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.