In today’s tai chi class, the teacher talked to us about “gathering our inner forces” as we prepared to start the forms. One does not take written notes during tai chi, so my mind works hard to retain words that speak to me. “Gathering our inner forces” spoke to me.
When I began to learn tai chi this summer, I had to focus exclusively on the externals: how to move through the 24 forms with at least an approximation of the correct movement sequences. Mostly I wanted to stop being so lost and confused. In the past four months I have accomplished my immediate goals, and I take pleasure in knowing where my body is meant to go and how to get there. But twice now, in two different contexts, I have heard an instructor speak of the “internal aspects” of tai chi, and I know that it is time to direct at least some of my attention inward.
*Be slow, calm, relaxed
*Activate your qi (life energy) and jing (internal strength)
*Align body and mind
*Develop whole body force instead of just muscular force
As soon as the instructor spoke of internal tai chi, I knew he was telling me something I needed to know about daily life. I think of how I approach a day. Typically I have a to-do list (like today) that has an urgent energy to it, easily translatable to anxiety: “Will I get it all done?” “What obstacles will I face?” This puts me in an external, worried mode, driven by demands and pulled by energy that is outside of myself.
But if I switch to an internal mindset and gather my forces, I ready myself for the day differently. I align myself to the possibility of the day. I imagine the stream of the day, open and available. I know I will enter that stream with intention. If I stay focused on my internal strength, I feel trust emerge: trust that I will be enough; trust that tasks will be accomplished in their right time; trust that I can retain a connection with my internal world even while moving through the external. I feel balanced: my inner strength balances the external demands that present themselves.
By beginning today with tai chi, I gathered my forces and developed my internal balance. By writing this blog, I reminded myself of what I learned and grounded myself more firmly.
Invitation to Gather Your Forces
Give yourself time to gather your forces. Even brief moments of internal focus bring you closer to your balance.
1. Breathe – Take slow, deep breaths. You know how to breathe!
2. Imagine – Imagine your inner forces. What do you have to bring to this day? Perhaps a word or phrase comes to mind that gives you courage and positive anticipation. Or perhaps you connect with your inner strength wordlessly, simply feeling yourself becoming more grounded.
3. Draw: Draw an image that represents what you experienced when you gathered your forces. It could be a recognizable image or simply a doodle or scribble. Allow yourself to bring your internal experience to the page — no official “artistry” required!
4. Write: Trust whatever words appear and follow them freely.
Questions for Reflection: What did you notice when you breathed slowly and allowed yourself to turn inward? What strengths did you recognize? How is this different from your normal approach to a day?
Writing Prompts: “When I gathered my forces, I became aware of ______” (then keep writing); “Now that I feel an internal balance, I am ready to ______” (then keep writing).