Searching for the Feeling of the Mind-Body Connection
the eighties, when Reg was in his early teenage years, he came across a
book about Tai Chi in the library. He can’t pinpoint why, but for some
reason he borrowed it and tried to learn the movements from the
the whole book and didn’t understand most of it. I had the idea I
should be feeling something after I’d done the sequences. But I
didn’t.” Not surprising, considering he didn’t have an instructor. But
what he did have was a feeling that there was untapped power or energy
– something – in the body and he wanted to learn how to harness and
instinctively control or channel it.
years later in high school, his school ran meditation classes for the
stressed out senior exam students. Reg realised this was perhaps the
way to delve deeper into what he’d been vaguely aware of before. He
really enjoyed the meditation. After leaving school, he set off
travelling with the underlying desire to learn more, but didn’t know how
to act on it. He wanted to go to Tibet and visit the high mountain
temples but the country was closed to foreigners at that time. So he
headed for Nepal, travelling and enjoying the culture.
Canberra, in 1991, Reg started Tai Chi with the Academy at a class in
Queanbeyan. Still only in his mid-twenties, he was by far the youngest
person in the group. He attended for over a year learning the
traditional Yang style but work and life got in the way. In 1997 he
started again with a friend, but again dropped out after a couple of
earlier years, Reg practised karate. From karate he learned reflex and
response. He had the idea there was an underlying intuitive way to
connect the mind and the body in movement. Later with Tai Chi
experience, he saw how the movements should stem from an intuitive
response. As a young boy, wrestling and roughhousing with his mates, he
discovered he knew how to use balance with minimal force to upend his
opponent. He could see Tai Chi also improves the reflexes but in a
different way, through relaxation. Bits and pieces of his search were
coming together slowly but he didn’t understand how to make that next
step. “It didn’t translate into something I understood.”
tried Wu Dao Gong, the Academy’s martial arts classes, in 2006 and again
in 2009. Here he began to have the “whole body” experience which comes
from the combination of relaxation, meditation and the physical
application of the movements. Unfortunately the time and effort
involved in maintaining the training was too much for him, due to the
late night classes and his work commitments.
2010, over a period of about 5 or 6 weeks, Reg was afflicted with back
pain which became suddenly worse. He was diagnosed with a rare
autoimmune disease which manifests itself as acute arthritis style
pain. It develops in the lower back and can gradually work its way up
leading to an eventually fused and rigid spine. Only 0.1% of the
population carry the gene and of that group, 1% might develop the
disease. Reg believes stress may have triggered the onset for him.
came back to Tai Chi in 2010 just after the diagnosis, he was in great
pain with every movement an effort.
arthritic condition, movement is the key. “I have to keep the joints as
flexible and mobile as possible or they will stiffen and cause
significant pain. Tai Chi has helped enormously along with medication
and diet. I’m in constant pain but now it’s bearable. Tai Chi helps
relax the muscles which provides some relief.”
third start at Tai Chi was two years ago and he is determined to stick
to it this time. He doesn’t have much choice because if he misses a few
days practice, the pain returns at a high level. Now that he is
practising consistently and for longer periods, Reg has a new
understanding of the sensitivity and awareness Tai Chi can bring.
at a certain level you start to learn what it’s all about and that’s the
incentive to keep going. Meditation really helps deal with stress. Now
I can feel stress when it’s about to happen. I can feel the chemical
reaction and stop it.”
done several of the Academy’s extra courses – the Hun Yuan Qigong,
Broadsword and Push Hands which he really enjoyed.
Hands I started to get a glimpse of the feeling I’d been searching for.
It’s applying the principles of response and reflex action in a
practical situation.” The whole body has to react instinctively without
thinking or planning.
Broadsword feels like a natural extension of the Tai Chi form. The
momentum of the sword helps with the whole body connection but I’m still
looking for something more to develop.”
suggested to Reg that perhaps the answer to his quest is in practice and
most of all, time. Learning and understanding Tai Chi is a slow process
as in any art form. How good would someone be on the piano, no matter
how talented, after only two years of lessons and practice? He admitted
he was impatient for progress.
known phrase is true – it’s not the destination but the journey that’s
important. Sticking to one thing of value and thoroughly practising and
absorbing it, leads to a depth of knowledge completely missed when
superficially skipping from one thing to another, constantly searching
for a quick, easy solution. Artists in other areas such as music know
this. It can take a lifetime and many great practitioners go to their
deathbeds, feeling they still haven’t mastered their art.
his quest now has an immediate and practical purpose, staying as
flexible and as well as possible with Tai Chi as one strong weapon
against this crippling disease.
(This is an actual interview, but the name
has been changed for reasons of privacy.)