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The Spiritual Aspect of Tai Chi (Taiji)

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Tai Chi is more than a slow moving exercise that can be used for health and self defense - it is also a spiritual exercise, bringing the mind, body and spirit together.

The spiritual aspect of Tai Chi (Taiji)

Tao (pronounced Dao)

Tao, in Chinese philosophy, asserts that everything arises from Nothing, from the Void that is Tao. This idea grew from observations by the Chinese that everything is in continuous cyclical movement. For example, day follows night, Summer follows Winter in a never-ending cycle. The Chinese therefore viewed Tao as a circle providing existence and movement to everything in the Universe.

An analogy of Tao is the transparent plastic sheet placed on an over-head light projector - it is useful because it cannot be seen when placed on the projector. However, without the see-through sheet no image or text would be visible. Similarly a television screen is useful, although the screen itself is not perceived, only the images on the screen - without the screen nothing would be seen.

Tao is nothing and everything - the back-drop or background of existence of which we are not usually aware.

In the process of moving, Tao becomes Yin Yang Chi - the union of essential, vital energy that create everything - often represented thus :

Yin chi Yang chi

Yin Chi is 'feminine' and soft. non-aggressive, yielding, and receptive. Yang Chi is 'masculine' and hard, strong, aggressive, and outgoing. Yin Yang Chi flow together to form all that exists - everything is composed of Yin Yang Chi in different combination. A certain combination forms a tree, another an animal and yet another produces a human being, and so on.

Separation of Yin Yang Chi causes the object to disappear back into the Void from where it came. That is, the original emptiness, nothingness of Tao.

Tai Chi (sometimes written as Tai Chi Ch'uan, Taiji or Taijiquan)

At the heart of Tai Chi is the Form. This is the slow, graceful, flowing movements that most people associate with Tai Chi. The Form is designed to develop peace, calm, and gentleness within us, and helps to reconnect us with our total being.

The movements of a Tai Chi Form are an imitation of the movements of Tao. They, too, cannot be grasped by the mind, the movements of a Tai Chi Form have to be experienced to be understood.

By the continuous movement of Yin Yang Chi, the Tai Chi student aims to become one with Tao (Tai Chi is designed to achieve Yin Yang Chi balance). It is a physical representation of Tao with every movement being an element of Yin Yang Chi in varying and changing combinations. Focus on the changing physical movement help us to focus on the movement of Tao.

When doing a Tai Chi Form, novices try to do too much - their shoulders are raised, they're too tense, and therefore more energy is used than is needed. After months of practice the novice learns to relax, do less, and begins to get more benefit from less effort. Tai Chi teaches us not to interfere unnecessarily, thereby allowing us to move spontaneously with Tao. The ultimate aim is to achieve oneness of body, mind and spirit - one's whole being living in harmony, not just when doing the Form but all the time.Tai Chi is not just a physical exercise, it is a way of living - living in a spiritual way.

The well thought out movements of Tai Chi helps to develop our full potential. The mind and emotions become calmer and tensions are dissolved, and it is claimed the body's healing ability is magnified,

Tai Chi does not claim to have answers to the mysteries and wonders of the Universe - it's concern is with the here and now. When we can move with the principles of Tao, which is the purpose of Tai Chi, we become one with it and live in peace, tranquility and harmony.

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David Lewis

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