Tyrone’s Tale

Tyrone O’Neill

I reflect that in three months (June) it will be two years from when I first started Tai Chi.
When I began I had a curious lack of expectation. I had done a few ‘Tai Chi’ classes at a health retreat I went to in May 2010, and although what I had experienced was a very simple style of Tai Chi, it somehow pointed me in the right direction. What I had liked about the Tai Chi at the health retreat was the feeling of flowing physical movement accompanied by a sense of peace and balance. (It helped that the classes were on the top of a hill and started just before dawn, with all of us oriented to see the sunrise.) However I knew that what I had been doing there was only very initial, so I went to Yuan-Chi Tai-Chi Chuan to learn.

It look almost a year of learning, typically twice-weekly lessons with one or two brief additional practices at home, to be able – although still with many uncertainties and hesitations – to finish the full 108 sequence. Even now that I am nearly two years into my practice, I am still not yet entirely confident in my ability to complete the movements of the full form, and I expect it will still take me one or two years to become much more confident about the overall flow. However I am now aware that this ‘gross motor skill’ aspect of Tai Chi is only a very initial level of learning. And still on a physical level, there are many minor nuances of position and balance which I expect it will take many years to learn.

However it is from an internal or mental/emotional/spiritual dimension that I feel I am only just beginning my journey.

March 2012

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  1. Today in the dance we adopted a different approach, ‘Taoist melee’, where Sifu led from the centre of the group.

    For myself, being at point made me feel a little unsure, but i was comfortable to start. As the dance progressed i was trying to follow Sifu. I found myself with my usual mental distractions, however felt I was able to move in and out of following Sifu, as if there was a phasing which I only ocasionally was able to match. Cloud Hands was the greatest challenge. By the last Cloud Hands i felt as if i was more settled and confident in following Sifu.

    The group seemed a little less sure and aligned than normal, although this may just have been my perspective.

  2. Today i began, as recently, following Sifu. I found myself distracted at the outset much more than usual, because of one particular matter on my mind. As the Dance progressed, the slightly faster pace of the dance unsettled me a little, until i learnt to adapt my rhythm.

    The last part of the Dance, from seven cloud hands especially, was when i felt more able to connect with the flow.

  3. Subject: Brief match report

    The dance was good today. During section one I felt myself in the flow, sensing calmness and stillness physically and mentally. As the dance progressed I did become distracted on a number of occasions, but I re-entered a flow by not worrying about this (not criticizing myself), closing my eyes, and following Sifu. Some phases e.g. wild horse part mane, i felt more deeply connected with the flow than I ever have previously.

  4. Today’s class followed my mid-week private lesson. I will report on both.

    During my private lesson I had what i would consider to be a profound experience, during a passage of the class where Sifu asked me to close my eyes and follow him in the 108. Prior to that we had gone through some other practices. When doing the 108 I had a sense of being deeply immersed in the dance, almost as if I had stepped out of myself into another environment. I felt very present and transcended the distractions of my active mind which is so frequently a barrier to Tai-Chi for me.

    In the dance today i was trying to replicate this approach. I did have some success in trying to follow Sifu, but did not ever get to the same meditative state that I did in the private class. Early in the lesson especially I felt that I was flowing with Sifu, but as the dance progressed I gradually became more distracted by various things.

  5. Subject: Following

    Sifu explained to me what it meant to follow him, or someone else, with this metaphor. In a beginners’ acting class the instructor may ask the students to do exercises to learn to take on the character of something very different to themselves , e.g. “be a tree”. This does not mean just to take the position of a tree, but rather to feel that you are a tree. So too for following.

  6. Subject: Report for Feb 15

    Glad to have returned to class.

    Was conscious of ‘limp hands’. I felt I was able to achieve the outstroke without the recoil and consequent breathlessness I had experienced.

    Overall I had almost constant mental activity distracting me from being present.
    I did have some transient period of success in being present in two ways: when I ‘followed’ Sifu when he was in my visual field, and when I visually focused on my leading hand.

    During the subsequent lesson I was glad to re-establish my step, and had a useful insight into the step from a discussion with Danya and Rodney together with practice.

    Both during the dance and the subsequent lesson I did feel occasional instances of nerve tingling running through my body which is a positive, relaxing and energizing sensation I frequently experience.

  7. Date: Sat, 1 Jun 2013 09:35:55 +1000
    {upon being asked to apprehend Sifu fully}:

    Initially a sense of calmness and weightedness.

    An impulse to relax my shoulders. Later an even stronger impulse to even more fully relax.

  8. Date: 6 April 2013 9:04:53 AM AEDT

    Final pause:
    A recognition that we had time to stay and be still.
    I closed my eyes.
    Just a few seconds of blank awareness.
    Then back to thinking consciousness.

  9. On 06/04/2013, at 8:36 AM,
    Calm, stillness in the dark and interior silence.
    Initially a void of consciousness, as if I was thinking of nothing.
    Later, growing, a sense of mental recognition of things that eventually became a fully blown mental distraction.
    Through my body, occasional waves of ebb and flow, starting off almost a minor rocking movement in my body, leading to some forward and backward movement.

  10. On 06/04/2013, at 8:23 AM
    Fear of being at point.
    Disorientation at realising I was doing the wrong section.
    The beginning of calm at the rhythm of “Wild Horse Parts Mane”
    Feeling of start and stop.

  11. Lesson report: 1.03

    What did I observe? My “U-foot” had a certain ‘lightness’ to it. When I made contact with the ground it seemed to be a very sensitive conduit for some kind of charge/energy in the ground. I did not feel a physical change or force. However within several seconds I could feel a couple of mild ‘flows’ of nervous system energy come from my ‘U’-leg through my abdomen, and spanning across to my other foot.

    I had in my head a notion that there may have been some flow of energy from the ground through my body/legs. I then realised that my previous step was ‘F-W foot’, and given the names of these two steps go together, I was wondering whether the energy should move from one side to the other, or vice versa (or neither)?

    After playing around with this, I found that visualising a charge moving from ‘W-foot’ through to the other foot did not seem to reconcile with what I was doing. However the notion that energy came into my body from the “U-foot” – the experience that I was touching a connection in the ground – did reconcile.

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