Dr Paul Lam
To do Tai Chi well, we need to achieve both tranquillity and alertness at the same time. This is only one example of the seemingly contradictory set of mental states that help bring about the integration of body and mind necessary in the practise of Tai Chi. Visualisation can be a useful tool in helping you achieve these desirable mental states. I find that using key words can be effective in helping with visualisation.
To do Tai Chi well, we need to achieve both tranquillity and alertness at the same time. This is only one example of the seemingly contradictory set of mental states that help bring about the integration of body and mind necessary in the practise of Tai Chi.
Visualisation can be a useful tool in helping you achieve these desirable mental states. I find that using key words can be effective in helping with visualisation.
To begin with, whenever I reach a desired mental state I try to associate that feeling with a key word. Then, if during practise my mind wanders, I think of this key word and it quickly brings me back to the right mental state. The keyword works almost like a shortcut.
I want to share two key words with you.
Think about the word “Jing,” the Chinese word for “quietness.” Use this word to describe your mental quietness. If you’re like most of us, your mind is racing all the time. Put your mind in quiet mode. Work on the quietness from within. Imagine you’re in a tranquil, quiet rain forest. Soon you’ll become quiet from within, and then you will be able to focus on what your body is doing. This is what Tai Chi practitioners sometimes call “listening to your body”.
Then as you focus on your movements, you’ll be able to focus on your posture and your state of mind. If you find your thoughts are wandering all over the place, think of the key word “Jing” and bring yourself back to that quiet mental state.
Another key word is “Chen” (pronounced “chuen”). Chen means “sinking” and is a concept that concerns the external body integrating with the internal body. Firstly, think of the Dantian, the centre of Qi (life energy) and the centre of the gravity of the body, which is a three fingers-width below the umbilicus or belly button. Allow the Qi in the upper part of the body to sink down to this area. If you are not familiar with the process of directing your Qi, simply think of the Dantian and gradually it will become slightly heavy and warm. You are now feeling your Qi. If you want to know more about directing your Qi, you can read my article “Qi and Quan” which is on my website.
Practice this sinking feeling by breathing in gently and then breathing out slowly and gently. As you breath out, allow the abdominal muscles in your Dantian area to gently relax and your lower abdomen to gently push out. Allow your hip joints to loosen and open up outwards. Make sure you keep your upper body upright and this will let the Qi flow better from your upper body to your lower body. Feel your joints gently loosening and stretching out. Then you will sense a heavy feeling in the Dantian area as you breathing out. This is a state you can sometimes reach when you are performing Tai Chi well. You should remember the key word “Chen” whenever you experience this sinking feeling in your Dantian.
Whenever you are practising, if you find your mind wandering, remind yourself of these two key words and visualise your body stretching out, your mind becoming quiet and your Qi sinking towards the Dantian. If you do this it will help you to reach those required mental states quicker-you’ll be able to take the short cut.