Why practice Tai Chi? When I ask new students why they are interested in learning Tai Chi, they usually have difficulty coming up with an answer. Of course, the myriad benefits of Tai Chi are well known and one could say they want to improve their posture, balance and general well being. A few beginners are interested in the martial side of Tai Chi, although many are unaware it even exists! When I started learning Tai Chi I was dimly aware that it was a martial art, that it was supposedly very good for you and that it in some way involved meditation.
Before starting Tai Chi I'd had a growing feeling that I should start meditation. I could feel that my mind was restless somehow and that meditation was the answer. I tried meditating without instruction which I found very difficult. I read numerous books on Buddhism, Taoism and every other ism and they all said the same thing: Find a teacher and learn meditation.
I first tried Zen meditation. In the first zazen session we sat meditating for an hour! It was an extremely intense experience. Suddenly my mind turned inward and I became aware of my breathing, my heart rate, my posture and my mad churning thoughts. I liked the zen sitting meditation and although I didn't go back I continued to practice fairly regularly.
Around the same time I started learning Tai Chi. As I practiced more and more I gradually stopped the sitting meditation. It became clear to me that all of Tai Chi is meditation. Whilst practicing standing meditation, silk reeling and Tai Chi form I found my mind becoming increasingly still and peaceful.
As time goes on and as I practice more I find my mind is calmer, not just while I'm practicing but all the time.
It is this aspect of Tai Chi that I believe people are most drawn to. Everyone wants peace of mind. Personally, I love the martial side of Tai chi and am a keen advocate of the health benefits but really what makes me practice every day is not the promise of super human martial ability, or that it will make me live longer but that it is in itself an experience of sublime tranquility.