The Challenge of Tai Chi

The greatest challenge these days, seems to be to look beyond the fear and sorrow, so to find love and beauty in each day. It is my belief that Tai Chi can help us face this challenge.

As time goes on it becomes clearer and clearer why Tai Chi is called an art. I would like to share some thoughts with you about Tai Chi as an art.

Tai Chi seems to be an art that lies in us, underneath, and comes out in everything we do. I decided to compare painting and music with our own beautiful art because as you begin to look at all three arts the more similar they seem to be. Painting and music can be seen as an outward expression of ourselves and it's interesting to place this beside Tai Chi which is an art that helps us develop our inner world, our inner expression.

The learning of any art is difficult for most people. We must remember that we are learning a new language, a new vocabulary. It's first the letters we learn then the words and then the sentences which later become poetry.

When you first ask a child to paint a house, a finger is dipped in paint and the child will more often than not paint a triangle on top of a square. We smile and praise the child for his or her work.

So too when we begin our instruction in a musical instrument our notes are harsh and irregular. If we are lucky enough to have a good teacher we are praised despite the racket. However, over time, our art improves.

With our painting we go from the finger to the brush and then later a narrower brush. Our colours go from blues, reds and yellows to more subtle colours. Like the colour of trees and a beautiful sunset, the boundary between one colour and the next blurs, so to with our own use of the brush. Something magical happens to our art as we learn its ways. It begins to become more subtle and clearer at the as time. The boundary between colours can be, at one time sharp, and in the next moment, gradual and imperceptible. We look to the great masters for inspiration and guidance. We eventually realize that our greatest teacher ,for our art, is experience and our world around us.

In the study of music with time our notes become clearer and more melodious. A flow develops and with that, subtlety. The music we make develops and takes the listener to a place they've not been to before. As our skill develops we learn to play new pieces of music and this adds a further dimension to our art. The art we find lies in the playing of each note well and how each note fits into the rest of the piece. Some people find that they learn other instruments whereas some can spend there whole life on one instrument and develop deep understanding of what it means to play.

Both with the expression of painting and music, space or silence plays an important role. If there was no silence in music it would be simply be one long sound. Even in painting a space is created by the artist so he or she can tell their story on the canvass. How like Tai Chi are these arts !!??

It has often been said that the study if Tai Chi helps in the study of music & painting as well as other arts such as poetry.

Tai Chi, is what's at the base of all arts that are expressed outwardly because Tai Chi helps us develop an understanding of ourselves.

Firstly by showing us how our bodies move, secondly and more importantly by giving us insight into how are mind works.

Tai Chi gives us the internal space we need to see ourselves with perspective.

As we study this beautiful art of Tai Chi we go through the same trials as with any other art. In the beginning our movements are harsh and stiff. Often one of the greatest things that hold us back is what we think Tai Chi is rather than simply doing "it". With time, our movements become softer and we seem to "let go" of our preconceptions of Tai Chi. A subtlety and clearness develops in our movements. As the body develops this surety of movement so does our mind. We realize that we don't have to react straight away to things that happen. That we can wait and consider what we would like to do. That, it is, ourselves that set the pace for our lives. That, it's not others that set our agenda. It's the internal silence that is within all the movements of Tai Chi that gives us this space to see things as they are.

Use our art as a tool to open the eyes to the beauty of the world. All round is chaos but at the same time there is beauty and love, it only depends on the direction in which we are facing. Let's use the art we are learning to help us face in the right direction.

As with the study of other arts Tai Chi offers the student a rich course in self discovery. With time we become aware of the spirals and circles that our body makes. Our breath becomes ever so soft. We become distinctly aware of our balance and movement. Our form becomes soft and subtle. The timing of when one posture ends and the next begins becomes finer and finer. Like the master painting the form develops that subtlety of colour but clearness in the execution of each posture. Like beautiful music the form develops a stillness, a silence that everyone who participates and observes can enjoy .

Let's challenge ourselves as Tai Chi practitioners to not only to know the correctness of each movement in our forms but to also look behind the bodily movements to the stillness that grows in our mind from the practise of our art. Hopefully we can take the time out every day even it is only for ten minutes to enjoy the moving meditation of Tai Chi. Let the art help us look beyond the fear and sorrow of modern life and find the love and beauty that is within each moment.

-Chris Connor



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