Mind Moves - Joe Harte
The Taiji classics say the mind leads and the energy and body follow. But as my teacher Patrick Kelly asks “how many actually consciously train that way?”
For the most part people move the body in some unconscious instinctive way and then bring their awareness into an often static held posture.
How to break that cycle of move and listen, move and then become aware, is at the core of our training and transforms external movements, however slow, smooth, and beautiful into true Taiji.
To begin the training to move the mind takes guidance and constant reminders so as not to forget to make the effort. The attempt should be to move the mind and use intention to lead every movement within the form, and then slowly bring that into the much more difficult scenario of partner work and the fixed pattern pushing hands. Master Huang (Huang Sheng-Shyan) said there are no secrets in Taiji just things too small to be seen. Patrick Kelly, Master Huang Xingxian’s long time inner school student, says that if there is a secret it’s knowing where to put the mind and at what time.
This moving of the mind training begins with awareness which in itself has an intention buried within it. That is to say by its very nature moving the awareness through the body has an implied intention. Patrick Kelly teaches a training method that begins the first timing of the mind with the movement of the body itself. We contract muscles to lift the body, and then release muscles to let it fall. In the rising wave of contraction/ lifting the mind is trained to move with the rising movement. Then within the releasing of muscles and body falling the mind moves down.
The timing of the mind relative to the activation/ de-activation of the body is usually introduced to new starters by asking them to press their feet into the ground to begin the lifting process then let the minds awareness follow that movement up. This is really just to introduce the idea and is in fact the opposite of what the classics state because in this instance the body is active and the mind passive i.e. the body has been activated (by some means) and then the mind follows.
Some period of practise is necessary to allow people to get used to the idea of consciously moving the mind. Once that stage is reasonable and comfortable it becomes possible to begin to draw the mind up and down more or less simultaneously with the body movement whist at the same time becoming aware of the first two muscle state changes – muscle contract and muscle release.
After some time and effort this then leads naturally and gradually towards moving the mind a little ahead of the body movement to include the joint sensors. At this stage the practise is now tending towards the ideal of what is asked in the classics – that the mind leads. And now we can say the mind is active and the body passive.
Once that process has begun, beyond those initial timings exist a whole range of timings taking the mind slowly further and further ahead as the awareness deepens and is able to listen to more and more subtle and levels. As Patrick says it is only really possible to generate an intention from the level at which you are able to listen…….. and so slowly the deep mind awakens.
Patrick and his students teach in Zurich, and recently he opened a state of the art facility in Shanghai which visitors are welcome to http://www.9clouds.ch
For classes and Seminars in the UK Joe Harte teaches regular classes in Northeast UK with local seminars and also in London and elsewhere by request
Published in TCUGB Magazine June 2014