Sunday, May 1, 2011

Perseverance in Tai Chi

The term yi li is sometimes used when describing the requirements of tai chi practice. Yi Li can be translated as perseverance, constancy of purpose, or determination. It implies steady, unceasing effort, patience, and a long-term point of view. The word heng is also sometimes used. Heng implies a sense of permanence.

Perseverance is an important element of learning tai chi. When you start learning tai chi, you will probably find it slow and even awkward. This is because tai chi is very different from most western exercise and sports. Tai chi puts emphasis on soft flowing movement while delivering powerful internal energy. That is why we move slowly. In nature, slow and fast and soft and hard complement each other. The slow, yet controlled, movement of tai chi provides a complement to the stressful fast pace of today’s life.

Tai chi can appear easy but it really does take time to get used to. You should practice regularly. Making the time and effort to practice regularly tests your character and develops strength of mind. This is closely related to the ideas of morality expressed in martial arts training. Morality of the mind includes will, endurance, perseverance, patience, and courage. Persevere and soon you get used to the rhythm and feel of tai chi. Begin to enjoy the wonderful feeling of well-being and serenity from within.

In traditional Chinese thinking, we have 2 minds. The emotional mind (xin), also called the monkey mind, is the part of the mind that jumps around from one idea to another and lacks focus. The wisdom mind (yi), also called the horse mind, is the calming, strong, and stable part of the mind. Without training, xin dominates yi. When someone fails at something that requires long-term effort, it is usually because the emotional mind has overcome the wisdom mind.

With training and practice, the yi can learn to control the xin. This means that you have to fine-tune your wisdom mind in order to control your emotions and become calmer and more focused. Different meditation styles use different methods to train your mind.

This article is primarily about learning tai chi. However, the lessons apply to all aspects of life. According to a translation of the I Ching, “Perseverance demonstrates how, faced with the complexity of things, one yet does not give way to cynicism.” Sometimes we hit rough patches in life and become distracted from practice. However, achievement comes from steady effort at improving. Improvement comes from perseverance and continued practice. Success comes to those who endure and have faith in themselves because of their long hard work.

© 2011 Eric Borreson

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