Cultivating a daily taijiquan practice facilitates positive changes to a degree that depends on your rigor, consistency and attitude.  Without both dedication and a patient, open, humble and accepting mindset, your practice will not be as fulfilling or satisfying as it can be.

Important Pitfalls to Avoid in Taijiquan PracticeHere are some common errors that you will do well to avoid:

  • Not practicing taiji on your own
  • Not practicing patiently
  • Not practicing taiji in moderation
  • Jealousy
  • Not receiving openly
  • Not enjoying bitterness
  • Not enjoying solitude

Mistake: Not Practicing Taiji on Your Own

You learn much more when you practice your taichi on your own between classes, even if it is a small amount each day.  It’s great to create a comfortable routine of 90-120 minutes of rigorous practice each morning before the sun comes up, but any solitary practice you do– no matter how quick or lighthearted– will support you in learning the art and enjoying the benefits. Here are some options for making that happen more easily:

  • Choose a single exercise that you like, and do some everyday.  When you’re a beginner, it matters less which of the exercises you do on your own than the fact that you do something.  Start with what you like, whether that means 5 minutes of standing, a little stretching or your favorite section of the form you are working on.  In the long-term, you benefit from allowing your daily taiji practice to be delightful.
  • Create convenient habits.  It’s a great habit to put your hands on your kidneys and do your circles first thing when you get out of bed… or to steal away and do some standing for a couple minutes before each meal.   When I lived in an unheated apartment in a mountain village in Japan, the cold woke me up every morning at 4:00 AM. and jumping into practice was the only way I knew how to warm myself up.
  • Practice taiji to feel good.  When you practice in the morning, you feel at ease and confident throughout the day.  When you practice in the evening, you sleep more restfully at night.  Your whole life becomes more pleasurable.  Allow yourself to enjoy this.

Mistake: Not Practicing Taiji Patiently

During my first few months of practice, my teacher reminded me quite often about how little I knew, and this got me excited about how much there was to learn and this helped me stick with the practice.  This was a challenging phase as I felt like I was putting more energy in than I was drawing from it.  Before I knew it, I started to experience some very interesting sensations while practicing, and the coming winter I was surprised at how much healthier I felt than the winter before.

Trust that you are creating changes in yourself at a deep– sometimes imperceptible– level.  You will consciously perceive the results of some of these changes, while others will manifest in things you might end up taking for granted, like a longer and more fortunate life.

Mistake: Not Practicing in Moderation

Practicing twice as much as the next person will never make you perfect, and you will never be the toughest bad-ass on the planet.  Super intense bursts of training for extreme duration will not make you a master overnight, and can potentially lead to burning out.  You are far more likely to achieve something great through practicing a moderate amount everyday for several years.

Mistake: Jealousy

Jealousy is extremely common among taichi practitioners and I have no idea why.  Taichi should help you feel good in your own skin and teach you to enjoy learning more by knowing less than the people around you.  For some odd reason, taichi people tend to want to show other practitioners that they know more, and they get resentful of people who learn faster or seem to have more talent.

Many people show up at parks in Beijing eager to show others the things they can do better, and sometimes they quickly discount the value of practices that other excel at.

Avoid that.  If you want to show something off, show off how well you receive feedback.  Show off how you learn more by knowing less.

Mistake: Not Receiving Openly

Receiving openly can mean a number of positive things, all of which you should do.

First, when you are training with a tachi teacher, forget what you know.  If you open your mouth, open it and ask a question that you don’t know the answer to.

Practice listening in every way possible.  Listen to the energy and balance that another practitioner offers when practicing push-hands.

When another is speaking, whether it is your teacher or another practitioner, let your mind be empty, receptive and open.  Don’t analyze or try to understand the instructions you are receiving because “trying” creates noise that interferes with receiving.  Simply receive quietly, trusting that you will make good use of the instructions.

One of my taichi teachers taught me very little when I was still in the habit of questioning and comparing everything he told me.  Fortunately I got out of this habit.  I began instead to “shut up,” facing him squarely and openly, with my arms at my sides, listening with all of my senses.  I stayed still and quiet while he was speaking, and it wasn’t until a few silent moments after he finished speaking that I would either ask an honest question or nod before silently proceeding to practice what he was instructing. From the time I made this shift, he began to teach me much more.

The more space you make, the more you will be offered to fill that space.

Mistake: Not Enjoying Bitterness

The Marines say, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”  This isn’t always true, but when you are training decisively and pushing through obstacles, there will sometimes be some pain.

Some kinds of discomfort mean that you must adjust how you practice your taichi and related exercises.  Other kinds of discomfort mean you are pushing through an obstacle or clearing out stuff that has been clogging your system.  Take responsibility to know which is which.

When the cold, the early hour, the humbling ego-bruises or transitionary aches provide your experience with bitterness, be grateful. You are getting stronger. Weakness is leaving the body.

Mistake: Not Enjoying Solitude

Solitude is another type of bitterness that is involved with the deeper experiences of taichi training.  Many make the mistake of letting the social aspect of the group taichi class rob you of this blessing.  Avoid that mistake.  Let your taichi and meditation be a communing of your body, mind and spirit with the ground, the sky and the atmosphere.

You came into this world predisposed to cry whenever you weren’t held.  When you leave this world, you– and everything your psychology has found comforting– will part ways.  Sometime between now and then, learn to love the solitude, or whatever is left when you let it all go.  Community is very important and healthful to enjoy in abundance, so enjoy it while realizing that it’s not you and it can’t save you.

Practice deeply and quietly, enjoying the various sensations that you will pass through as you do.

For further discussion or to get details about taichi class times and locations, click here or call 512-791-3296.

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