My 3 Biggest Taiji Practice Lessons from 2016

I am beginning to wind down as we close 2016. In addition to finishing my first year teaching, I've also made a lot of progress in my own practice this year, so I thought I'd close with my top 3 Taiji Practice Lessons of 2016. I would also like to clarify that by "lesson," I don't mean these are principles that I've mastered. They are learnings that I continue to explore and grapple with, and they have been indispensable to my progress. 

1. Absorption threshold. I have been noticing the kind of practice that is optimal: how frequent before resting, how long before I lose focus, and how many postures to practice to ensure my improvement penetrates down to the essence of the move. My teacher teaches up to 3 empty hand forms, push hands, and a weapon or two, and he knows I will be among the first to say "no" to one or two of those. When the goal is depth, my hypothesis is that if I achieve a richer understanding by limiting to 2-3 forms at a time, when I get tired of those, I will rotate to other forms, and that those same principles will show up there too. It's kind of like watering plants - find the sweet spot, don't starve them and don't over-water.

2. Video playbacks. I videotape myself once a month for each form I'm working on. Video does what a mirror can't - it allows me to observe the moment after it has occurred. Looking in a mirror, I have to do two things at once: perform postures and watch myself. I might be "cheating" by ancient standards, but I believe the body will absorb new learning at its own pace. The video assists in selecting what I work on next and allows me to self-correct before I take it back to my teacher for the course corrections I cannot see on my own. Very efficient.

3. Believing in change. There are many postures I can now perform that looked impossible during my first year of taiji (see below, a recent photo of Ground Hacking Dragon). I ended up surprising myself when the months and years went by, and my body got closer and closer to doing what I thought it couldn't. As that began to happen more frequently, when I now hit a roadblock in a particular move, I remember that with diligence, it will change from what I see now.

Looking forward to new possibilities in the coming year. Wishing you happy holidays, restoration and renewal as we open 2017!