The Art of Connection

We all want to connect – to be loved, to belong – it is a human need.  But how do we do it?    How do we learn the skills of connection?  It can be especially hard, if we were raised in a culture or family that lacked these skills, didn’t value them, or otherwise failed to share and teach them.  Many of us were raised in a culture of shaming and blaming, and have struggled with the many self-destructive behaviors that follow – addiction, pleasing for approval, perfectionism, low self-worth, etc.   And nowadays, there are multiple ways to overcome these problems   – just look at the success of the self-help and psychology industries.

Well, to the list of practices that help to alleviate this epidemic, I add the practice of Taiji – the Art of Connection.

We have all heard that Taiji (Tai Chi) is for health and balance and is good for older people to practice.  When most people think of Taiji they think of the old folks in the park moving slowly in the solitary form.

So what does this have to do with connection?

One could look at it this way:  The solo form is preparation. It is preparing the self for connection with another.  In the solo form, one practices self-composure – breathing, calming, centering, rooting, feeling, following and directing the flow of energy within one’s own body, while moving in space. Pretty complicated stuff, really – but all things one needs in order to connect with another. In other words, I need to know myself to know another. 

So, in addition to the Taiji solo form that most of us are familiar with,  there are many partner exercises in the traditional Taiji curriculum

  • the 8 flat-disc method drills (1-8),
  • the four hands study of the square energies of peng, lu, ji, and an, and their various changes,
  • the moving step explorations,
  • the da lu study of the diagonal energies of cai, lie, zhou, and kao, and
  • the culmination of these exercises in the 88-move attack and defend form.

From here, the sky’s the limit, the variations of partner play are infinite. At both the foundation and at the pinnacle of these exercises are the sticking, listening, understanding, and receiving energies. In other words, to do these exercises well you need the energies, and most importantly by practicing these exercises, you develop these energies. It’s a virtuous circle!

It’s a practice of connection. For what is connection with another if not sticking with them, listening to one another, seeking understanding, and being willing to receive the love and friendship we each have to share? Is this not belonging?

Til the next move,

Enjoy your practice.

Comfort Zones

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  – Neale Donald Walsch

I have this quote sitting in my office and it reminds me to enjoy life by doing things that are sometimes not so comfortable. Like zip-lining through the tree canopy in the Berkshire Hills, and floating on inner-tubes down the river just barely in front of an ominous thunderstorm.

In taiji push-hands free-play, when we are in a playful game of taking the other’s balance, knowing the boundaries of my comfort zone is very important. And even more important is knowing when what is comfortable, is actually not safe, even though it is comfortable.  For this is where trouble happens.

We tend to conflate the two feelings in our minds – comfort and safety. And while for a lot of life’s circumstances safety does feel comfortable – it doesn’t always.  (I am thinking of the harnesses we had to wear to safely fly through the trees last week.) And there are times when I may think I am safe, when really I am only comfortable. (As when I am comfortably at home relaxing, and the nuclear power plant 17 miles away begins it’s core meltdown, contaminating three states before anyone is notified).

Because we conflate the two feelings – we think when we are comfortable we are safe – we also lose something of the thrill of living. Don’t get me wrong, despite the past week’s daredevil activities, I am an accountant at heart – careful and cautious – not one to take unnecessary chances. But I am also a martial artist at heart – someone who likes to be in my body and enjoy the power of doing and moving.  For living is thrilling, isn’t it?

It is one grand adventure to inhabit these bodies for whatever time we do.  Paying attention to safety and comfort is part of the journey – distinguishing the two is part of the art of living.  How do you tell them apart?

Til the next move,


Resist my resistance

I cannot at the same time connect and resist. So I must choose.

In the past, I have chosen resistance or unconscious connection and on a few lucky occasions, I chose conscious connection. Today, it is my practice:  I choose consciously to connect.

In order to connect resistance doesn’t work.  Or it only works partially – it creates a shallow connection at best. What I want is a deep connection.

How to have a deep connection? Soften, relax, breathe, center, root, let the energy flow – this creates the condition I need for deep connection.  To self and to partner.

And from here I can listen, understand, receive and transform. Without connection, I can do none of those things.

I am left only with my resistance.


I’m Blogging Again

This new website is in progress – and I am getting excited about blogging again.

I plan to write at least once a week and sometimes more.

And I will be sharing my thoughts about Taijiquan (Tai Chi), Qigong (Chi Kung), push hands, the Taiji weapons of Saber, Sword and Spear, Chinese healing arts,  philosophy, life as a journey and the great lessons that Tai Chi offers, self-healing, alternative medicine, Five Elements, Taoism, and sometimes I am sure I will not be able to resist talking about my ukulele or my corgi, Maggie!

I hope you will check back often and join the discussion when something interests you.