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ruminations on posture


Standing with head gently erect, eyes straight ahead.  Why is it so hard?   

Wherever you take a t’ai chi class,  from whichever teacher in whatever town or village in the world, you will hear at some point,  imagine a long thread,  stretching from the crown of your head, to the sky.    it’s almost always something I say at the beginning of each class (after all the other postural instructions, starting from the feet).     

it’s quite an image,  though,  your crown attached umbilically to the heavens,  and we may struggle a bit trying to visualize it, let alone to enact, and then to stay like this throughout the one hour class!   Don’t feel discouraged.    I tell my class that it’s probably the hardest part of the pose and the form — keeping your eyes focused ahead, your head relaxed on the stem of your neck.   

A teaching:   Hawkes, my erstwhile teacher, would tell us,  
you can kill with your eyes!
You can't though if your eyes are cast down, searching the floor.  Kill with your eyes.     

out on a limb
What makes it  hard to hold our heads up and aim our eyes like daggers, fiercely , yet calmly enough to slay an opponent?  I'm not sure I know.  But I do know that it's very common for my students,  as we go through our qi gong exercises,  to let their heads begin to droop and face the floor as though there are jewels enbedded in the floor boards.   In addition to some ill-defined concerns about their t'ai foot positioning,  my students are engaging in a gesture that says don’t bother me!   

Here's the perfectly executed t'ai chi head -- it's not a lofty posture, there's a bit of relaxed neck in it, there's the tiniest downward slant, as though Master Cheng were watching a boat out on an imaginary horizon.  But you'll see -- Master Cheng's eyes are focused straight ahead.  


 Cheng Man Chi’ing  -- founder of the Yang short form 


next month, part II...

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