T’ai Chi is a Taoist art, based on the understanding of the constant flow between Yin (the feminine, receptive principle) and Yang (the masculine or active principle). The form embodies this flow, constantly moving from postures which are more Yin to those which are more Yang. One of the fundamental principles of T’ai Chi is to make a clear distinction between Yin and Yang. By so doing we recognize that for some activities an receptive attitude is best, for others a more active stance is called for. Each of us must find an appropriate balance in order to achieve harmony in our lives.
To notice these and other more subtle aspects of the form requires a stilling of the mind. This concentration begins in the mundane focus required to master a new series of movements and develops into a finer kind of awareness including all aspects of our experience. This form of moving meditation is very beneficial because it is not very different from our every day life – the gap between being able to keep a still mind in sitting meditation and being able to be still at work or driving in traffic can be difficult to bridge, whereas the calmness of concentration which comes from T’ai Chi practice naturally flows into all aspects of life.
The empty discipline of practice itself is also a wonderful tool for self observation and learning. What kinds of barriers come up to regular practice? Do you overcome these barriers or give up? How often do you need to be reminded of the benefits of practice in order to persist? When you practice, can you concentrate and experience the movements, or is your mind busy with the day’s concerns?