Tai Chi Chuan and Patience
When I started learning Tai Chi, I'd done a lot of different physical training and sports throughout my life, including in gyms, fitness and strength training, all of which require dedication to achieve good results, but they're also based on similar and fairly routine principles of 'doing' by repetition. Naturally, I approached Tai Chi in the same way. I wanted to learn the sequences of movements (the form) as quickly as I could and continue to learn the next steps; I wanted to see progress, and I wanted quick results.
Of course, just like becoming good at anything, learning Tai Chi is about practise, long-term, dedicated practise, but one of the lesser known benefits is the antithesis of the common modern way of approaching exercise. It's also one of the most important to proper learning that is perfectly illustrated in an ancient Chinese fable from somewhere between 400-200 B.C.
There was a farmer who had planted his crops one year, and each day he became more frustrated by the apparent lack of growth of the seedlings.
He eventually got to the end of his tether and one evening he came up with a clever plan. He decided he could help the shoots on their way, so next morning he set about his work. Spending all day on his hands and knees he went, plant by plant, pulling the shoots upwards. He was delighted that he could finally see some progress and went back home to celebrate with his wife and son. On hearing this news his son was shocked and ran out to the field to check on the crop, only to find the plants had all died.
The longer I've been learning Tai Chi, the more I've come to realise that there are natural processes at work that don't submit well to being rushed or forced. These processes require cultivation and patience to enable them to develop and grow.
In Tai Chi, we are seeking to develop a refined awareness of the dynamics of the body as well as the ongoing flow of experience during both stillness and movement. It takes time to develop these senses and for them to become meaningful to us.
So whilst learning Tai Chi is about 'doing' many repetitions of movement, the essence lies in the quality of movement. This takes time and it requires us to be patient. It also takes patience to develop true patience, which is one of the best gifts the correct practise of Tai Chi can bring us in dealing with life.