Mindfulness in motion

T’ai Chi is often called meditation in motion. For most T'ai Chi students the concept of moving mediation creeps up on them… they get caught up in the challenge of moving their body and get into the meditation zone. It is usually only a while later – often when they branch out and try a meditation course -  that they realise that they have learnt most of the required skills and find the transition to seated meditation relatively easy…

I had always presumed that this progression occurred naturally as students focused on the moves in a class – until a recent class where I stated off with a mindful meditation practice. I had everyone sit down, close their eyes and focus inward. First they were told to tune into their bodies and notice any sensations.

Much like movement in T’ai Chi, body sensations bring you into the present moment – that elusive now. The students paid attention to how the body was feeling. Tight shoulders, clenched jaw, sore back – whatever came up on their personal register. Then they were asked to focus on their breathing and to breath slowly and evenly with the in an out breath the same length. This balanced in and out breath has a balancing effect on the body.

As a last step they were asked to focus on their heart centre and imagine breathing in joy, or anything positive, for a few minutes. Anything from imagining time spent in nature, to holding a loved one. After that they brought their focus gently back to the room and the present moment.

Then they were asked to bring that mindful awareness of the body into their T’ai Chi movements. To be aware of the body and how it felt doing the movements. At least half the class told me how nice that was – and how different it felt… which made me realise that the meditative process that I had assumed was automatic (since it was for me) wasn’t automatic for everyone and needed to be taught or encouraged…

So now, instead of calling T'ai Chi meditation in motion, which is too readily linked to as sitting trying to think of nothing and extrapolated to moving trying to think of nothing... I call T’ai Chi mindfulness in motion. With the mind focused on the body and the movements – and then the focused meditation technique will slowly be imbibed by the body until it becomes a useful life habit.

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20 March 2016, 20:09
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