Discovering the Internal Arts
by Susan Rabinowitz
The Internal arts of Tai Chi, Chi Kung and Taoist Meditation, give us a place inside our bodies for our minds and our awareness to rest, a place to call home. Having a home for your mind inside your body, is like having a life raft in the ocean.
When you get upset your nervous system revs up and you say things like "I felt like jumping out of my skin". Most people have few techniques to help them. Practitioners of the Internal arts have a way to relax in the midst of stress, a place to bring their minds. Internal artists bring their minds and awareness to their belly - the center of their physical and energetic bodies. As they let their mind feel and relax the center of their belly, their nervous system relaxes and they feel better and more at ease.
Near the middle of our bellies, is a place Chinese medicine calls the Tantien; the center of our body and our energy. In Chinese Medicine the Tantien is responsible for the health of the entire body. Traditional Chinese doctors say that if your Tantien is healthy and relaxed, you will be able to deal with any illness or stress that comes your way. Becoming aware of our Tantien, and relaxing our energy is a main focus of the Internal arts of Tai Chi Chuan, Chi Kung and Taoist Meditation. We can all learn it. But to do it most effectively, we must go about it in the right way.
The ancient Chinese mind was subtle. In the Internal arts things are often not what they appear to be. In the Internal arts, what you see is not what you get. The internal arts are internal. The important things are below the level of the skin and not easily seen by the eye. In Tai Chi and Chi Kung, the most important part of the exercise is not how we move our arms and legs. The important part is what we are doing inside our bodies, below the level of our skin. How we want to move our arm, what we want to notice inside our body, where we want to do it, how to coordinate our mind with our practice. Things we usually don't notice.
So there is practice - and there is how to practice. There is the exercise and there is how to do the exercise.
The Internal arts differ from going to the gym and following the teacher. Though the teacher is there to follow - the aim is to understand the ideas behind the exercises and to incorporate them into your movements. We learn what to do in the class and practice some there, but class time is limited, so to make these things our own, we take them home and practice them there.
The techniques may seem strange at first, and it takes time to develop these feelings, so at the Taoist Arts Center we often talk about what we want to do, and how we want to do it. Simple exercises and easy concepts build to complex ones; first separating exercises into their basic parts, then combining the individual parts, to a unified, fluid movement that is comfortable, relaxed, focused and healing.
The union of mind, body and energy nurtures every part of our bodies and gives the Internal arts its widely held reputation as an efficient health system that can help us to maintain health, and emotional and spiritual balance, amid the continual stresses of daily life.
The original article Discovering the Internal Arts by Susan Rabinowitz is published at www.taoist-arts.com