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Taoist Arts of Serenity & Healing

Sagely Advice From the Wandering Taoist

Focus On Principle

By Chase Acuff

Let’s see if I can conjure up some sagelyness. Conjure, conjure; ah! Yes. Okay, let’s talk about focusing on principle. We’ll use the tool of taiji in this case to help us better follow this concept, however, any good tool would do.

When I do my Taiji in the morning, I’ve found rather than multitasking, I get more mileage out of picking just one of Taiji’s principles and taking it for a test drive in one of my forms. Usually, I practice the Yang Style 108-Long Form, some Chen Style, and Taiji Sword and Staff.

There are so many things one could concentrate on while doing form. I prioritize and pick out a few top priorities to focus on over a few months. Then I work on only one thing at a time, such as breathing. Dan Tian Breathing is the main principle I am focusing on right now. There are a number of aspects of breathing so I prioritize and pick out a few of greater importance. Some days I just breathe naturally, using my lower abdomen. Other days, when I feel especially clear and grounded I look at a few of the principles of breathing, listed below, at the same time. But I do advise to keep it simple, no matter what it is.

Now, how have I been playing with breathing the past few months? First I focus on starting the breath at the dan tian. I imagine softly vacuuming in breath and energy as I inhale, then exhale out from the dan tian. Too often we tend to start our breath in the middle of the chest and exhale from the chest, instead of the dan tian. Chest breathing limits the power of the qi and can also keep us off-balance because our qi will be too high.

Next I focus on breathing out stagnant qi. To me, this stagnant qi feels like a heavy, slow, ponderous, thick qi. I feel for it collectively in the body and try to keep remembering to breathe it out, helping to open the body’s energy channels. Healthy qi has an uplifting, light, flexible feeling while still having substantiality. I want to get rid of the stagnant qi so I can feel the healthy qi flow.

This is plenty to think about while doing your taiji. I actually outlined four principles within the one principle of dan tian breathing:

1) Start the breath at your lower abdomen, inhaling to the dan tian.

2) Exhale the breath from the dan tian.

3) Feel for stagnant qi.

4) Use your mind intention and breath to gently guide out any stagnant qi.

Here’s the rest of my list of "Things to Embody Regarding Breathing", the things I’ll be working on next:

    • Intentionally pause after each inhalation, and again after each exhalation.
    • Slow my form down and breathe one full inhalation and/or exhalation for each movement.
    • Look for full qi flow throughout my body, with each breath and each movement. Does just as much qi get drawn up through the legs as down through the head in "Parting Wild Horse’s Mane"? What about "Cloud Hands"?
    • Use reverse breathing in forms.
    • Increase qi flow more and more.

So, to sum up before I wander on my merry way, focus on one principle and keep it simple. The part of you who wishes to keep things simple is your true self. The part of you who wishes to complicate things is your ego. Greater happiness comes through following the true self…….

Good Qi,

Dao Dancer Chase Acuff – Alaska’s Wandering Taoist



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