Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Richard Alvoid, modified 2 Months ago.

Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/3/21 Recent Posts
Hello, all! I am new to Dharma Overground and am about to do a 6 day personal, intensive retreat with seated meditation alternated with either walking or Tai Chi. I would like to ask for feedback on the effectiveness of Tai Chi as a substitute for walking meditation. First off, I plan to do Mahasi's noting practice while seated and alternate with a moving exercise, such as walking or Tai Chi. Though I have never done "intensive" walking meditation (I have done it in Zen meetings but with little instruction), I have done Bagua walking, standing meditation and Yang style Tai Chi, which is very slow and internal - but never in the context of a meditation retreat. My goal is to maximize progress on the meditative path in these 6 days, and need to decide what moving practice to supplement with the seated practice. I am also considering doing some standing practice as well. One obvious question, assuming I go with the Tai Chi, is whether I should do the noting practice while performing the Tai Chi form, or just do it as I normally do? Another concern is whether standing meditation could also be used as a third modality? Lastly, if walking meditation is the safest, do I simply continue with the noting practice while walking in addition to paying attention to the soles of my feet and how they interact with the ground? Thank you in advance for any feedback!
thumbnail
Pepe ·, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 441 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hi Richard, welcome to DhO. Short answer: a high stance Yang non flowery slow form would work fine, but the problem is when the mind gets seducted by chasing energy flow or performance thoughts ("this move was really good"). In my case, I tried to keep the mind as silent as possible, eyes closed, and having a perception of the whole body in each moment. Hope this helps! 
Forest Darje, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/3/21 Recent Posts
Thanks, Pepe. I had the same fear of getting lost in the internal energy transference instead of having a broader focus. Unless an authority chimes in saying it is too risky, it looks like I will give it a try and maybe throw in some walking and standing as well. Cheers!
thumbnail
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 5924 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I can't give as qualified advice as Pepe specifically with regard to Tai Chi, but I have found that yoga, qi gong and tensegrity are excellent complements to seated meditation. I haven't actively been doing noting during the exercise, but rather used it to quiet my mind and get more unified as well as to balance energy with relaxation. In yoga I have found that hatha yoga and slow forms of vinyasa are stabilizing whereas Kundalini yoga can be too much depending on both intensity and circumstances, and that seems to be the case with tensegrity too, and with the small amount of Qi Gong I have been doing, I have found that even rather small amounts of some exercises have led to weird energy rushes whereas other exercises have been stabilizing, so what Pepe said sounds wise. Personally I need some of this as part of my practice, so I warmly recommend combining seated practice with some form of movement that fits the person energy-wise, just not overdoing it. 
Forest Darje, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/3/21 Recent Posts
Dear Linda, thank you for the feedback. I actually do quite a bit of internal Tai Chi work whhich involves standing meditation, body-opening (a bit like moving yoga) and of course, the form. Since I have done a couple retreats where the teachers insisted that no exercise be done duirng the retreat, my concern is that any moving exercise (beyond repetitive walking, for example) as supplement WHILE ON RETREAT might interfere with meditative progress. As the teachers explained during these other retreats (which were a sort of kasina and vipassana), the physical movement stirs up mental activity that detracts from achieving the seated meditative goal of calming the mind so that the practice can be better realized. Thus, I have definitely ruled out any intense or energetic exercise as a supplement during the retreat, but am hoping that gentle Tai Chi done repetively and while noting would be helpful or detrimental during the retreat.
thumbnail
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 5924 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Interesting. It seems to me, from my own biases, that those teachers make some assumptions there: that there's a one size fits all with regard to balancing energy and tranquility, and that stirring up stuff is bad. I think that when attending someone else's retreat, the respectful thing is to follow their rules to the best of one's abilities (without causing harm to oneself or others) as they have their reasons for putting together a specific package, and hopefully that package is internally consistent. When it comes to my own practice outside of official retreats, however, even if I practice intensely as if on a retreat, my yoga practice really helps me to find the right balance. It gives me enough energy to avoid dullness, which is important to me because before the practices, I suffered from rather severe chronic fatigue. Maybe that history makes me an exception to a rule, I don't know. Also, it makes me much less prone to rumination and other kinds of internal storytelling that disturbs the practice (this could be connected to my neurodivergent wiring). It stirs up the mud, sure, but for me it gets stirred up as very impermanent flow that selfliberates. I kind of thought that was the point of the practice.  It has helped both with vipassana and with shamatha, and with more Tibetan and Tibetan-ish practices as well. So outside of retreats, I would personally suggest that you explore what is true to you rather than obeying some general rules. But you probably already do that. 
thumbnail
Pepe ·, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 441 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
> my concern is that any moving exercise WHILE ON RETREAT might interfere with meditative progress. As the teachers explained during these other retreats ... the physical movement stirs up mental activity that detracts from achieving the seated meditative goal of calming the mind ... 

