Friday, October 8, 2010

The Good Stuff

Is Between The Lines...

Every time my teacher Andy Dale did a T'ai-Chi form, he did it differently. Not that he changed the form each time, but that his own balance seeking process expressed itself differently each time. One I noticed this, I'd watch him carefully every chance I got. Watch your teachers people. You can learn more from them than just forms and techniques, and what they teach directly. The really good stuff is what's expressed within the forms.

You have to read between the lines, so to speak, and you're "reading" with your whole body: joints, nervous system, muscles, all of it. I would be trying to nail it down with my typically over-active left brain and Andy would say, Just taste it, get how it feels, let it go in like a virus, you can figure it out later.

I think that's how these forms started originally. Someone had an inspired moment and later decided to organize it so other less inspired people could get a taste of the magic. But, as Andy always says, The form is not the T'ai-Chi. It's a container. A shape, or an environment, in which you learn about T'ai-Chi. Rigid adherence to form is a huge stumbling block, not only within the art but in the lives of the people practicing it.

J.Krishnamurti used to say, Break the vase. In other words accept the nourishment, or the flower, but break the container it came in, because that's not IT. Or the Zen proverb: The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

But even without all the poetry, just watching your teacher move, whether that teacher is a human being, a fish, a tree moving in the wind, or a mountain stream...just watching with an open mind and body, can really help your art.

Of course, forms are important, especially for beginners and especially for learning correct body alignment to prevent injuries. So don't ignore forms, just don't get too attached to them. As Leonard Cohen says in his song "Anthem": "There is a crack, a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." And as Master Dave Harris used to say: "A man with a plan is a man on his can."

The picture above is Dave Harris, Andy Dale and Harvey Kurland, all senior students of Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-Tchen. And the weakest thing in the picture is probably the trees in the background! ;~)

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