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Thoughts, Questions.

Handout Scottish workshop.


Notes for Scottish T’ai Chi workshop ………….

From  Outer to Inner  – Joint and muscle changes.


 The mind forms an intention to move, impulses from the nervous system are sent to the muscles, the pressure sensors in the muscles monitor the change, the micro fibres in the muscles change condition, causing the body of the muscles to change shape, this causes the joints to change position, finally enabling the gross shape of the body to change and move spatially.

It is said in Taiji there are no secrets, only things too small to be seen. This training method is systematic, it teaches us how to form the intention to find what to listen to, where to listen, and the timing of listening for the right thing, in the right place at the right time. Then intention and awareness are developed simultaneously, the mind is naturally focused internally, within the moment. The superficial mind becomes quieter as it is absorbed with endlessly tracking sensation, and the deeper awareness naturally grows This practice takes us  from outer awareness into an ever deepening internal awareness.



Always use the first few movements to establish a quietening of the mind; this creates the correct conditions for the attention to be directed to the genuine internal sensations of the body.

Loose, smooth, relaxed outer movements enable the clear perception of changes that flow through the body in every part of every movement.

The whole body moving as one connected and co-ordinated whole, and accuracy of movement, are the beginnings of developing spatial awareness eg. Feet shoulder width apart, knees in line with feet; arms lift to height of shoulders then sink. Crown suspended.   Timing the movement with the breath, breathing in to lift, breathing out to fall gives the correct impulse to relax and sink into alignment. Sacral connection moves from foot to foot to establish a connected base.

This begins the awareness of coordination and connection of whole body movement


Centre (Waist) moving first.

This begins the awareness of turning, the horizontal dimension of movement, and of forming an intention for one part to move ahead. From the centre moving first comes spiralling movement, centre, shoulders, arms. From spiralling movement comes the awareness of stretching sensations in the muscles, as one part begins to move ahead of another.


Coordinated Mind and Movement – As the body moves, the mind awareness lifts through the body to the crown of the head, mind awareness drops slowly through the body, as the body sinks, to the feet. The timing of listening is in the same timing and place as the outer body movement. This begins the awareness of moving the mind through the body with the body movement.


 Listening more deeply into the body.

Big joint changes ……..as they are the easiest to sense (hear), lifting from the ground up: first the ankles, then knees, then pelvis, then chest, finally the shoulders. Sinking and settling into the ground we also listen from the ground up: ankles, knees, pelvis, lower back, chest, shoulders. This is the beginning of a controlled relaxed alignment.


Large muscle groups, listening to the sequential contraction on lifting …. feet, calves, thighs, buttocks, back muscles, muscles around the shoulder blades and shoulder joint muscles, and muscles in the neck ……… relaxation falling into alignment, sequential release into…. feet, calves, thighs, buttocks, back muscles, shoulder blade muscles, shoulder joint muscles, upper arm muscles, and back of neck .

This is the beginning of releasing and semi natural alignment.


Small muscle changes.   With the intention to lift, the small muscle changes are sensed  before the gross shape of each muscle changes and contracts on lifting,

With the Intention to fall, a deep melting sensation, releasing, occurs in each muscle in turn, so the body falls sequentially.

The quality of releasing is never ending, the deeper the mind perception the deeper the quality of releasing, and therefore the ability to give up inherent tension.

The timing of the intention and listening awareness of releasing (micro muscle changes) naturally starts to go a little ahead of the gross body movement.

Intelligent Practice


Intelligent practice is developing intelligent habits.

To learn we need correct information and a systematic approach.

Seek help & feedback from skilled practitioners who are capable and willing to explain and demonstrate.


Make your own practice interesting, intriguing, stimulating so that it maintains your curiosity.

Develop intention, awareness, structure and perseverance.

Listen to your own internal feedback.

Babies are the most experimental spontaneous self motivating example.   We learn from getting processes wrong.

Foster self encouragement, focus on the process, not the result.

Focus on what to do rather than what not to do.


See Errors as an opportunity to learn versus a mistake to be threatened by.

Feedback is not criticism.

Not about rewards or punishment.

Not about external motivation.

Strategic self praising, encourage yourself, be realistic.

Be very clear that you understand what to practice, and know when you have achieved that particular aspect.

Know & accept there is always much, much more to learn than is visible at every stage.


Concentrate on one aspect at a time, don’t try to do every thing at once.

Small achievable steps & goals, break everything down into small understandable steps.

Concentrate on one thing of each aspect ; break steps down into smaller and smaller components.

Sequential learning big to small, outer to inner.

Use  imagery, kinesics, visualisations.


Break up the familiar – thinking we already knows something prevents us seeing something new each time.

Desire to automate vs. desire for fresh experience. Beginners mind.

How do we know when we know something?

Balance between repetition and keeping it fresh.

Speed: varying speed finds different aspects , fast, natural, or slow.

Slow allows time for internal awareness of more subtle processes.


Both develop habits and break down habits.

Explore how you generate questions about your own practice.

Exaggerate the errors, physically and emotionally, rigid pelvis, closed chest, collapsed knee, pushing, being defensive, being right, and knowing.


Explore the difference between copying and making it your own.

Explore the fundamentals, the basics, the building blocks.

Ask questions, read books, read related materials like anatomy books, videos, learn how the body works, how forces more & work in the body, how the mind works.

Video yourself, use a mirror to see if you are correct close eyes open check result, ask for feedback.


Be clear what to practice at each stage, understanding constantly changes.

Revisit previous understandings from the deepest level you can find.

Be aware of your strengths and limitations, employ your preferred learning methods, thinking patterns and strategies.

Emotionally, know how you habitually support or sabotage your own best efforts.


Get together with those who inspire you.


In all learning , take time to access your deepest, most settled mind state, to help you be successful.


Q & A: Suspending of the head top.

Question: The different way of dropping the shoulder blades has an enormous effect on the different knots in my back and my stance and seems like the next evolutionary stage in its development.

Also, naturally I’ve heard you describe the different phases of moving the mind in relation to allowing the body to move but I’ve never ‘got it’ before. I can’t exactly replicate it at home but I’m trying and getting some interesting results. I hope the power I feel is a combination of increased awareness and some sort of ‘releasing power’ and not contraction.

Head top seems not only to be a point from which we might hang down but also a point we don’t rise above. Would that be right?
Response… Suspending the head top : Yes the body falls away from the suspended crown,   allowing the spine to lengthen, the possibility for the upper and lower body to melt  into a co-ordinated sequentially release, rather than falling as an undifferentiated unit , thus allowing /helping the  body to go into a sequential stretched condition not a compressed or contracted condition…..
“but also a point we don’t rise above” ….The crown is always suspended  , the mind can rise higher  to aid the sensation of floating as the lower body falls away and grounds, giving time before the upper body melts on top. Similar to the mind going into the ground below the body to help the intention for a continuous release into stretch.

A String of Pearls

A STRING OF PEARLS by Michael Gilman


Approach your practice of Tai Chi with a mixture of awe, respect and love. Realise that people have been doing the same movements that you are now doing for at least 20 generations, and every time you start, the cumulative greatness of this art is expressed through you. You are the forward edge of a wave that is moving endlessly forward, pushed by the entire ocean of past experience.