According to this endurance cycling website ( http://www.zendurancecycling.com/cross-training-tai-chi.html ), here's an interesting benefit from practicing Tai Chi - the idea that because Tai Chi trains your neurological system and proprioception, it is a good cross-training exercise for endurance athletes. I doubt the Daoist monks ever conceived of this one...As Tai Chi's slow, mindful and complex series of relaxed, repetitive movements is beneficial in developing neurological & proprioceptive ability, alignment, relaxation, calmness, and "chi" - these in turn: "improve the ability to execute each stroke, each stride perfectly"; which is the purpose of cross-training for endurance athletes. Along with the aforementioned, developing your "chi" energy also brings the usual associated physical, mental, emotional benefits that make for improved performances. Who'd have thought! And what about sinking?
Different Perspective & Practice
Sometimes after practicing for several months a certain way (perhaps the way you approach a single movement/transition/posture ) a different concept/word given by someone more knowledgeable than you can make all the difference and make that movement successful, or give you an "Aha!" understanding of what was stale practice.
Mindfulness & Work
Thich Nhat Hanh says that: "mindfulness should be no different from focusing all one's attention on one's work, to be alert and to be using one's best judgement. During the moment one is consulting, resolving, and dealing with whatever arises, a calm heart and self-control are necessary if one is to obtain good results.....If we are not in control of ourselves but instead let our impatience or anger interfere, then our work is no longer of any value." (pp14)
Thich Nhat Hanh the Buddhist monk, poet, scholar and human rights activist talks about "mindfulness". In his book "The Miracle of Mindfulness" he says: "Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves...When we practice mindfulness in order to build up concentration, mindfulness is a seed. But mindfulness itself is the life of awareness: the presence of mindfulness means the presence of life....Mindfulness frees us of forgetfulness and dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life." (pp14-15)
Ego & Pair work
When you drop or aren't concerned about your ego and the urge to "win" or "dominate", you open yourself to real, valuable pair work experiences of listening, sticking and following your partners' movements (and energy).
In Waysun Liao's book ("The Essence of T'ai Chi"  ISBN - 978-1-59030-509-6), translating/interpreting Master Wong Chung-yua's Tai Chi Classics, Master Wong states that the principle of Tai Chi is to yield oneself to the forces of the universe. This is not what we commonly think of as Tai Chi, and in the not so long ago past I would have been uncomfortable or confused at this kind of comment. I probably would have joked skeptically that the Master had been partaking in smoking too many wild growing herbs. But seriously, Liao explains the addiction we have to our egos and how it separates us from the universe with an analogy. "If a sealed bottle of water is thrown into a lake , the water in the bottle does not change. But if you pour the water from the bottle directly into the lake, it becomes the water of the lake, instead of the water of the bottle." (Liao, 1995:89-90)
According to Liao (2009) [see book reviews]: "Chi" is a third force which regulates the interaction of Yin & Yang, so in our daily lives we must learn to tune our life energy back to a balanced state. By making our "Chi" clean, pure & strong it will help it to restore the balance between the Yin & Yang forces within us. In the meantime we should seek to be in harmony with the outside world by avoiding conflict, impact or contamination from negative signals.
At first glance it appears hard to do given the amount of negative signals we can receive everyday from so many different sources. However, you can see the basics of Daoism in his message & being aware, strive towards that ideal - not just for philosophical reasons but also to protect your "Chi" & hence balance of life forces.
Is your mind quiet enough?
When you are moving in transition from posture to posture in the Tai Chi set, not only are you listening to your body move according to the Classic Tai Chi principles, but also, can you feel the "Chi" in your body flowing?
One of my students who has been studying meditation for over 20 years explained a simple yet terrific meditation technique used to deal with stressful thoughts that arise. It's too good to not share it. She says that when you have a stressful or negative thought that pops into your head, you just observe it in a detached fashion then imagine that you have a few balloons floating beside your head. You place the stressful or negative thought into one of the balloons and tie it up, then let go of the string and watch the balloon float away. Thanks Jan.
Hi Peter (see comment below) thanks for that, I'll give it a try. To me both are just ways of being more "mindful" about your emotions & choosing how to react, which is why "mindful" exercise like Tai Chi and strategies (like both mentioned) are beneficial.
These are my thoughts about various aspects of Tai Chi. They may or may not be original and I try to give credit where credit is due.
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