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By Chris Sequeira
T'ai chi (or tai chi) is a Chinese word that implies the interaction of opposing forces, such as light and dark, positive and negative, male and female, and fast and slow. It is often associated with t'ai chi chuan, a martial art that strives to apply the use of opposing forces to achieve harmony while dealing with an opponent. When used as a health practice, tai chi is an attempt to balance the forces within the body and its movements. It is a perfect blend of relaxation and exercise.
The tai chi philosophy has even broader applications. To live tai chi is to be in continuous awareness of all the elements of your life--both inner and outer--and to stay balanced and harmonious to the best of your ability.
My suggestion for a first step in living tai chi would be to try the wu chi standing meditation posture. How we stand and breathe can have a considerable impact on our sense of well-being. In t'ai chi chuan, this posture is the starting point for a basic routine called the Form. It can be applied anytime and anywhere--while waiting in line or watching a sunset. If standing is not possible, you can sit comfortably straight with your palms resting above your knees.
The Wu Chi Standing Meditation Posture
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and pointing forward. Center your weight behind the balls of your feet and in front of your heels. With your knees slightly bent, allow your hips to settle as you let go of any tension you may be holding in the small of your back. This will aid in letting your pelvis tuck gently forward as if you are sitting on a stool.
Do not force the posture but maintain a sense of ease. Let your shoulders hang loosely as you gently raise the top of your head, being careful to keep your chin pulled gently inward. Touch the tip of your tongue to your upper palate. Maintain a sense of softness within this shape, avoiding rigidity. Your eyes may be closed or gently opened and slightly angled downward.
Bringing your awareness to your breath, allow your belly to expand naturally as you inhale through your nose. Release any tension in your chest and solar plexus. Witness your body as it seems to breathe itself.
As you exhale, sense a wave of release from the top of your head down towards the earth. Feel the mass of your body sinking downward with each breath like sand in an hourglass, giving you the impression that your legs and feet are the heaviest part of your body. Let your mind and emotions quiet down as your weight surrenders to gravity. Allow your breath to gradually become slower and longer. Allow any disturbing qualities, whether emotional, mental, or physical, to drift downward like a muddy pool gradually becoming clear.
As your body is becoming more relaxed, sense new energy gathering with each inhalation. In calm attention, you feel the vitality buzzing in every cell of your body.
Sense the pure awareness and presence in which all your life experiences are known. Thinking is not a problem as you settle into that which is conscious of thought and therefore unbound by it.
In this core of fundamental human consciousness, you are poised in what is called the Heart of Heaven and Earth. When you are in wu chi awareness, which is only in the now, you are at a fresh beginning of your unfolding life story, the true point of power. Herein lie the roots of intelligence, creativity, sensitivity, deep appreciation, and trust in life as it is. Here is the potential for effective action and for a movement toward holistic wellness.
Chris Sequeira welcomes your questions at 415-773-8185 or email@example.com. The extended version of this essay is on his blogspot, livingtaichiprinciples.blogspot.com. He is currently holding tai chi classes on Mondays and Tuesdays at 6 p.m., at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez Street; and on Wednesdays and Fridays, 10:15 a.m., at Walter Haas Playground in Diamond Heights.