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Learning to Gather My Inner Forces in a Tai Chi Lesson

by Judy Stone-Goldman on October 1, 2014

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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.

I actually know very little of the internal aspect of tai chi. When I looked it up, I saw it referred to as the spiritual side of tai chi. For example:

*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).


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

William Charlebois October 1, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I love this post!


Judy Stone-Goldman
October 2, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Hi Bill — I’d love to know what struck you from the post. But regardless, I appreciate your enthusiasm.


Liz Gow October 1, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Dear Judy
I really enjoyed your blog and the fact that you wrote it on a day when you had stuff to do. I really connected with the internal world external world and the difference in trust. It inspired me to consider what would it be that I was trusting. Me, my higher self, the Universe. No matter, like you when I come from the internal place I too have trust.

We are on holiday in different time zones, its about 12 midnight ish. I have woken having been a sleep for a few hours. It is nearly 4 pm at home. I started to get caught up in how tired I may be tomorrow and then read your post. Thank you.

My gym membership will be up when we get home and I have thought about Tai Chi many times. Many years ago about 15 I tried the 24 forms you spoke of in Glasgow. I am guessing they were the same or similar. I imagined a time that I knew the forms so well that I would just be in the flow and never got that far, so I am delighted that you are on your way. Thanks for so much inspiration dear Judy as ever. 🙂


Judy Stone-Goldman
October 2, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Liz, Tai chi is sometimes called meditation in motion. I find it deeply comforting — at least now that I’ve learned it well enough to make it through the forms. My guess is that the 24 forms you tried were the same or quite similar. These 24 forms are a simplified version of longer Tai Chi, and they seem to be the ones people start with (and many people stay just with them). I hope you have a chance to explore tai chi again some time and see if it attracts you. In the meantime, have a wonderful vacation with lots of light fun! I’m so honored that you took time to read and comment while you are traveling.


William Charlebois October 2, 2014 at 8:57 pm

It is the whole idea of gathering your inner forces in order to accomplish something. I’ve never thought in terms of having more than one force. I keep thinking about the part of me that was forced inside during the first 20 years of life. I never remember that I developed a lot of inner strengths, inner coping mechanisms, to survive it. I need to recognize and call on those inner strengths.


Judy Stone-Goldman
October 5, 2014 at 10:05 pm

You do have many inner forces, Bill. I encourage you to write a list or draw images that represent your forces so you can remind yourself. In tai chi the instructor had us stand with our hands in a certain posture (in front of our torso) while we imagined gathering our forces. It gave a very physical sensation.


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