Last year I started drinking tea, and I began to read about the history and culture that surrounds it. One of these books introduced me to the idea of Dao, and I found the rhetoric compelling, this in turn brought me to Tai Chi Chuan.
I originally come from the country, and spent my childhood and teenage years doing classical ballet, so I can safely say that Yuan-Chi Tai Chi Chuan is unlike anything I have previously tried or been exposed to. Instead of rigid structure, which made me feel like a disjointed collection of parts, I feel as if my body is one piece. The effect that each move has on the whole and the way the movements connect and flow from one to the other is magical.
I am studying science at university, so my life is generally overwhelmed by stress and the need to be doing, to be done. These classes leave me feeling peaceful and removed from the stress and the push to be doing. I feel like myself rather than a tool for completing tasks.
Yuan-Chi Tai Chi Chuan is one of the few things for me that isn’t an obstacle to surmount or an objective to complete, it just is, and I am enjoying being carried along by it.
Saturday’s Dance = Taoist Melee?
Observations for self, the group, Sifu.
S1 enjoyed and felt connected.
S2 disrupted, felt tired of it all.
S3 impatience, wanted it to be finished.
Right knee had a very audible crack in S3 (I think)
The group seemed to have more connection than I felt.
Idea that we were all floats connected by to the central one?
Sifu seemed much freer than usual.
Perhaps sifu was freed of the burden of carrying others?
Dance Report 9.5.15
S1 felt like I was being carried along in the flow.
S2 hit the rapids
S3 the still slow moving deep pool after the rapids.
Had a moment in S3 where I couldn’t move my arm until I adjusted my hip angle.
Dance Report Saturday 21st March
The dance today fluctuated a lot. At times I felt very connected to the flow, to the point where I have no memory of certain styles. At one point I was so enjoying doing a specific style that I nearly continued on with it instead of the Dance. This was counterpointed by a number of silly little mistakes which caused my mind to get going telling me off. And my mind kept reminding me of things Sifu has said to me recently making me think about them.
Match Report 26/7/14
The Dance started very slowly and it felt heavy as if gravity had become stronger.
Then I felt as if I was being carried along in the flow, I could feel that I (especially my arms) was being moved. (Although if my mind exerted enough will it could overcome the resistance to willful movement and move me beyond the bounds of the flow, if no will was exerted then the movements were carried and held within the bounds)
I also saw a few times that my arm was moving in the same way (motion and position) as Sifu’s arm. Sifu said that it was because it was the same arm.
I also noticed that in Wild Horse Parts Mane that my arm was stretched and pulled down in a way which it never has before. Then in section 3 I lost ‘it’ and started to feel cold and tired and hungry. While I did manage to pick it back up later the connection was not as strong or as beautiful.
At the start of the Dance when we were moving so incredibly slowly I had the thought that ‘wow we are moving so slow we probably won’t finish until 9:26, no 9:37’. When we finished the official time check was 9:37!
During the exercises after the Dance I just wanted to curl up somewhere warm and eat/sleep.
Dance Report 29/6
Section 2 and the first half of Section 3 was really fun, the way it was sinking in turns and spinning back with the release. It felt as though within a style there was a build up and release, and that this was also carried over across the styles. The second part of Section 3 my main impression was that it wasn’t as playful, or fun, that Sifu had stopped playing.
Subject: Saturday 22/2/14
The Dance today was good as I was actually awake and functioning. I ended up being right wing. It took me a little while to settle into the flow. At one point during the dance, the form took on a very interesting flavour or character. The image I have to describe it is long fingernails, and long dark hair whipping around the face.
It felt feminine, aware of everything, so you can’t mess with her because she will know the moment you try something, playful in an almost impish manner. Competent and capable, aware of her physical skills. Knowledgeable of great anger and darkness, but following a peaceful path, only prepared to go there if pushed there by another’s actions, or the situation. Not willingly seeking to embrace that part of herself, but drawing comfort from the fact that she can turn to that resource if she needs it.
How this overlaid onto form made it physically lower and more stable, the legs drawing in moved smoothly like a sword returning to its sheath, the hands felt completely gentle, yet so precise, sharp. It was interesting to experience, because I could feel how she was a confident weapon, but the playfulness, and impishness were also there, she was having fun, so capable yet she has restrained herself to within set bounds of conduct, which are acceptable to her morality.