It's true that if you do any kind of internal TJQ/BGZ/XYQ practice, the mind later revisit the practice with image or sensorial memories. But that eventually calms down. The real problem is that once you have calmed down the system, the energy wakes up (because of your previous long time connection with TJQ/BGZ/XYQ, that unconscious mental intention) and that disrupts your meditation practice. e.g. if you are in EQ and trying to land in SE, it can be really frustrating to get A&P like energy circulation, and so push you back to a A&P/DN cycle. Plus, all the energy cultivation strenghthens the Ego, while in sitted insight meditation you are trying to spot the cracks of your mind
​​​​​​​
thumbnail
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 5924 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
In my experience, energy doesn't have to go into A&P and the dukkha nanas, and it doesn't need to flood habitual patterns, but can be used for the practice. With excess energy, I intend for it go where it is needed, which may not be in my energy body at all. 
thumbnail
Pepe ·, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 441 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hey, but you are around 3td Path Linda! emoticon 
thumbnail
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 5924 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Hm... I may very well be on my way to third for the rest of my life. I find that the practice is in some ways more difficult now than early on, maybe because I no longer feel that I have nothing to lose. Nah, I'll get there. 

I'll admit that intending for excess energy to go where it is needed is a recent development. As for using the energy for the practice, I think I was better at it when I was close to stream entry. That's what I had in mind. The energy made things happen on their own. It was impossible not to use it for the practice, because it made practice happen regardless of what I had planned to do. Maybe that's not the healthiest way, though. In one of the recent threads, someone is asking for advice on what to do with stagnated energy after lots of flow. I had similar issues before stream entry. There were massive amounts of energy swirling around, very finegrained but not as smooth as nowadays, and on a regular basis it would seemingly stagnate, and that hurt. Not pleasant at all. At that time I sort of had to keep it flowing, because the alternative was too painful. I had had a spontaneous Kundalini arising a decade before, with decapacitating symptoms, so maybe that's what the rules are about: avoiding the harm that for me had already been done. That does make sense. Kundalini is a great teacher if one survives it, but it's tough love. 

Actually, I think I'd better add a warning to what I said above about intending for the energy to go where it's needed. I did NOT mean somehow pushing it in any specific direction. That can be harmful. It knows better than I do where to go. Personally I have a way of gently inclining it to spread outwardly, reminding it that there are no boundaries there to stop it, and it seems to just make itself subtler and do so. However, as a general rule, my teacher Michael Taft strongly advices people not to do so, because that can have unpleasant side effects. He himself gets severe eczema from it. I guess I just got lucky, because he is a much more advanced practicioner than I am. So don't do that, unless it just comes naturally. 

