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Tai Chi vs sitting meditation

By Jonathan Stow, Tai Chi teacher, NYC

Tai Chi has many similarities to sitting meditation. The most obvious is single pointed focus. When moving through the form, it is our intention to have the Yi (heart and mind) rest in the tantien. With our awareness concentrated in the tantien, we begin to explore our ability to move without disturbing either this awareness or our sense of calm.To paraphrase the Classics: even though a mountain may fall in front of us our countenance will remain unchanged.

Another similarity between sitting meditation and Tai Ch is awareness of the breath. ‘Let the form breath you,’ is a commonly stated phrase. If you maintain long, full, slow and relaxed breathing initiated by the tantien, completely filling and completely emptying the lungs, the form starts to follow your natural rhythm. I find this to be one of the best practices to maintain a meditative state while practicing Tai Ch.

It does take effort to learn the form, which, in itself, is part of training the mind to relax. Professor Cheng said, “The key to doing Tai Ch is easy, you just simply relax.” Simple, but perhaps not easy.

For me, the benefit of practicing my meditation while doing the form as opposed to during sitting, is that the experience more closely resembles what I am doing while moving through life. The benefits of the practice translate seamlessly into daily activities. 

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