Date: Sun, 16 Feb 2014 06:56:47 +1100
Match Report 15/2/14
This morning I was tired so tired that I seriously considered just crawling back into bed, but I decided that I needed to go to Tai Chi more. The dance today basically consisted of my mind going “oh hell I am so tired…”, it was so tired in fact that it didn’t have the capacity to commentate on what I was doing, or to remember and remind me of steps. This meant that while it was faintly complaining, the Dance was just happening, because my mind was too tired to do or to tell me what to do. Turns and movements were happening without me noticing until after they had happened. I did register that the axis of rotation and/or turning was quite definitely between the knees and hip joint. I experienced a soreness in my lower back on the right side which ended up causing soreness in my shoulder/upper arm, to the point that in one of the Single Whips before Cloud Hands my arm actually dropped down to my side because I could not hold it up any longer. Speaking of Cloud Hands, the first lot of Cloud Hands in section 3 Danya, Magda and I all thought that we had missed a pair of Cloud Hands. At the end of the Dance when we were just standing there I felt as if I was being bounced from side to side, then I got a sharp headache in my right agnya.
+Random Sara note from a few weeks ago:
I was watching Sifu when he was demonstrating something, I think it was Move Bar Punch in section 2. I was watching his left hand as it rotated and began to lift, and I had the sudden impression that I was watching a flower unfurl from a bud into a full open blossom.
Match Report 19th of October
The dance was really hard to find today, but it was really beautiful.
The end of the dance was very quiet and peaceful, and when my eyes flicked open my vision of the park was kind of misted and less sharp than later.
In my lesson I had the image of water running down a stream and swirling around the rocks. The water didn’t stop and pool at the rocks but was carried up and around by the flow of the stream.
My other thought about my step was that nothing occurs until everything is finished but that there is always something going on. This relates to the constancy of the motion that is occurring. It is impossible to rush forward as each thing must finish.
During the coffee Sifu asked me to rephrase one of Danya’s comments. My take was that the dance is always constant to itself even if it is not always consistent. Danya then elaborated that in the dance 10 seconds of motion might be 2 seconds for one style or 0.5 second for another style in the real world.
When I practised this morning I had several things happen. (My eyes were closed in each instance).
As I began I had this feeling that everything was collapsing inwards, and I startled which caused the feeling to disappear. Somewhere else in section 1 I had the feeling that what I was doing was in slow motion, not that I was moving slowly but that everything had slowed down, but this faded as almost as fast as I realised I was feeling it. The last thing that happened was between Right Foot Kick and Left Strike Tiger, as my arms were coming down and for a moment I saw my arms through my eyelids and I could see these transparent ripples, (like water but more viscous) around my arms, then the ripples impacted with my torso and almost threw me off balance. Then I thought maybe I should stop but I decided to finish, but by the time I had reach the first Downward Dominance I realised that some part of me wasn’t actually capable of finishing so I stopped.
I was rather unsettled by it all and so I asked Sifu what had happened. He said that the collapsing inwards was a contraction of space in going beyond space-time; the slow motion is what occurs when one rises towards Turiya state; and the the ripples were the Chaitanya which can be seen as liquid water, and looks more viscous when it is stronger.
• You asked Ray at one point “Did you DNF or DNS? You didn’t finish?” “No, I did, I was merely doing it on a higher plane.”
• Rodney made the comment that “Focussing on someone else’s energy requires a lot of concentration, this totally goes against him in Tai Chi, because it pulls you out of the river”.
• Danya said that ‘sometimes during the dance he felt nothing, and other times he felt connected, yet at the same time it was nothing’.
I have always thought that now I have to work hard and get everything right, and that I can live and enjoy life later. I have always been stressed, worried, and tense. It would take me at least an hour to get to sleep, because I was always thinking, and in the mornings I woke up feeling tired, and only got out of bed through sheer stubbornness. Quite often I felt as if all the thoughts inside my head were all shouting at me trying to be heard.
In these last four months I have found a sense of restfulness and peace unlike anything I have previously known, all the pressure and stress – which by this time of semester would have me maniac, interspersed with fits of crying and hair pulling – isn’t there. I find that I am able to do my studies just as well, yet for the first time in a long time I have spare time. I am so much more peaceful within myself, and my brain doesn’t seem to be trying to shout every thought at once. I have even lost the physical manifestations of stress – clenched fists, gritted teeth, and constant sighing – which I have been doing for as long as I can remember. I am sleeping better, and getting to sleep much faster than I used to. And when I wake up it is easy to get up (unless it is particularly cold), I feel refreshed, and I am not fighting to stay awake in my lectures.
I am far more emotionally balanced now than I have ever been. I no longer seem to be riding an emotional rollercoaster full of highs and lows.
Match Report 18.5.13
Sifu stood in front of us, and as usual the mind went “Wait what am I supposed to do?”, once that quietened down, I found that I was being pulled to my right, at first only my lower weight shifted and my top half stayed centred but then I felt as if I was being pulled by my spine over to my right. I had a feeling of circling energy around my knees.
