A Journal
 
This section of the Site may informally provide a little information about West Devon Tai Chi how came into being ~ what it is doing ~ and where it may be heading 

Mindfulness

posted 18 Sep 2020, 09:34 by WestDevon Tai Chi   [ updated 23 Sep 2020, 02:23 by Mandy Moor ]

The practice of mindfulness is met with scepticism by many; mindfulness is a word associated with alternative therapies and medicines and is not, perhaps, taken seriously by the mainstream. However, when you change your reference point and realise that many of the martial arts are based on this practice as a form of focus and meditation, it does change the flavour of the word somewhat.

Most mindfulness or meditation training usually begins with attempting to calm and quieten the mind through focus of attention. Focusing the mind is not the end of the process, but it is as seen as an essential beginning. Practice helps to quieten the mind by acknowledging when a thought has taken place and then refocusing on the breath, your Taiji form, or whatever it is you are being attentive to. The main thing is not to entertain thoughts and not to get involved in them. Incredibly challenging and not something that is achieved in weeks, months or years-it is all part of the ongoing journey. I read recently that a Buddhist allegory imagines the thoughts as mice scurrying around the brain. The part of consciousness that is aware of thoughts is imagined as a cat. When the cat appears (watching thoughts) the mice run away. However, the cat is lazy and not a good mouser and in no time at all it has forgotten its purpose and the mice return. It takes the cat a while to realise that the mice have returned but eventually it notices, and the mice run off. After a good deal of practice the cat becomes focused and is very quick to respond to the mice (the thoughts) as soon as they appear. 

 The place I seek to find in my Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation) is the pure and uncontaminated mind. This mind is thought of in Buddhism as the enlightened mind or ‘luminous mind’. My belief is that we are all born with an enlightened mind (uncontaminated) but over time we all develop an acquired conditioned mind (contaminated) that is hard to break free from. There is a Zen Buddhism saying, “The enlightened mind is no more than the ordinary mind”. It is likened to the sun behind the clouds, it is always there. If only we could disperse the clouds, the sun would shine through. If we can disperse our thoughts by developing mindfulness we can access that enlightened mind at any time and this will begin to filter through into all aspects of our life. Another Zen saying, “Before enlightenment there is chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment there is chopping wood and carrying water.” This implies that life goes on as usual, you are the same person, but you see things differently. Escaping from one’s mental conditioning does not come easily and is not achieved by many in this lifetime.
 
 Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds   
(Bob Marley)

In our Taiji practice we are endeavouring to deepen our understanding of integrating the mind and body. Taiji is meditation in movement and developing stillness of the mind is a vital component. The Taoists advocate meditating in the marketplace or the hub of the city. This always reminds me of a gentleman who always stood meditating in the middle of Glastonbury High Street-he taught me a lot without speaking any words! Taiji, is a profound training which is meditative, medicinal and martial and with continual practice gradually develops the ability to be more attentive to both our internal and external reality.

Now to the reality of what is happening in the external world and with our Taiji gatherings with more regulations being enforced. The outdoor sessions are continuing-we are indeed very social, but we can clearly be seen to be exercising to any watching eyes!  My apologies to people who may think these sessions will be moving back into a hall environment but due to Covid 19 conditions having to be agreed it will not be happening anytime soon. I talk to many people who say they are fed up with this now and want to get back to a normal life without masks etc. Nothing is going to change while everyone is locked in fear and continue to acquiesce.
 
“What has gone wrong with the people of this country because in the end it is the people who run the country and not the government. If people are genuinely frightened to go out because they are worried they are breaking the law, then surely there is something wrong with that. We need to stop doing what we are told to do every single day. The more you do that, the more you will be told what to do-that’s the way it works.”
(Mike Graham -Talk Radio)

What we are experiencing now is psychological warfare, you must work with your warrior spirit; the solution to all of this lies with yourself. We are all in this together, we all need each other and thank you to all the people who continue to support the sessions. It was mentioned that the dynamics of these sessions have changed since being outside all the time-so true. Intuitively, the West Devon Tai Chi journey feels like it is changing and whatever transpires will be embraced as a positive way forward. Our world is changing too, very rapidly. It is a global reset and people need to awaken sooner rather than later. We have every opportunity to create a better world for our future generations if we choose to get involved.

