"Great understanding is broad and unhurried; little understanding is cramped and busy." - Chuang Tzu
For most adults, the Internal Discipline in the learning of Classical Tai Chi does not come naturally. However, the natural question for beginners is "what is there to expect/look forward to/reward during the actual practice of internal discipline...not some future time?"
This blog evolved out of a discussion over the previous Blog on "Sitback". A student apparently realized that there would be no quick fix to learning Classical Tai Chi but also had a kind of insight: "To move a mountain one begins by carrying away small stones". From a certain perspective, this appears to be true. From another perspective, most cannot carry one "stone" at a time without their concentration breaking and subsequently ruminating how many other 'stones" are left to carry. That seems to be the domain of the beginner and in some cases the "perpetual" beginner in Classical Tai Chi.
This discussion really does seem to fall into the hands of Chuang Tzu and I'm sure he would love getting his hands on it indeed. It is all tied up with perspective, perception, insight, conscious attention, the subconscious, etc. So, in regard to "rewards", I can only relate from my own experiences as a beginner, or at least what I remember and what I seem to see in the beginners that I teach, however.
- Experience/reward early on in Classical Tai Chi is a plurality rather than singular events
- It requires concentration/patience yet one is rewarded with deeper concentration/patience
- One has no insight in the beginning yet one's insight begins to appear, we see things more clearly
- For example, I had no concentration when beginning, yet I clearly began to see how much my mind wandered
- I clearly began to see that I wanted to practice more in order to stop my mind from wandering
- I experienced moments of clarity and "stillness" (particularly in basic walking practice) with no breaks in concentration
- Yet, a beginner's hold on these things is tenuous "little understanding...cramped and busy"
- Yet, it is the beginner's job not to do things half heartedly
- Half a mind will find it very difficult to attain conscious control over a long dormant nervous system in the core of the body
- Yet, there are rewards even for beginners but their hold is very tenuous, very easy to throw up one's hands
- Basic walking (really the square form) with its "pauses" gives the beginner direct experience of physical "stillness"
One's "understanding", hopefully evolves into being "broad and unhurried", one becomes a proficient practitioner and no longer has to rely on the conscious mind to play the form. The "looking forward to/what to expect" voice becomes quieter and quieter as well. I quote my teacher, Hwa Laoshi from his website at Classical Tai Chi:
"It is the movement with the Internal Discipline that plays an important role in influencing the mental state of the practitioner. In order to perform the internal movements, the beginner must focus intensely inward trying to communicate with the long neglected nervous system in the torso. When the student becomes a proficient practitioner, playing the form becomes subconscious without the need to think. The mind is clear, except for the enjoyable sensation of internal energy flowing and stretching at the yin and yang junction. It is important to learn the Tai Chi form rigorously, so this sensation can circulate continuously in the body without break."