We followed Sifu while he did repetitions of Brush Knee, I found it really wonderful and floaty, until I realised that I was too close to Professor Chris, which totally interrupted my flow.
Then we did repetitions of Grasp Bird’s Tail, and Carry Tiger Back To Mountain. At first my arms felt very heavy, then my wrist, neck and shoulder cracked and I felt much lighter. My neck and wrist continued to crack for the rest of the following stuff.
During Right Strike Tiger what I really enjoyed was seeing what the arms and body do without having to worry about staying balanced for the kick, doing that made me realise I had never actually watched the arms properly before.
When we did Cloud Hands was the only time during the lesson that I noticed that there was wind, I was really enjoying Cloud Hands and I loved the way the wind seemed to be pushing me around in the turns.
Sifu then asked people to describe what they had felt, and then asked if we had picked up on what was going on. He was showing variations on a theme, or the permutations of the moves. Because there are sets of moves which have different top levels, but fundamentally at the base when you strip back all the flourishes they are the same.
The other thing that that happened was I seemed to keep hitting people. I almost hit Professor Chris, and Parvati, and I did hit fingers with Danya’s during one of the styles.
At coffee one of the things that came up is how two people can set out to do the same thing, but because of the personal interpretation they can end up doing two vastly different things even if that isn’t the intention. It was summed up very nicely; they end up with “Same genus, different species!”.
Blue Mountains Tai Chi Chuan Seminar Match Report
My day began nice and early, so that I was ready when I was picked up. The drive up was very pleasant I enjoyed looking at the little towns and the conversation.
After we arrived at the Conservation Hut, 6 of us ended up going for a walk down to one of the nearby lookouts. There was a beautiful view of the valley, and it was so quiet, aside from the birds and the sound of water. It was very peaceful yet I found it a bit alien as it was so like home but so different, the bird calls, the plants, even the soil was different. It was the bush but not how I know it.
When we got back up to the Conservation Hut, Sifu called us over to the parking lot, the two phrases that stuck in my mind were ‘follow me’ and ‘apprehend me’. The short walk there was slower than later, and I could feel my weight shift after each step, and my hands kept twitching and flicking. The next walk which went into the cafe was faster, and harder to follow I found. I ended up with a mental image of penguins waddling along.
We sat down in the cafe, and I remember Virginia’s question about seeing in order to follow, and Sifu’s statement about being an icon that links us to the flow. When we follow we mimic the flow, when we mimic long enough we learn to apprehend the flow and eventually we can learn to follow the flow ourselves.
I enjoyed tea drinking it was very slow and beautiful to watch, and to see how the form can permeate everyday activities, that the peace and bliss of Tai Chi Chuan can become a part of everything.
After the breakfast break finished and we went back to the park and did another walk first following down the hill, and then ourselves up the hill. On the way down it was nice to follow and to feel one foot lighten and lift as the other got heavy and pulled down. Coming up the hill we all started out slightly different and by the end we were moving together as a group. I enjoyed feeling my feet move and the gentleness of the process, the awareness. So much happens without registering it was relaxing to walk without trying to hurry and to feel each step. My arms went into that relaxed state that they go into when I meditate which makes them really hard to move, I became aware of this at the end of the walk when I tried to brush some hair off my face and the whole action took a great deal of effort to do and was really slow. I don’t remember any of the conversation at the end of the walk, I remember standing and I know talking happened but I have no idea what got said.
We stood in a circle touching via our right arms. My eyes closed and I was pushed/pulled in an elliptical motion. A few times the outwards backwards push made me feel as if I was going to tip over but most of it seemed to be sideways. There was also a few times where I felt Brenda move away or come to me to a far greater extent than what I felt from the other side. It was such a great deal of movement that it nearly broke the connection between me and her.
We sat in a circle and each spoke about what we could feel while sitting there. Parvati commented on feeling the energy of the Earth and put her hand on the ground, so I also grounded my right hand forgetting what has been happening when I do that. I had to stop very quickly as several fingertips began to ache and my fingers and palm had tensed and felt like after a cramp. I spoke about the breeze, and feeling the cold of the Earth cooling me (and about my sore hand). While I was listening to the others, I let my eyes close and I just relaxed and enjoyed the peace. This caused Brenda to comment the she was enjoying looking at me because I looked like a monk or Buddha statue in her garden, which caused me to smile and giggle. I wish someone had taken a photo because I never get to see the things that I do.
