|T’ai Chi Strengthens the Mind-Body Link
15th April, 2005
Students often complain to their T'ai Chi teachers that they cannot memorise the T'ai Chi form. The form is a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elevation and its basic foundation is a good memory. Being attentive is one way of cultivating a sound memory, and this will help you focus better on the assignment at hand.
Memory gives us an infinite sense of security. A good memory gives us a sense of purpose and direction - without it, all physical and mental efforts are wasted, and we end up living life below potential. A failing memory is a sign of declining physical health and emotional instability.
A good memory is an asset and it comes with practice. Slack attention is a major cause of poor memory. Once you become more attentive, your memory improves. In T'ai Chi, the memory is challenged by a number of graceful yet intricate movements. By paying attention, the practitioner can improve his memory for the moment.
However the fear of making mistakes severely hampers the learning process. I frequently hear the beginners say: "I did not want to do it wrong, so I did not practise." Nothing is further from the truth. When you review and re-enact the T'ai Chi movements on your own, you are likely to remember more than you would if you did nothing.
During practice, you will be relaxing, strengthening your legs, releasing your mind from mechanical thinking, and connecting your mind and body. Moreover, when you familiarise yourself with a move, during the next class, you will be more alert and aware of your mistakes. If you don't practise, you will continue making the same mistakes in class, and progress will be slow.
Your unconscious mind is like a computer - it needs careful programming. If thoughts of failure are constantly channelled into the unconscious mind, nothing constructive or creative is going to be sent back. But if you steadfastly hold a clear, purposeful goal in the conscious mind, the unconscious will eventually accept it and begin to generate ideas and insights. Ask anyone who has acheived outstanding success in any field and she will tell you that clarity of purpose and intensity of desire are indispensible.
If you set a high goal, you have to pay a high price. You can't afford to be lazy or distracted. Most of us constantly short-circuit ourselves with alibis like "I am not really good at this", "I know I will never be able to do that as well as my classmate/sibling/parent/teacher can", or simply, "I'm stupid" or "I can't". Replace these self-limiting thoughts with self-assuring thoughts like "I can if I think I can" or "If I have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance to improve." This will help you persevere and focus.
Remember, process is more important than results. When we emphasise results rather than the process by which the knowledge is acquired, we deprive ourselves of the joy of growth and actually reduce our rate of learning. Ideally, our pursuits should generate a genuine quest for learning more, to feel more, see more and be more. They should spark enthusiasm in us to an extent we can place the goals in the background rather than in our primary focus. Eventually, each of us will develop patience, persistence, skill, health, self-awareness and awareness of others. We will become happier, more forceful and more effective.