Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In the Flow with Tai Chi

Recently, I wrote about how taiji is learned through plateaus and steep rises. In other words, you need to practice regularly at a certain level of skill. Suddenly, something new becomes clear and your practice advances to a new level.

Now I want to tell you about “Flow”. Flow is the feeling you get when you get lost in the moment. This is when you don’t even notice anything going on around you. This is sometimes called being in the zone. People perform their best at everything and have the most enjoyment when they are “in the flow”.

When someone is in flow, their emotions become energized and aligned with the task at hand. Agitation and anxiety prevent you from getting in the flow.

Let’s talk about how you can increase your flow while practicing taiji. According to Dr. Paul Lam, there are 3 main factors that can induce flow. First, have a clear short-term goal for each practice. Second, it is important to receive immediate and relevant feedback. Third, match your goals to your skills. You want an achievable challenge.

When you are beginning to learn taiji, your goal may be to remember how to remember the movement. Your feedback comes from knowing that you completed the movement correctly. For a more advanced movement, your goal may be to focus on the substantial and insubstantial weight shifts during the form. In this case, your feedback, comes from you knowing that you completed the form or set and were aware of your weight at all times. In both cases, you are selecting an appropriate goal for your skill level.

Every time you practice, have these 3 factors in mind to help you develop flow. As your taiji improves, you will be in the flow more and more often. This improves your enjoyment and encourages you to practice more often. Taiji follows the rhythms of nature, so flow should also help you feel in tune with nature.

© 2010 Eric Borreson

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