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many, they are few.
(Percy Bysshe Shelley-1891)


Autumn Equinox blessings to you all
Stay well, strong and powerful in mind, body and spirit

Mandy-Instructor 

Nature Heals

posted 27 Aug 2020, 02:22 by WestDevon Tai Chi   [ updated 27 Aug 2020, 02:23 ]

 It is always nice when someone is happy to write a few words to add to the journal. We are all on a journey together with Taiji and hearing how it helps others, whether it be for the learning of Taiji or for the social interaction, greatly inspires me to keep offering these sessions. I would like to share the words from Roy, who gave me inspiration at a time when I was questioning within myself whether to carry on with the sessions. After talking with him and listening to how coming back to Taiji was helping him in so many ways, the question was answered. 
 
 To Mandy and Lifton Tai Chi students - I would just like to say a big thank you to everyone for your support in my recovery after suffering a stroke last January. It has been great talking to you all and it has been such a help in the mental side of getting better. I am so grateful to have Mandy to talk to, as well as the rest of the group. It is also been special and beneficial to practise Tai Chi in Lifton Park, by the river and next to the trees, as it has helped the physical side to my recovery as well as the mental. The help it has given me has been immense-yours sincerely, Roy

The intense emotional upheaval and pain which dominated much of my childhood and adult life up until a few years ago, taught me something about our human spiritual connection that, in my experience, is completely undervalued by our Western society. Nature heals-it has restorative powers. I often ponder this particular value. I wonder how many hours of therapy I have saved myself, how much time and money. Nature was, and continues to be, my salvation. The non-judgemental world helps you to look within and do the healing and surviving yourself.

The outdoor sessions are proving to be very healing for so many. Roy said to me he would find it extremely hard going back into a hall - I have to agree with him!

Keep well and strong in mind and body

Love and peaceful blessings 

Mandy-Instructor 

Stillness and Tranquility

posted 3 Aug 2020, 16:21 by WestDevon Tai Chi   [ updated 4 Aug 2020, 06:19 by Mandy Moor ]

‘Take a quiet walk with Mother Nature.
It will nurture your mind, body and soul’

Nature and wildlife are my greatest teachers, they inspire my life and Taiji practise. They help me to keep a balance and focus on where I am going on my journey through life and to accept changes on the way, negative as well as positive ones-the yin and yang. They are all part of the learning. Walks with my dog Sky are precious moments to observe and absorb natures’ wonders-it is my daily tonic! If you ever get an opportunity to see a heron elegantly poised by a riverbank, stop and observe-it will enhance your Taiji tremendously. This is exactly what I did whilst walking along the canal at Bude. As a heron gracefully flew ahead and landed the other side of the canal, I knew there was a lesson to be learnt. With one leg slightly bent like ‘White Crane Spreads Its Wings’ it was relaxed but alert, totally focused and intent on looking down into the water, waiting patiently for the moment to take its catch of a passing fish; people and dogs walking by were not a distraction. Observing this beautiful bird led me to observing myself inwardly. My mind and body still and tranquil, fully in the moment, as was the heron. That focus and intent keeps your Taiji movements soft but strong and alert, not collapsed. It is important to use your mind/intent in your learning. The heron symbolises stillness and tranquility-Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation) comes to mind. Whenever an animal or bird crosses my path, I look up the spiritual meaning and the heron is very apt to what is happening in the world today.

 ‘The Heron comes to us with a message of meditate and contemplate. You are exactly where you need to be right now in this moment! When this graceful bird crosses your path, stop and think - just pause. Sometimes that is all we need to do when we are in the middle of a chaotic situation or a difficult decision’

I have read many books about the indigenous cultures-the Native American Indians, Aboriginals, Mayans-they are also are great inspiration to me. What stands out to me in all these ancient cultures was the primary regard for nature with everyday life. It is something I feel many modern humans have lost-this connection to Mother Nature. We have much to learn from the indigenous perspective that can help reorient the modern world to our humble roots of balance and connection.


