Tai chi can be used as a meditation to calm down your nervous system and smooth out all the deeper energies of your emotions, your mind, your psyche, your karma and your essence.
The energy in your body creates the energy upon which the waves of your mind ride. If the chi in your body is disturbed, when it reaches your brain your thoughts get disturbed. As the chi in your body becomes balanced, calm and smooth, all of a sudden your mind calms down.
There are essentially two ways you can learn tai chi for meditation.
Tai Chi to Relax the Nerves
In terms of ordinary stress management, tai chi can calm your nerves. Simply put, the meditative movements of tai chi regulate the flow of energy in your body.
In terms of Chinese medicine and philosophy, your internal organs are responsible from a pure, physical level for generating your emotions.
For example, your liver can either make you very angry, or can induce compassion, or it can provide the energy to deal with fear and be aware in a given situation.
As the chi in your body normalizes and steadies, a state is produced where your mind is calm and relatively centered, which most people consider meditation. Ordinary tai chi does this.
Tai Chi for Enlightenment
Now we go to the next stage where we move into meditation as it is classically considered in Asia. This is where we discuss enlightenment or achieving the awareness level of a Buddha or a Lao Tzu or having the ability to have the degree of the love and compassion of a Jesus Christ.
This capacity does not come from just getting the energy in your body to become calm, it obviously requires you to go much deeper.
The overwhelming majority of all tai chi that is out there, although originating from martial arts, is mostly done purely for physical health and balancing the chi of the body. Very few teachers actually ever get into the meditation aspects, either because they don’t know them or because most of the time is spent helping students get the basics of the form they are learning, which is all good.
That being said, you cannot expect to go to the deeper aspects of meditation by practicing just the physical aspects of tai chi.
The Traditional Qigong Path
Within Taoism itself, all the long qigong forms were practiced as a pre-requisite to sitting Taoist meditation. These qigong forms in their first stage develop ordinary chi in your body in the same way tai chi does. However, in the second stage these qigong forms move toward what in China is called shengong or spiritual qigong. This is virtually unknown in the West.
After stabilizing the physical movements, you can then use the moving practices of tai chi or qigong to work out the depths of your emotions, your thought processes, your psychic world and your karma. Ultimately the goal is for a person to arrive at their essence.
At this level, sitting meditation, moving meditation, standing meditation, lying down meditation or interactive meditations such as sex or talking are all the same in that they engage similar processes to clear to the absolute core depth of your being.
Connecting with Your Essence and the Tao
In Taoism the higher levels of meditation only begin when you actually arrive at understanding your essence. Using tai chi, you can clear out your mind and make your body smooth to arrive at this point.
The next stage of the game is recognizing the Tao. Here, you make the jump from anything that has to do with you personally, to actually understanding what the Universal flows are so that you, individually, become calm and smooth within the flows of the Universe.
Ordinary tai chi allows you to stay centered within your body regardless of the nervousness or stress that runs through your nerves and mental agitation. This gets you into the game where eventually through much practice and meditation, you are able to comprehend and are able to stay centered inside, the flows of the Universe.
Qigong and the 16 Neigong
Since tai chi is a Taoist art, and I am speaking from the perspective of Taoism, I must explain that the longer forms of qigong had very specific methods to move from purely doing the motions to the higher levels of practice.
In order for a person to engage at the level of shengong (spiritual work), an important point is that you must do whatever your tai chi form is, without thinking about it because if you’re still thinking about ‘how to do the movements’, you’re not focusing on what is happening internally.
When you can get to this point it is then that you can focus specifically on the 16 neigong, or internal components that generate the advanced capabilities of tai chi. In this sense tai chi does the exact same thing as qigong because it is effectively a form of qigong. Many people find qigong an easier path because often each qigong set focuses on a couple of the internal neigong components at a time and the movements are often more simple. Whereas with tai chi all 16 neigong components are folded into the movements.
Next, when you reach the point where your body is okay, you are calm, you have the stress management abilities, your chi is flowing and you are essentially healthy, then you move into shengong using the exact same motions, using essentially the majority of the same channels and a few extra ones sooner or later. You go to the next stage beyond ordinary tai chi when your form is completely smooth and you can do the movements without thinking about them; when you have undergone the physical training to the point where your motor memory system knows the movements.
You have created within your body a glass, an empty glass, and now you can begin filling that glass with the liquid you wish to put in it. So the next step is to learn all the aspects of the 16 neigong and put them consciously into the form.
At this point, which not many reach, you move to the next level where Taoist meditation really begins.
This summer is the Wu Style Tai Chi Instructor training where we will go over a lot of the meditation aspects of tai chi- to find out more click here: Wu Style Tai Chi Instructor Training
The Taoist Meditation Circle is in month 2 of 16 – not too late to sign-up: Taoist Meditation Circle