When You Want to Give Up
By Erle Montaigue
Everyone who practices Taijiquan for any length of time will at some stage of his or her training experience what even the masters experience. A lack of confidence in the art and in oneself.
The problem with Taijiquan is that it is so subtle in its immense healing abilities that we do not notice the internal effects that this art is having and the changes that it is causing in both mind and body. We just feel good. In a way, it is like when we for instance go on a fast because we are just feeling sluggish and our mind is telling us that this is what we need to do. However, once into the fast by one or two days we feel so great that we fall back into our old ways and think that we are healed! So we begin eating again and it is usually the ‘nice’ things that we are used to. So the fast has done no good what so ever and we eventually go back to where we began, sluggish totally constipated in mind and body!
And it’s the same with Taijiquan; the form causes us to feel good, so good in fact that there comes a time when we begin to slow our practice until we are not doing any practice at all! The good feeling lasts a little longer so that we then make excuses for not practicing as it is after all time consuming and take some effort, especially in the early mornings. One great excuse is that how can this set of physical movements help me in any way. Surely it is just a lie or some invention by someone to make some money! So even the masters begin to doubt whether Taijiquan is actually able to help and put it down to just the simple exercise that it brings to the body. So, some take up walking or swimming as a substitute and this works for a time.
However, over time, the body and especially the mind slips right back into normal Western living patterns where we become depressed, drink lots of coffee (as a substitute for Taijiquan as it makes us feel good) which causes the depression to worsen. Eventually, life is just not good anymore, especially if you are over around 45. Everything seems like there is no purpose and we become just like everyone else on the planet with the same depression diseases!
This is good in a way provided of course that eventually you get back on track and begin to practice again as it shows us that there really is something magical about this relatively simple set of movements.
We are eventually forced by our internal mind, or ‘spirit guide’ or ‘guiding angel’, whatever you wish to call it, to practice again. This could be at the mall, or in our home, or walking down the street. There is this urgent force that tells us to practice our Taijiquan. The lucky ones take the advice and practice wherever they are. Others wait until they are home. This is OK, but the moment is sort of lost because of the wait. Those who do not take heed of the advice will usually drop further and further into human misery, relying upon food, sex and purchasing gifts for that instant hit.
Those who do heed the advice however, again realise what a wonderful gift Taijiquan is. That great feeling of well-being, of relying upon oneself, of giving and loving all around you, laughing and really and truly enjoying life with one’s family comes back again instantly. Often however, it will take an hour or so after that first practice session and form some weird reason you just feel good. And you then realise that all you have done that is any different is your Taijiquan training.
The most wonderful thing about this phenomenon is that when you finally get back to your training, it is better than ever, you have not gone backwards because of the break. It’s as if the mind had to have a break in order for the training to catch up with itself. Like you have taken the next step up the ladder in your training. Everything moves as it should. The arms in particular move in a way that you have not experience before. You might have known about this way of moving but the experience of it was not quite there. Your breathing is in total harmony with your movements and although you do not realise it, the Qi is now moving exactly the way it should, hence balancing out your whole body and mind. This is the main healing area of Taijiquan giving you an even balance of yin and yang Qi. And being the King of Qigongs, Taijiquan takes over from all other practice methods barring maybe the Wudang Forms, as you will also get the same feelings from practicing those. So my advice is to learn as many of the Wudang forms as you can, then practice one or two each morning after your Taijiquan practice. However, beware, you will feel great! And here lies the danger. When people feel great, they think that they need nothing else, no more healing and the danger is in again not practicing.
Once you know that it is the Taijiquan alone that is healing you, you will then practice every day no matter how great you feel as you will realise that it is this simple set of movements that is causing you to be in this great area of health and well-being.
If you get the legs correct, the hands will follow. The first area to get correct in Taijiquan is what the feet and legs are doing. Many so-called masters only ever teach where to put the feet with never a mention of the alignment of the legs to body. This is the most important feature of Taijiquan as the legs are obviously the foundation of the whole body. The Classics clearly tell us that there must be a vertical line between the standing knee and that toe of that leg. During postures such as “Stork Spreads Wings”, many tend to move the knee to the side because their waist is not flexible enough. However, this will cause the knee joint to be out of alignment and so cause things like arthritis in later life. The rear leg must also be in alignment and the classic saying of (Chinese translation) “nose, knee, toe” is the one that we use for the rear leg. When for instance you are in a forward bow stance, you must have a straight line between your nose, rear knee and rear big toe. But if someone measures this, there will not be this straight line. It is only when you actually turn your head to look at your rear toe that this alignment is possible and this is what the classic saying refers to.
Once the legs are in alignment for the whole form, the hands and arms will then fall into place. In fact there is only one way to perform the form when the legs are correct, and that is correctly! And this is one very good reason for the beginner in particular to practice Standing 3 Circle Qigong. Without it, and especially if you have a teacher who perhaps is unaware of the upper areas of Taijiquan (and therefore the beginning areas), your legs will never be correct and so the rest of your training will also never be correct.
Everyone that I know of has at some time has gone through this area of development, including myself! It seems to be an integral part of one’s training, some never come back to it, however, the ones who do eventually come back, enjoy a renewed energetic life relying now upon balance rather than young Yang Qi. Taijiquan is particularly important as our Yang Qi begins to wane at around 40 to 45 years of age. This in males is the ‘male menopause’ when most go out and purchase a red ‘E’ Type Jag! However, you can save yourself a lot of money by simply getting back into your Taijiquan practice, as this is much better than and E Type!