Last week I started wearing progressive lens glasses full time. They are great, and a little hard to get used to. The best part is knowing where my glasses are at all times, the second best part is I can see better. The third best part is they are really good at helping me maintain better posture.
I have a habit of jutting out my chin when I stand. Wearing the glasses it becomes very â€œclearâ€ to me when I do this as things get blurry if my posture is wonky.
Today the glasses really helped me during practice and I think they are easier to wear than a sack of beans or an 80 pound hat. So, todayâ€™s post is a re-post from a story I wrote a while ago.
The 80 Pound Hat
How do you keep a light and sensitive feeling at the top of the head if you are wearing an 80 pound hat?
This is where my thinking went this morning during practice.
In 1994 I met Sam in China. We were on totally different trips and yet our paths crossed. I said it was destiny â€” he said it was fate. We have a lot of stories from the trip, but let me share one inÂ particularÂ story.
I will make the story short here, because first off it is Samâ€™s story, not mine, so I may get a few things wrong. But theÂ gistÂ of the story has stuck with me.
Sam met a lot of people on his trip and many would say something like, â€œYou are very good, perhaps you should meet my teacher, he is really good tooâ€.Â After a while, it seems everyone in China has a masterful teacher and it became important for Sam to pick and choose where he went and who he met. There was one young man, who after watching Sam push hands saidÂ â€œyou should meet my teacherâ€. Sam told us he smiled and nodded and yet, had noÂ intentionÂ of meeting this guys teacher; until, the persistent man said the words that stopped Sam and peaked his interests. He said, â€œYou should meet my teacher, my teacher wears an 80 pound hatâ€. Well, that would spark your interest wouldnâ€™t it? Sam said, yes, he would like to meet his teacher. So off they went down this street and down that one,Â untilÂ they came to a small courtyard and Sam was introduced to a very small andÂ wiryÂ man. Sorry, I donâ€™t remember if Sam told me the teachers name or not. The teacher was humbled by the opportunity to meet a young Tai Chi expert from North America, and when Sam asked about his training methods, the teacher showed him a â€œhatâ€. It was made ofÂ concreteÂ with handles on the side of it and yes, it weighed 80 pounds. Sam said his first thought was to â€œtry it onâ€ and then realized it could break his neck. So he didnâ€™t, but the teacher did. Sam said it was very impressive and that this particular training stunt gave theÂ wiryÂ man pretty good posture! Pretty good posture!
Iâ€™d say it gave him the ultimate structure in being upright. One little tilt off centre and smash â€” there goes the neck, the spine, his body.
After hearing this story, we all set off with new resolve to work on our upright structure. Our classmate Ted, started wearing all kinds of things on his head. Coolers,Â medicineÂ balls, water bottles, Ted would balance anything on his head. And for the record; Ted has great structure. I practised with bags of beans orÂ lentilsÂ on my head. Hardly 80 pounds, more like five; yet that is enough weight to keep my attention when I move.
Iâ€™ve been preparing to teach the 2010 Yang Intensive with Art Baner, and that includes practicing a lot ofÂ Zhan Zhuang or standing post qigong.
This morning I put a bag ofÂ lentilsÂ on my head as I stood. I wentÂ immediatelyÂ into my legs. My upright structure got clear and the bound places in my structure became obvious. I kept the bag on my head as I start to move through my form and the downward rooted feeling of my feet and legs took over. Then, I started to wonder how in the world I could find a light andÂ sensitiveÂ feeling at the top of my head with this â€œheavyÂ hatâ€. IÂ thought of that 80 pound hat â€” the only way to feel light and sensitive at the head top, would be to take the weight off. So I did. The moment I let the bag of beans off my head I felt the spirit of vitality rise in me. There was a light andÂ sensitiveÂ feeling at the top of my head. In doing this I was careful not to give up the feeling and reality of being rooted and powerful in my legs. I felt the light and agile freedom of intrinsic energy. The joy of effortless power.
The first of Yang Cheng Fuâ€™s 10 Important points is about holding the head well. Putting something on your head helps to figure this point out pretty quickly.Â Maybe you wonâ€™t use an 80 pound hat, but let me encourage you to test out the principles of Tai Chi for yourself. Become honest about your structure; use props if you want to. Then let them all go and feel what is going on inside you. It wonâ€™t be longÂ beforeÂ weâ€™ll all be saying, â€œLook mom – Iâ€™m doing Tai Chi!”