to have a relationship, each member of the relationship must be free and independent yet coordinated with the others. If any one member is frozen, there is no relationship. If each is completely independent, with no connection, there is still no relationship. When all three are fused and locked, there is certainly no relationship.

Yet that fused, locked state is the condition of modern people. In order to develop relationship you can practice the form in this way: First allow your attention to move towards where your body will go, and then move the body there. The attention will be like a bungee cord, pulling the body, or like a boat, pulling a water skier. The attention will create a pathway that the body will follow.

You will gradually become aware of the Yin and Yang aspects of attention and their relationship with the body. In fact, everyday the Yin aspect of attention tries to “break its chains” and flow but we are so unused to that that we tighten up right away to stop it. If you know this, and look for it in your everyday life, you can attempt to extend the time that Yin attention is free by not reacting against it. Then you will have a chance for a real relationship between the parts of attention (“Mind”) and the body. (Don’t do this while driving).

When you first begin your Tai-chi practice you bring to it the state of Mind you have. But that frozen state makes it hard to learn Tai-chi. So you either do Tai-chi stiffly, or you struggle to do it in a flowing way. The only way you can really do Tai-chi well is through a transformation of Mind itself, allowing for the relationship described above. That new state of Mind then stays with you all day. You bring it into your everyday interactions and you find that, not only does this new Mind help you in your Tai-chi practice, but in your everyday life as well. And that is one of the great benefits of Tai-chi.

TAI CHI HEALING

Tai-chi Yang Form with Bob Klein

Tai-chi Yang Form with Bob Klein

The medical field is based on military strategy. We are attacked by micro-organisms and we defend ourselves with weapons (medicines) or surgery. Tai-chi is based on a different strategy so its concepts seem strange, or low tech.

My main job as a Tai-chi teacher is to develop an even distribution of attention in the student. The modern human is trained to withdraw attention from the body and concentrate it in the head. This weakens the body and over stimulates the head. The result is an “empty cleverness”.

We are taught to rely on the thinking process to interact with our world and to depress other means of interaction. The Tai-chi teacher’s job is to remind students of their original state of attention and of the ways we can connect with and interact with the world around us, rather than just thinking about it.

When we do push hands, for example, we have to be able to feel the state of readiness of every muscle and joint in the partner and the ever-changing pattern of attention from moment to moment. In this two-person game of “pushing” each other off balance, using tension by just shoving with the arms puts you at a disadvantage. The only way we can be this aware is by keeping our own attention completely calm and even, even though we are being pushed and shoved around. We then use this awareness to easily take advantage of the partner’s inefficiencies.

The Tai-chi forms teach us to generate all movements from the center of the body, and then, like a wave, allow each joint and muscle to flow out from that wave. The initiation of that wave is a relaxation – just like a pebble dropped into still water, creates circular waves.

It is very difficult to bring the student to this natural state of attention but it is the basis of healing in this system. As long as the attention is “trapped” in the head and thinking process, all the drugs and surgeries in the world, will not bring him to great health.

Yet, even these ideas about attention seem meaningless to someone who has not experienced them. You have to be brought to that experience by a teacher in order to even understand what it is and how powerful the experience is. It has been described as feeling like you jumped off a steep cliff. We are, indeed, standing high up on a steep cliff, struggling to stay on top of it and wearing ourselves out.

It is this struggle that wears out our minds and bodies and leads to disease. Yet the student asks, “If I let go of the dominance of my mind, how can I function?” In reality it is the even balance of mind and body that is required for true creative functioning, rather than just robotic functioning.

Tai-chi practice leads you to this very gently, yet it is a tough practice – very exacting and specific. The journey leads to freedom from fear and stress and a healthy way of interacting with people and situations, which in turn, results in a joy filled life.

Suggested training aids:
The books, “Movements of Magic – the Spirit of Tai-chi-Chuan” and “Movements of Power – Ancient Secrets of Unleashing Instinctual Vitality”
http://store.movementsofmagic.com/msbose.html

The dvd series: “How to Learn and Teach Tai-chi”
http://store.movementsofmagic.com/howtoletetap.html

BE LIKE VAPOR

Tai-chi is fluid.

Tai-chi is fluid.

Why do we tense up in response to stress? Tension makes us feel stronger and more present. When we are relaxed, we feel that we are like vapor, drifting away.

Tai-chi teaches us that we are more effective in defending ourselves when we are relaxed. Let the opponent fight a vapor rather than a solid object. When relaxed you can be quicker and more effective.

If the situation is not physical, such as a verbal argument or a life situation, staying relaxed will keep your mind clear and you will react more creatively. But how can we learn to stay relaxed when we are so programmed to tense?

Imagine a “black hole” (a collapsed star) that is so dense that even light cannot escape from it. If the entire earth were as dense as a black hole it would be the size of a peanut. So in comparison to a black hole, we are not very dense. We are almost not even here.

We tense (become more dense) in order to “feel more here” so we can be more formidable. Tai-chi teaches us that our vaporous nature also has power. It teaches us how to use the power of relaxation to get through life more easily.

The nature of a black hole with its immense gravity, is to pull everything towards it, to grab, to own. The nature of vapor is to merge with everything around it and to become part of the world.

Chi-gung, forms, push hands and Tai-chi bodywork are all designed to teach you the value of fluidity, the value of empty space within you, the value of merging. Internal space is defined as the ability of each joint and muscle to move. Even though the form is quiet, with minimal external movement, there is a free flow of internal movement, like waves flowing through the body.