 One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us’
(Black Elk-Oglala Lakota Sioux)

The last few months have been an immense time of reflection for me, in all aspects of my life, as I am sure it has been for many of you. I have no idea where West Devon Tai Chi is going in these uncertain times but sharing Taiji and Qigong with others is my offering, this is what I love to do. When I started the outdoor sessions, the energy was heavy and did not feel right-I felt the journey was coming to an end for us. As the weeks have passed it feels different and stronger and an ‘all knowing’ that this coming back together is for a greater reason, like a ripple effect that can spread out to others. Not being able to use the halls has been incredibly positive, sharing our practice together outdoors, in nature, is the best place to be and has, I feel, given us a sense of freedom. Bratton Hall have kindly offered me the use of the indoor space, but I have made the decision not to sign the conditions/guidelines of use. So, my friends, we are in the hands of Mother Nature and the weather for the next few weeks and months but maybe that is the way forward in this ‘new world!'

‘Create each new day anew by clothing yourself with Heaven and Earth, bathing yourself with wisdom and light and placing yourself in the heart of Mother Nature’

(Moriha, founder of Aikido) 

Thank you all so much for your support, kind words and inspiration
 to keep this journey going. Lammas blessings and love.

Mandy-Instructor

Remember Life

posted 18 Jun 2020, 10:04 by WestDevon Tai Chi   [ updated 26 Jun 2020, 02:27 ]


With every Taiji practise I ask questions. It helps me not to lose connection with the principles-easily done when the mind wanders! I also do my own research which has always been encouraged by all the teachers I have had the privilege of sharing my Taiji journey with. It is good to get another perspective and expand ones’ own knowledge of understanding.

"Be who you are and say what you feel,
because those who mind don’t matter
and those who matter don’t mind"
(Dr Seuss)

For the last thirty years I have also asked questions and done my own research into how the world is run-a free thinker you could say. When I was 12 years old, I found the book 1984 by George Orwell in my grandparents bookcase-the words ‘big brother’ intrigued me’ and has stayed with me up until this day. Since meeting my partner, Kevin, who is an IFA (Independent Financial Advisor) ten years ago, I have gained a valuable insight into the economic world and how it is run behind the scenes. In that world they call what is happening the ‘reset’ button! We share the same beliefs and our joint research has given us a clearer understanding of what is being played out here with this pandemic (or dare I say plandemic) and it has helped us not to get caught up in the mind controlling fear that has terrorised so many, of all ages, since the outset and continues to do so. A month ago, Professor Robert Dingwall, an eminent sociologist and adviser on the Governments New and Emerging Respiratory Threats Advisory Group, pointed out that- ‘No such guidance is given during a flu pandemic, so why such terrorising advice over Covid-19?’ He clearly knew what a Dr Vernon Coleman found in the government report, that the virus was downgraded to a flu bug on the 19th March 2020.

In Taiji we are training to use our mind in a positive way, directing our energy inwards, letting go of the external. The mind is a wonderful thing. It responds in sometimes unpredictable ways though and can be controlled very easily if fear takes hold. Do you remember who said: ‘Through clever and constant application of propaganda people can be made to see paradise as hell and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched life as paradise.’? It was Adolf Hitler, who was a master at mass manipulation and use of subliminal techniques. And it was Hitler who also commented that it was good fortune for governments that the mass of people did not think. The Nazi’s were very good at controlling the minds. ‘People more readily fall victim to the big lie than the small lie,’ said Hitler, `since it would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.’ Goebbels, who was Hitlers propaganda chief, once said that if you repeat a lie often enough then people will believe it. It has not taken much research to discover the colossal untruths and lies surrounding Covid-19.

So, my friends, it is time to turn off the news-the television programming. Mass media mind control is the most powerful tool to manipulate and induce fear. According to Professor Karol Sikora, a former World health Organisation advisor and cancer specialist, ‘people have become too scared, the strategy needs to be “go out and live your life, that risk is inevitable and cannot be eliminated”. I have to agree. Do your own research, listen to another perspective-there is plenty out there if you know where to look. The draconian measures and guidelines that have dominated all our lives in the space of three months, and which will continue to do so in the ‘new normal’ (a very subtle subliminal message) way of living, will have a much longer catastrophic impact on our young, and future generations, then Covid-19.

