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REVEALING THE INTERNAL

A Tai-chi form is a way of revealing the internal dynamics of mind, attention, emotion and internal energy, in external movements. If your movements are jerky, for example, then your attention proceeds in discreet, segmental units. If you turn your head to look where you are going, then you are thinking about the future and not paying attention to the alignment of the body in the present.
 If you use facial expressions to disapprove of the move you just did, then you are wedded to the past. If you hold yourself up, with your chest and shoulders high, then you feel that “you” are the top of your body and you don’t have a good feel for your whole body. This is also true if you step by lifting your leg and hip as you step.
The teacher can see a great deal of what is going on inside of you by watching your form. On the other hand, the teacher can correct internal problems by correcting your form. The patterns and behaviors required for a correct form, then affect your internal condition. Many people have a poor feel for their position in space. They may be leaning forward or backward and think they are straight. When they are corrected, they feel uncomfortable. If they were leaning back and are corrected to be straight, they will feel as if they are leaning forward. They are surprised when they look in the mirror.
Most people think they are relaxed most of the time. Yet when their form is corrected and their upper body is finally made to relax, they feel an intense weight in their legs. Now their weight sinks through their muscles and not just through their bones. Their muscles act as a spring and their weight partially compresses that spring. Their whole body becomes springy, not stiff.
Each time the teacher points out part of their body that is tense, they are surprised that they had any tension. They are also surprised at how much weight their legs must receive when they relax the upper body. It is important for the legs to be strong because they support the whole upper body.
If the body is relaxed, then the weight sinks into the center (the inside) of the legs. The legs act as an arch under a bridge, which can support a lot of weight. The weight an arch supports must be directed to the inside of the arch or the arch will collapse.  If the knees are in a locked position, the legs are no longer in an arch position and the body becomes rigid.
The activity of the eyes are also important in the form. They should be like the edge of a waterfall, receiving the water into the pool of the tan-tien (the center of the body, about one and a half inches below the navel). In other words, the eyes are soft, receiving the sights, but your attention doesn’t grab onto anything it sees. The eyes remain at eye level and the head aimed in the same direction as the hips.
Doing the form in this way will lead to great relaxation yet alertness. It will bring you to a state of meditation. It is important to have a good teacher correcting you as you would never achieve these qualities on your own. You might have a “pretty” form but not really make any internal changes. Tai-chi requires this internal change to a more natural way of moving and living.
It is sometimes discouraging for a student to be corrected (and corrected and corrected!) The mind, body and emotions have a great deal of resistance to change. But each improvement is one step on a journey to freedom and to health. You free yourself from the patterns of behavior that have controlled your life and that alone improves your health.