November 9, 2014
Tai Chi and Music
Almost five years ago I wrote a blog called
Invest in Silence,
about the importance of eschewing music and other entertainments during our tai chi practice. I recommend you
read it first
to lay the ground work for what I say next.
Stillness is the essence of what we seek in tai chi as well as meditation, though it is less obvious with tai chi, a
of movement. Since music is energetic and generates non-stillness, it is difficult acquire deep focus while
musical or video distractions are at hand. That said, it would not be tai chi if an absolute could so easily be spoken with truth.
Let's dig a little deeper.
From a Western science perspective, music is our brain's interpretation of certain types of air pattern modulations - vibrations.
Vibrations may be trasnmitted to other objects and across extended distances, although efficiency declines with
density of transmission material as well as distance. Because we seek to harness, purify and extend our natural energy, we do
not mind calling upon the power of musical energy to motivate us; it's a good thing as long as movement is called for. When
stillness is called for it is more difficult to justify.
Difficult though it may be, the justification is available by referring to tai chi chuan (taijiquan), the tai chi of martial arts.
Fighting takes place under a wide variety of trying circumstances, with the common element being the trying nature,
the stress level. Most of our tai chi is practiced in circumstances of low stress, which is one reason people enjoy class. Even
our challenges in the most difficult pushing hands matches are minimal compared to those of the least challenging fight situation.
This provides us with one reason to practice with distractions: so that that we can be used to performing under distracting and
difficult circumstances. The next reason is to cultivate the mental tranquility that allows you to mental dominate a situation that
is trying to dominate you. When your music is trying to dominate you, don't let it! Practice as if you only hear silence.
If you're going to practice as if in silence, why bother to play the music at all? Good question. Let me know what you discover.