Monday, May 11, 2009

Tai-Chi: A Moving Meditation

Every day, after meditation and morning prayer in the prayer room, I go out at the back of the hermitage and practice Taichi. It is a very slow, fluid dance-like movement. The short Yang style usually lasts for 8 minutes. The long Yang style lasts 20 minutes. I can feel the flow of chi - a subtle electro-magnetic energy - in my body as I do it.
Taichi is considered as an internal style of martial arts, in contradistinction to the external style of martial arts (like Karate, taekwondo, etc.). Taichi is believed to have been developed by monks in the shaolin monasteries in China not just for self-defense but as a form of meditation. It is still being taught by Chinese monks in Taoists temples today.
This is what I like about taichi - it is actually a contemplative activity - a moving meditation. I actually first learned the external style of martial arts. As a seminarian and a young priest I studied martial arts for self-defense. I received a brown belt in Karate (Shorin Ryu) in 1985. I learned Taichi in Berkeley in 1989 and since then this is what I have been practicing for the last 20 years. I prefer Taichi to Karate because of its gentle and meditative dimension.
Taichi requires focusing one's awareness on every movement, on the flow of chi in one's body. The principle of Yin and Yang is manifested in the flow of each movement - the rhythm of hard and soft, of fullness and emptiness, of light and dark. This requires awareness of the present moment.
Like running, taichi is a holistic activity which involves the body and the mind. It generates energy. It can be used for self-defense when necessary and it can be very devastating. Yet it develops humility and compassion.
It will take a lifetime to fully understand and master Taichi.

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