"We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children"
(Native American Proverb) 

We are at a very pivotal time right now, a time where we really need to regain some focus and to find balance. A time to connect mentally and spiritually, to be strong and resilient and come back together to do Taiji. We must remember life before this fear was generated. It was our time and space to switch off, thinking nothing more than trying to co-ordinate our hands and feet! We laughed and hugged-remember? It is the time to slowly rebuild and sessions are now being held outside at Lifton and Bratton Clovelly. Check out the website for locations and times. When you feel ready please join us. Make decisions out of love, not fear-move forward out of love, not fear.

‘There is no greater illusion then fear. 
Whoever can see through fear will always be safe’ 
(Lao-Tzu) 


Love, light and healing and Summer Solstice blessings to you all 

Mandy-Instructor 

Money in the Bank

posted 1 May 2020, 08:31 by WestDevon Tai Chi   [ updated 5 May 2020, 11:17 by Mandy Moor ]

"The natural world is a web of intricate connections, many of which go unnoticed by humans. But it is these connections that maintain nature’s finely balanced equilibrium”
(Peter Wohlleben)

Nature has the perfect balance and Taiji enables us to tap into that source as we strive for internal balanced equilibrium to cope with the external imbalances of human life as we know it. The draconian ways implemented by the coronavirus is affecting all our lives in ways that nobody predicted. The core philosophy of Taoism is the idea of going with the flow, moving calmly through the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We are collectively faced with a threat that inevitably focuses minds on the value of health and the fragility of people in our communities who do not have physical robustness and resilience. Or, for want of a better expression, who do not have the “money in the bank” of a strong immune system. Beyond external behavioural practices that are being advised, such as washing hands, social distancing, self-isolation etc., it is this strong immune system that offers the best defence against the virus.

Taijiquan is an art that is suited for developing just such core aspects of physical health. The time-honoured way of gaining benefits from these practices follow a process of quiet, precise and extended cultivation, and a strengthened immune system is one of the rewards for putting in the effort over time. However, ‘over time’ must not be underestimated. In today’s fast paced society, people want instant results. If starting to train Taiji from this approach it is no small wonder that only a minority of people commit to the rigours, not only physical (which must always be at a level that is appropriate to the age, fitness and health status of the practitioner) but also the degree of mindfulness and attention to detail required. Most people see Taiji as little more than an arm waving exercise but trained to its full potential it is a wonderful system that provides benefits and challenges at all stages of practice.

Of course, there are other factors that play a big part in maintaining a strong immune system such as diet, lifestyle, emotions and environmental conditions. In traditional Chinese medicine, the emotions are referred to as the ‘Seven Emotions’-joy, anger, anxiety, concentration, grief, fear, fright-and the environmental conditions as the ‘Six Evils’-wind, cold, heat, dampness, dryness, fire. All of them, if excessive, can get a foothold in the internal system and cause dis-ease. There is much more in depth reading on this and I highly recommend a book by Daniel Reid-The Complete Book of Chinese Health and Healing.

“Anger causes energy to rise, joy causes energy to slow down, grief causes energy to dissipate, fear causes energy to descend, fright causes energy to scatter, exhaustion causes energy to wither, worry causes energy to stagnate." 
(The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine-second century BC) 

We are no further forward in knowing when classes are likely to resume. I know many of you are missing them, hopefully we are not too far away from having a Taiji gathering-even a small one! Many instructors have taken to virtual online classes and I can see it is a great way to stay connected and keeping people moving forward in their practice. For me, apart from being useless with technology to follow suit, I feel this is an ideal opportunity to invest in your own practice so Taiji becomes a wholesome part of your life. Access the inner wisdom(capabilities) within yourself - “seek the cause in oneself.” The first stage of the foundations have already been laid for many of you through the classes and workshops with Ben, so there is plenty to work on without the need for words. Try your best to replicate the moves-it is only through endless repetitions, that the form will eventually be internalised. In the words of Buddhist scholar and Aikido master, the late Taitetsu Unno (1929-2014): “Words are seldom spoken and explanations are rare; the burden of learning is on the student.” Learners who have never trained with traditional teachers often rail against the idea of training without being allowed to discuss and talk about every movement they are asked to do. But it is important, as the great philosopher Confucius said, “not to mistake eloquence for substance.”