We then connected to each other via the fingertips of our right hand. At first I only felt one connection, the one that I was initiating, and I could feel my fingertips which were still aching, when that connection broke I became aware of the other connection but it was not as strong and then it or my perception of it faded away. I ended up in meditation; I watched as the pretty colours washed across my eyes I had blue and green, and a new colour orange. I felt a build-up of pressure in my neck and head and then I felt as if I was being pulled by my third eye, and slowly the pressure dissipated. I heard Tash pulling out grass blades, Sifu talking, and Sifu’s clock alarm. Getting my eyes open and my arms and legs working was a challenge, and when I got up I almost fell over. My fingers had stopped aching, which was good.
We had a short break and discussed what we had felt and experienced, and I was really surprised by how unaware of my surrounding I had been. Parvati spoke of being pulled upwards, Virginia spoke of losing her sense of her body, which caused Sifu to segue into levels of awareness?, when this break morphed into lunch I asked Sifu where the dream that I had, and had spoken to him about previously was. Sifu said it was a supreme dream with Father. A dream that was given to me, and a dream that was more. What I really remember is the look in your eyes Sifu as you spoke.
After lunch Sifu led us on another walk this time single file along one of the walking paths, and we alternated who was directly behind Sifu. I ended up behind Sifu on a section with a lot of stairs, which meant my feet were somewhat out of sync with what I should have been doing for my step. They either started down as I was still lifting or lifting too early. Once the stairs were done and I went to the back it took me a little while to resettle, then I found I was walking along, and my eyes kept drifting off to look at other things or closing altogether, coming back to attention right when I needed to pay attention to my feet.
Smoke and Mirrors
I know I was the second person Sifu called up, and I have no doubt I ended up on the ground but I don’t actually remember, I do remember Tash being timid as she went up and I remember Sifu getting me to watch when it was Virginia’s turn, and seeing the way she kept twitching to right herself, to stay the way she was.
Push Hands without Pushing
I found this part of the day rather confusing and a little disturbing. After Sifu had shown what we were doing and we had broken into pairs, my partner and I would get into the stance and I would close my eyes and feel my hands and theirs, and feel our hands move down and around, and then the input from them would stop and I would open my eyes and they would be on the ground or falling off balance. This is what confused me.
The exception to this was Rodney, and this is what disturbed me. We had one pair up where I ended up on the ground, followed by another where he said he had the urge to pull me through his legs. I told him to try it, so he did, and I’m not quite sure what happened. I felt the pull and followed it, I felt like I moved really fast, and I know that the crown of my head connected with his shoulder/neck region, and then he was gone. I opened my eyes in time to see the end of his somersault about 2 metres away. Rodney wasn’t hurt and didn’t even feel my head connect with him. Sifu said that the reason he didn’t get hurt was because he didn’t tense up. I am very glad that Rodney wasn’t hurt but I am troubled because he could have been very easily. I could have hurt him and the idea of doing that makes me very upset.
During this session Sifu showed me how I don’t bend my spine. Sifu actually got me to roll down through my spine into Golden Frog. It felt lovely to stretch like that. I ended up just sitting on the ground for a while, and was joined by several others, and Sifu ended the session early because we were all getting tired.
On Saturday at the end of the dance class, Sifu just stood still for a while, and I zoned out and was looking down at the grass. As I watched the grass it suddenly went blue and red, and seemed to surge up at me. The suddeness of the change and what was happening scared me and that jarred me out of that state. When I looked back it was just grass again.
In Push Hands yesterday, I had a build up of pressure in my wrist. I was feeling frustrated and that I wasn’t doing it right and as the pressure built I felt as if my hand wasn’t moving right. Trying to make my wrist move right made me tense and that meant that the rest of my arm started to hurt, and I got really tired. Andrew got me to tell Sifu and I ended up crying just like when I was frustrated, when I was little. Sifu said that it wasn’t physical but a manifestation of what I was feeling, the need to be perfect and to get things right. At the bakery afterwards he got me to relax my arm and to close my eyes, and describe what it felt like and then why it had happened, while I did this he touched my wrist and applied a bit of pressure. Then he asked me what I was feeling then. At first one side of me felt tingly and floaty and then that spread so it was both sides, and I felt Sifu change how much pressure he was applying to my wrist. Afterwards when I opened my eyes (that took a lot of effort), Sifu said that the physical pressure he applied to my wrist had been constant, and it was the energy that had changed. He said that this was like a thorn that was coming out; it hurts just as much to take out as when it went in.
Two tuesdays ago Master Ric was showing me part of section 1, and while he was showing me the steps he showed me something more, I don’t know the right words to explain what I saw, but I saw something and it was both a part of the steps and at the same time it was more than the steps.
Brava Sara, bravissima!