Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tai Chi for a Calm Mind


One of the most difficult things you can do in your lifetime is to learn to master your mind. As we begin to learn, we don't even notice the chatter. Our senses are not fine enough yet to notice what is happening. Many learners get discouraged when trying to develop mental quietness. The constant mental chatter, or monkey mind, is very hard to control.

In tai chi, jing is a term for the mental phase where your mind quiets down and ignores the mental chatter that we are normally bombarded with. Jing means to be focused and aware of yourself and your surroundings. Jing activates our parasympathetic nervous system. This calms our body and reverses the effect of stress. This is why people often find that tai chi improves their ability to handle stress.

Tai chi practice can develop your ability to move from your learning mind to your performance mind. The learning mind (conscious mind) is engaged when learning your forms. We practice each form and put them together into a set, linking the movements together. With practice, the forms become second nature.

The learning mind begins to give way to the performance mind (subconscious mind). As the performance mind takes over, the mind begins to lead the body and mental quietness develops. Work with body, mind, and breath to develop jing.

Body - Move slowly with even speed. Push gently through the air as if it is thick like honey. Keep your body aligned and your joints loose (song). Gently tuck in your chin and your pelvis to straighten your spine.

Mind - Keep your focus on your body. Be aware of substantial and insubstantial. When you use your mind actively to focus on and enhance your body movements, you build a strong mind/body connection. Your energy follows your intention.

Breath - Focus on slow and gentle breathing. Concentrate on your dan tien. When you exhale, gently contract the muscles in the lower abdomen and pelvis while keeping the muscles still above your belly button. Imagine that you are bringing your pelvic floor just a little closer to your belly button. When you inhale, allow the muscles to relax while maintaining a little bit of the muscle contraction.

It can take time to develop jing, but it improves with practice. Each time you practice, it takes less time to return to a quiet mind. Gradually, you will be able to move to a higher level with better focus. If you have ever worked out in a gym in order to get stronger, you know that it doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and hard work.

I hate to disappoint anyone, but it takes even more work to accomplish the harder, but much more rewarding, task of mastering your mind. It takes self discipline and a commitment to a long-term practice. Practice your forms. Thousands of times. There are no shortcuts.

© 2012 Eric Borreson