Look after yourself and those around you! 
Eat healthily, sleep well, keep active and the mind alive. 

Beltane blessings to you all
Mandy-Instructor

Heal the Earth

posted 27 Mar 2020, 04:25 by WestDevon Tai Chi   [ updated 27 Mar 2020, 04:26 ]

What a time we are experiencing and how fast things have changed! Being able to offer a class at Bratton Clovelly in the hall or outside was soon squashed within hours of writing my last piece.
I am seeing how peoples’ lives are changing-some for the better, some for the worse. A time for slowing down and healing within is how some see it; others are finding it mentally draining and very stressful. It is an exceptional and extraordinary time that we are all experiencing together. These words by Angus Clark-Living Movement Tai Chi, are so true and worth sharing.

‘A time, it seems, of difficulty, opportunity, shock, change, possibility. A time of seclusion and isolation at the same time as connection and coming together. A time of stillness, spaciousness, resting; anxiety, fear, restriction. What a mix!’

For me, the many years of practising Taiji and Qi Gong is proving to be invaluable, enabling me to stay completely balanced to help my family and others. How truly grateful I am for this connection-the grounding, breathing, flowing and embracing the stillness within.

"The power to find balance is within you"

Taiji is rooted in the Taoist philosophy dating back hundreds of years. Lao Ztu is a Chinese legendary and historical figure who is considered to be the founder of Taoism. Taoism is the philosophy that teaches us how to live in harmony with the world. The word Tao means the ‘way’- the pattern and substance of everything that exists. Lao Ztu is also credited as the writer of Taoism most sacred text-Tao Te Ching. It is packed with remarkable wisdom and messages of peace, resilience and living cohesively which reminds us what really matters in life. He is a central figure in Chinese culture, but his words can apply to people all over the world. On opening my copy of the Tao Te Ching this week, this quote really resonated with me- ‘look within and you will find everything you need’. In these words, Lao Ztu is saying- ‘knowing others is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom, mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power’. We live in a culture that is geared towards doing, succeeding, making and wanting more, whether it is money or of ourselves. These actions, from a Taoist perspective, are considered ‘yang’ and are based on outwards and external movement. The Chinese concept of ‘yin yang’ describes nature in dualities with two opposite complementary and interdependent forces. In other words, two halves balancing together that makes a whole. Yin and yang always flows and changes with time-one aspect increases as the other decreases and this balance continues as a pattern in nature. As in nature, human life is all about balance. To maintain balance we need to spend time cultivating our ‘yin’, which is our inner experience. We need to slow down and reflect, enjoy being without having to do anything. Practices, such as Taiji and Qi Gong can help us slow down, so that when we do need to act more in the world and create, we have a deeper and more valuable reservoir of energy and balance to draw from.

We have no control over what is happening in the world at this moment, but we do have control over our thoughts. Fear is the dark, love is the light. This is an opportunity to truly cultivate your ‘yin’ so when a ‘normal’ life returns you will realise that it is okay to slow down and make time to practise Taiji every day-to make it a ‘way’ of life.

My thoughts are with everyone throughout the world and to beautiful Mother Earth, less pollution meaning she can breathe and heal. How lovely not to see vapour trails in the beautiful blue skies! Maybe this experience will be an awakening and re-connection for many people, young and old. Keep well in mind, body and spirit my friends and hopefully it will not be too long before we are reunited in our classes.  
Mandy-Instructor
 
“And the people stayed at home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

 And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses and made new choices and dreamed new images and created new ways to heal the earth fully, as they had been healed”.

Kitty O'Meara

Listening Behind

posted 20 Mar 2020, 04:02 by WestDevon Tai Chi   [ updated 20 Mar 2020, 04:07 ]

These are challenging and unsettling times for us all as we are in the grips of the coronavirus and the changes it is bringing to our lives with every passing day. Classes at Lifton and Lydford are now suspended as the halls have taken the decision to close for the foreseeable future. Bratton Clovelly hall is remaining open as Devon Communities are encouraging village halls not to close as they are the hub of the community.
Still having a venue to use, I feel spurred on to continue running the Friday morning class for those who wish to come along. The hall is following the government health guidelines and we know what measures to take to protect ourselves. Weather permitting the class will be held outside in the fresh air. My decision to keep this class going is to offer people a choice and I becoming increasingly concerned about the mental well-being of many. Fear is being generated at an alarmingly rate and I am seeing more and more anxiety and stress amongst people, and within my own family, as more restrictions are being put in place. This has a knock-on effect to our immune system and it is vital that we do all we can to strengthen it, not weaken it.