So yeah, just following the retreat advice is probably a much safer way to go. 
thumbnail
Angel Roberto Puente, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 281 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
Hi Richard,
     I've been eavesdropping on this conversation and waiting to hear ideas of how Tai-Chi and sitting meditation intersect in terms of their principles. I don't know how advanced you are in the practice of Tai-Chi so I hope you're not offended by these simple pointers, they still may help other people. You can practice Tai Chi Chuan while you are walking, standing, sitting, and lying.The method is to use your mind to circulate the “chi” and find the feeling. For example: to feel the difference between holding a teacup with strength, and without strength; to feel the difference of walking with heavy steps, and with light steps.”(Grand Master Tung Ying-chieh (Tung (Dong) Ying Kit) November 8, 1898-1961)      
     The first principle of Tai-Chi is awareness, just like sitting meditation. The difference is that while sitting tends to numb limbs and a restriction of inputs, there are many inputs in movement and an active relaxation necessary for agility. Not letting awareness freeze on any object is the goal. Instead of noting you will be noticing and moving on which is maybe a little more difficult. But there is no conflict.     
​​​​​​​     You can get all the benefits of Tai- Chi by doing some simple movements. People will not even notice you are practicing Tai-Chi. Just stand with feet shoulder-width apart, bend the knees without extending over the toes. First, establish posture then relaxation, concentrate on the line around the waist that intersects with the tan-tien, the center of gravity normally located about two inches below the belly button, this will allow the sacrum to tilt forward as if you were sitting on the edge of a cushion. Relax the abdomen and let the breathing sink and move this area. Contact the feeling of both feet on the ground. Make an effort to raise any of the feet without moving the body, notice the feeling. Now move the tan-tien slowly toward any of the feet and contact the “click” when the other foot becomes weightless. Start the movement in the other direction. You can do this with an oscillating movement like in the “wave hands in cloud” movement in the Yang style. After a couple of minutes of this, you will feel the blood circulation moving from side to side. Done without effort it will release and calm the body. I would appreciate hearing about your experience.
thumbnail
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 5924 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Interesting! I would love to read about his experience with that too. 
Forest Darje, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/3/21 Recent Posts
Thanks for all of the feedback. It is marvelous to have such prompt and experienced insights from practitioners located around the world! In short, I am indecisive. The retreat is a personal retreat, without a teacher, so I get to decide. I simply do not want to generate mental activity through Tai Chi that I worked hard to settle while seated.

I think Angel's suggestion is a good one as it minimizes the effort and movement but at least gets me on my feet. I will probably do some standard walking as well. I start in just a few days and will report back my findings. Thank you again!
Forest Darje, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Alternating Tai Chi (instead of walking) with Seated Meditation

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/3/21 Recent Posts
I am back from my retreat, but am disappointed becuase circumstances did not allow enough time to concentrate on Tai Chi or walking in between seated sessions. I did, however, get to do quite a bit of seated work, and came back from the trip with a sort of headache, dizziness, brain fog, lightheadedness, disorientation, pressure in the head. Obviously, I am not able to descirbe it well, but will do my best: On the 3rd day in the afternoon session, I was very hot and sleepy, but pushed my way through the head drop and semi-comatose state (LOL). Emerging from this sleepy state, however, came a lot of energy to the head (just above stem on both sides) and at first felt like dizziness or brain fog (just as I experienced when I had Covid 7 months prior). Because I had no other symptoms, I ruled out Covid but I wonder if this is a residual effect of Covid resulting from the intense pressure put on the brain from the intense concentration.

This occured on the third day at about hour 20 of seated meditation doing Mahasi's Noting. My retreat lasted another 3 days and ended 5 days ago, which means this is day 8 of this brain fog. I feel mentally tired, with heavy eyes and although perception seems unaffected, cognifitve function is not at full function. The best I can compare it to is the hazy collateral effect from ingesting a certain kind of brownie! I am new at mapping and at intense retreats (having only done a couple hardcore retreats previously), so I know not where I am on the insight maps. Any feedback or suggestions on what to do or not do, would be greatly appreicated as this heavy-headedness is a pain in the side!

Breadcrumb