This is the healthiest state of the body and it allows a relaxation of the mind and emotions as well. Embrace your fluid state and learn about its power.

Our dvd series, “How to Learn and Teach Tai-chi” discusses these ideas in detail. (See http://store.movementsofmagic.com/howtotetavo1.html for more information).

BREAKING DOWN THE WALL

Push Hands

When you visit another culture you realize how differently other people see the world. We tend to feel that our “modern” world-view is the most correct because we are the smartest people who have ever lived on the earth. And yet, the fact that we are willingly destroying the life support system of the earth creates questions about how smart we really are. The way in which our life-style is destroying the life support system within our bodies also calls into question even our dedication to survive.

Tai-chi practice is a way of introducing into the modern world, the concept that each of us is an ecological environment, completely connected to the larger ecological environment. How we balance the internal ecology with the external ecology should be a large part of our “personal culture”. If we can experience our bodies as living and conscious, rather than just a machine that carries our head around, we can begin to restore our health.

Our modern culture is based on the isolated individual, each of us fighting against all the others. To maintain this feeling of isolation we “condense”, that is, we tighten ourselves physically and mentally, turning ourselves into a walled city. We feel that, as long as our lawns are green, the rest of the environment doesn’t affect us.

According to Tai-chi principles, the destruction of the natural world and the destruction of our own physical health, arise out of the same mind-set. When we practice the two-person exercise of push hands, for example, there is a tendency to use physical strength to push the “opponent” over. It is common for someone, being pushed, to grab the arms of the pusher to avoid getting pushed and thereby be able to say that he didn’t really get pushed.

Push Hands is a game of transformation. It is based on not using tension but fluidity. It is based on allowing the push of your partner to be absorbed by your body, the force distributed among all the muscles and joints, and then transformed to go back to the pusher. Your role is to transform the force that comes to you. In this way you learn the connection between your inner self and its connection to the forces around you.

When you learn Tai-chi forms, it is not just a question of memorizing movements. You learn to generate movement from the relationship of the hips and legs to the root (your connection to the ground). The rest of the body then expresses that relationship. So forms teach you how to express your relationship to the earth.

There is a tradition, in Zen practice, of expressing your feelings at the moment of enlightenment. One student expressed it this way, “The inside and the outside – they are made of the same flesh”.

Every time you tense up and isolate yourself, you damage not only yourself, but also your connection to the earth, and even the earth itself. Every time you set yourself against others in anger, you do equal damage.

Tai-chi practice teaches you how to live an ecological life in the modern world. Practicing Tai-chi this way is a powerful way to transform your life.

Pushing Hands

The Tai-chi exercise of Push Hands teaches you to let other people into your “space”. While the goal is to push your partner off balance, you also have your hands and arms connected and you move towards his center of balance to push.

This creates an emotional tension. You don’t want your partner getting into your space to push you, yet you want to move into his space to push him. The unique Tai-chi resolution to this tension shows the genius of Tai-chi’s creators and also explains many of our society’s modern problems.

Some push hands players will tighten up and spend most of their energy keeping you out. They are not really paying attention to you (your balance, movements and state of attention) but just to their own mental strategies. When they push, the movement of the push is disconnected from the flow of movements that came before. This reflects their internal state, that of the thinking mind ordering the body around but keeping the body at “arms length” from their own thinking mind. It is similar to the politics of isolating people according to their differences and setting them against each other.

The Tai-chi approach to push hands is to consider the partner’s actions and your responses as one single unit. You allow the partner to make the decisions of movement and you stay connected with them, but offering little resistance. Whatever position they put you into, you are happy to be in that position, but you concentrate on being properly aligned and centered in that position. Part of that alignment is that you are in a good position to push the partner off balance. You use his movements to set up your body in proper alignment, rather than trying to take control and force his body to move according to your will.

The forceful, disconnected approach gives you the feeling you are strong and in control. But if you are partnering with a good push hands player, your own feeling of strength and control always leads you to being in a weak position. The good push hands player fills the spaces within your power, preventing you from functioning. Yet he does this lightly.

When two good push hands players are partnered, each tries to bring the forces within his own body. When his partner pushes, he absorbs the force, distributes that force among all his joints and into his root to empower his own response. In this way, the forcefulness of the partner is experienced as “raw material” you can use to add to your own power and return the combination back to your partner.

Push hands then becomes an attempt to connect to, and transform forces rather than to build barriers to those forces. You become part of the flow of forces rather than a blockage to that flow.

We are living in an increasingly “external” culture, in which we see each other as isolated physical objects battling against each other. We see the natural world around us as a store, providing products on its shelves, rather than as a living system that we are part of.

When I practice push hands with most people and softly merge into their “space”, they harden up and resist, desperately trying to maintain their isolation and to them, Push Hands is a game of maintaining your isolation and feeling physically strong (tight).

If the two partners can both merge, then Push Hands becomes a game of integration balanced with the attempt to push. It is a balance of merging and being an individual, a skill needed in any kind of relationship. Push Hands used to teach people that skill, but in a world of increasing isolation, this game too often reflects its host culture.

If we can embody that skill in our everyday lives, then we can begin to heal the rift between the body and mind, allowing them to merge, which brings us internal peace.

Remember the “Principles of Tai-chi Forms with Applications to Push Hands” workshop on Sunday April 17th 2016. Call (631) 744-5999 for more information. At the Tai-chi-Chuan School in Sound Beach, Long Island, N. Y.