The ancient Chinese art of Taiji is a path to help us develop inner power and harmony through concentration, co-ordination and relaxation of mind, energy and body.
Why is this important (not just) when working as a musician or performer?
When beginning training, we encounter the troubling fact, that when presented with a stressful situation (in this case a combat situation) our body/emotions/mind almost certainly react in a way opposite to that which would be beneficial to us. What we think we would do, is not what we really do. These reactions can be observed through regular practice and meditation and can be replaced step by step with better habits. Of course making the body obedient is a long term investment-process, and it requires quite a firm commitment and great courage to take a closer look in the mirror. Grandmaster Zheng Manqing would call this “investing in loss“.
When studying music or learning an instrument we run through quite a similar process. If we compare practicing the piano to practicing Taiji for example, there is hardly any difference apart from the fact that the whole body becomes the hand. We need the same effortless and relaxed execution, dynamic flowing movements, correct timing and authenticity(mind-body coordination), psychological stability and clear intention. The steps in Taiji are similar as sinking the fingers deeply into the keys, keeping the hand relaxed and yet retaining the structure in hand and fingers. In Taiji all of this is achieved through loosening exercises, form and partner work. The loosening exercises can be compared to scales and warm-up exercises and are intended for training internal movements. The form, with its various sections, could be compared to playing through a piece of music, and is intended for training internal forces. The partner work or “push hands“ would be similar to a chamber music setting and is intended for training what we call energizing-activation-connection. All of this can only be done correctly from a particular state of mind. Our state of mind in general will determine the outcome of any undertaking. Thus entering „the zone“ (a state of mind similar to when going to sleep, yet fully aware and awake) is crucial for progressive practice, accurate, successful performance and achieving positive developmental results.
The so called “deep mind“ which usually only occurs in life-threatening situations, will allow you to experience events of only split seconds in accurate detail. Once flashes of the deep mind present themselves, the idea of spherical perception becomes clear. Through valid listening, challenging momentums(often with a multitude of layers to be concidered) can be resolved intelligently. Any encountered situation will then convey to you what you should do.
Once we have managed to develop an understanding of the Daoists principles in accordance with nature, the beauty of correct and elegant movement is revealed and many additional benefits on various other levels will be gained. Of course everything comes with a price: Like adding wood to keep a campfire going, daily practice must be gradually integrated to reach the desired results. And other personal investments and sacrifices, which each of us must determine for him- or herself, will be inevitable. Turning towards the invisible, internal worlds is a vital step towards a healthy balance between an energized physical existence and realizing our soul’s purpose.
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