On a lighter note, what a great day we had at last Saturdays workshop-a mixture of fun and learning which was just what we all needed! The feedback, as always, has been fabulous and thanks to all who came along. I am at a stage of my learning that when observing Ben, I could see that every spiralling motion is generated internally and his high level of teaching continues to inspire me. Having practised meditation from an early age his understanding and knowledge of the mind aspect of Taiji enables him to explain it in a clear and concise way. He talked us through the six points to prepare ourselves for standing meditation (Zhan Zhuang)-head up, shoulders relaxed, chest hollow, dantien full, sitting into the hips and listening behind. We spend most of our time in the frontal lobe of our brain-external stimuli in this world today is vast-mobile phones, social media, television, the list goes on. Then we have the ‘chatter monkey mind’-the internal dialogue of the ego that just does not want to stop! Standing practise encourages us to focus on listening behind creating Wuji-ultimate stillness. To come away from the frontal lobe, he led us away from the third eye, over the top of the head, down the spine, between the legs to the perineum and to the dantien where all Taiji moves are generated from.
Most people live in the sympathetic nervous system-the fear or flight mode-which depletes our energy. The parasympathetic nervous system restores our energy. Energy follows the mind, so if you keep your attention focused inwardly, energy will collect internally. Intent is the master of the mind; intend your attention to focus on body and breath instead of thoughts, and that is what it will do. It takes practise and focus-but the goal is so worthwhile.

We are at a time now when we really need to bring these practises into our lives to help ourselves and others. I encourage you to practise all you have taken from the classes and workshops and build up a daily routine-warm up exercises, standing, silk reeling and Taiji form. The website will be kept updated as and when we get any information about the halls and a glimmer of light when all classes may resume.
 Keep calm, centred and grounded-and an open mind. 
Wishing you and your families continued safety and wellness. 


Spring Equinox blessings, love, light and healing to you all 

Mandy-Instructor

The More I Learn, The Less I Feel I Know

posted 1 Feb 2020, 20:51 by WestDevon Tai Chi   [ updated 29 Feb 2020, 07:10 ]

Last Sunday was Ben’s first workshop of 2020 with a mix of improvers and raw beginners. As usual, I always come away with something to mull over whilst driving home and, on this occasion, it was how little I know. I have embraced this sense of ‘knowing so little’, seeing it as being positive rather than negative. I feel I have progressed a little since I first took up Taiji-beginning to understand the basics and not just aimlessly waving my arms about quite so much now! I have also learnt that staying humble, having a beginners’ mentality, an ever-inquiring mind and the urge to know more are an important part of the journey. The key to success is yourself!

At first, I take Tai Chi up as a hobby, 
 
Gradually I become addicted to it, 
 
Finally, I can no longer get rid of it. 
 
I must keep on practising for my whole life-it is the only way to preserve life 
 
The more I practice, the more I want to learn from teachers and books. 
 
The more I learn, the less I feel I know. 
 
The theory and philosophy of Tai Chi is so profound and abstruse! 
 
I must continue forever and ever… 
 
It is the only way to improve and better myself. 
 
                                                 
Master T. T. Liang 
 

Our next workshop with Ben is on Saturday 14th March and is a great opportunity for us to learn just a little bit more! 



Imbolc blessings to you all
Mandy-Instructor

Inspiration

posted 16 Jan 2020, 02:46 by WestDevon Tai Chi   [ updated 16 Jan 2020, 03:41 ]

Happy New Year everyone! Great to see you all getting back into the swing of the classes after the festive break. There was 24 at Lydford on Monday-most we have ever had there! 

