embracing the creative
I’ve written on the creative element of Taiji before and will surely do so again as it continues to emerge as the single most important part of my own training.
In my experience, Taiji is first and foremost a creative endeavor. Essentially, we practice to create change. We practice to elevate our health and well being, our state of awareness, our self-mastery, our ability to harmonize with both ourselves and with the world around us. We practice to create within ourselves a new and deeper experience of what it means to be human.
In this way, Taiji is a profoundly intimate experience one has with the most authentic aspects of oneself. Along the way, we may encounter all manner of demons and angels, resistances and inspirations, challenges and insights. And these all become fuel for our creative fire if we allow them to be so.
Yes, there are principles, postures, forms, drills, skills, and more. But there is no single and final way in which these can be interpreted and expressed. We see evidence of this in the nearly countless ways in which people approach their Tai Chi. It is much like painting. We are all using the same medium and share a common language even while our understanding and expression takes us in directions that best suit our individual needs and interests.
I think this is important for new students to understand so that they begin their study with an eye for developing both excellent fundamentals as well as the freedom to thoroughly enjoy their own process.
It can be easy, in the beginning to become unnecessarily frustrated with choreography or balance or an endless host of other details. But this need not be once we realize that the whole purpose for practice is to create meaningful, beneficial, enjoyable change. Enjoying one’s practice leads to, well… practice. And consistent practice leads to deeper self-inquiry and deeper application of effective principles and this results in the beneficial change we all desire.
To this end, I always encourage experimentation. Learn the core template, then explore more deeply and thoroughly and see what works best for you on whatever level you are contemplating. Discuss your experience with your teachers and friends, find out what works and what doesn’t, and then build on your successes and insights.
In this way, our practice stays fresh, vital, alive and changing – even as we endlessly change and evolve as individuals and communities.