A Word About Practice
By Robert Larsen

To embark upon the adventure of T'ai-Chi is not so much a study as it is a journey. On this journey the teacher might be thought of more as a tour guide or bus driver. As such it is the teacher's task to guide the student to the calming wilds of the spring. It is an essential aspect of the adventure to go off on your own to engage those waters and get thoroughly soaked to the bone. These "waters of the moon," "dry waters," or "mercury" as they have been referred to by alchemy frustrate any attempt to grasp them with slippery disintegration.

Yet it is imperative that you establish a daily practice. This particular form of T'ai-Chi, originated by my teacher Chen Man Ching, has thirty-seven postures which are done in a flowing sequence which leads from one posture to the next without break in pace or rhythm. But practice involves much more than remembering and repeating the series of postures known as the "form" of T'ai-Chi. Of equal importance to this formal element is the experiential spirit of adventure with which the practice is undertaken. The practice should never be done like calisthenics or rote learning. Each practice session should be more like going spelunking deep into unknown caverns where one never knows what lies around the corner. Deeply underground, one must stay in touch and keep every cell of the body actively receptive to the cool undulations of the walls. Through the practice of T'ai-Chi you will learn the subtleties of staying in touch as an alternative to staying on top.

T'ai-Chi is a form of Chinese alchemy. In alchemy one studies the process of change from the inside, by changing. Alchemically speaking, "there is gold is to be found in that which has been thrown away by the roadside." In other words, where you have been taught to leave some part of yourself behind because it may not fit someone else's idea of who you should be, in that you, there is the gold! One's own body, where one is alive, becomes the source of the teachings.

In T'ai-Chi we will repeat the attempt of the Chinese alchemists of old who considered their bodies to be a vessel of transmutation. We shall embark upon a quest for the gold of true worth and seek the wellspring of our original source through creating together. Through weaving imaginative vision with experiential exploration we will seek to find the form of T'ai-Chi from the inside. Here may it root deeply in the rich soil of your life and give birth to your experience of personal power.

For anyone who may be feeling stuck and mired, T'ai-Chi offers a way back to life. For the Tao of life, although deeply ordered is never boring or the same. Conversely, for those who may be finding the demands of life to be overwhelming, T'ai-Chi offers a formal setting within which otherwise unbridled raging torrents may be given a calming place to come home. With placing comes a settling. With settling, comes the birth of true choice and the possibility of harmony.