Taiji is a wonderful and boundless journey and although it is important to find your own inspiration from within, sometimes inspiration from others, whether it be words or actions, can help us on the way. I was very inspired by an interview with Master Chen Bing and was going to pick out a couple of the questions to share with you but every answer he gave, to all the questions, were so inspiring and relevant to our learning that I decided to include them all. Here is a taster for you to check out, the rest are the video page of the website. 

Why would someone decide to start practising TaiChi?


I will be training with Ben on the 26th January at Bristol, so another day of inspiration as we explore the foundation exercises-Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation), Chan Si Jing (silk reeling)and the first part of the Laojia Yilu in the morning, Push Hands and Laojia Erlu training (cannon fist, a much faster routine!) in the afternoon. I am always buzzing with anticipation when one of Ben’s workshops draws near as another opportunity to pick up a ‘little gem’-maybe two or three this time! 

Last week, a gentleman said to me- ‘I see Taiji as a companion on my journey’-words that ring so true in my heart too. Looking forward to stepping further on the journey with you all in 2020.
Mandy-Instructor

Exercise to Calm the Body and Mind

posted 13 Dec 2019, 11:12 by WestDevon Tai Chi   [ updated 16 Jan 2020, 02:46 ]

When you stand, you are like a tree 

You are growing from within;

Your feet, like roots, draw power from the earth 

Your body, like the trunk, is perfectly aligned 

You are unmoving, strong 

Your head open to the heavens like the crown of the tree 

You rest calmly, the universe within your mind 

(Master Lam Kam Chuen)

Zhan Zhuang, is an ancient exercise developed in China. It is pronounced “Jan Jong”, and is best translated as “Standing like a Tree”. It is practised in a well-balanced standing posture, holding the arms in front of the body in a rounded position, which increases the flow of energy and builds up internal strength. It can also be done in sitting or lying positions. The standing posture greatly develops the strength of the legs and is the most fundamental exercise in Taiji. It builds up and releases an extraordinary flow of natural energy that is dormant within us. For most people, training in Zhan Zhuang is a complete surprise in the beginning. There are no recognisable external movements, although it is a highly energetic exercise system. In contrast to many other methods, it develops our internal energy in a very efficient way, instead of consuming it. The system is based on a unique fusion of relaxation and exertion which stimulates, cleanses and massages the whole body. When the legs are strong, then the upper body can relax and sink down into them, making the top more flexible. This seemingly simple exercise also improves postural alignment and balance, and develops acute body awareness, deeper breathing and a tranquil mind.

With regards to the importance of proper posture in Taiji, an old Chinese medical text states, ‘When posture is not proper, energy is not smooth; when energy is not smooth, mind is not stable’. Even the smallest point of posture can make a big difference in how smoothly the energy circulates through the body during practice, and this in turn determines how energy influences the mind. Conversely, if the mind is not stably balanced prior to practice, energy will not flow smoothly through the system, and this in turn will throw posture off balance. For most people, it’s much easier to start by balancing the body rather than the mind, therefore, establishing proper posture in the body is the first step. In Taiji and Qigong, posture is the foundation upon which a strong, stable practice is built.

For many of us, bad postures have simply become bad habits. Zhan Zhuang creates a state of being which helps to “unlearn” all these bad habits and to return to a natural, comfortable and healthy posture. In time, we become able to apply the structural principles in all the chores of our daily lives. Through the practise of Zhan Zhuang we are able to take advantage of our whole potential-physically, mentally and spiritually-without becoming exhausted. This is achieved in a completely natural way without the need for fighting ourselves. Enjoy the process and let your practise be your rest.

This photo of grandmaster Chen Xiao Wang, calmly waiting for the kettle to boil, was captured by a lady whose house he was staying at in Seattle. It really sums up what I say to everyone in my classes, - ‘practicing for 5 minutes here and there really pays off’.

Click image to Enlarge

As the classes draw to a close for 2019 I would like to thank you all for your fantastic support and enthusiasm throughout the year. It has been wonderful to see so many friendships being made through the learning and sharing of Taiji. Special thanks to Sally, Kerry and Garry for stepping up to help the groups of new people take the first steps on the journey-from the feedback received they appreciate it as much as I do! My thanks to Kerry for also keeping the website up and running.

Wishing you all a Happy Winter Solstice and peaceful New Year

Mandy-Instructor

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