It’s been more than three years since I studied Yang-style taiji with Martin Mellish at Anderson Park, a wonderful City-of-Redmond park with very old, very tall evergreen trees and a couple of restored log cabins.
However, I’ve been with him again these past several weeks as I’ve reread his book, “A Tai Chi Imagery Workbook: Spirit, Intent, and Motion,” published shortly after he left the States to live in China.
Martin used to say that doing taiji involves far too many variables for you to rely on your conceptual mind to manage the process, because the logical, linear conceptual mind just isn’t very good at multi-tasking. It’s better to turn the process over to your non-verbal, intuitive faculties and let images be your body’s guide.
Martin used many images when he taught, but my favorite was mini-Martin:
Martin would say that instead of struggling to do the form perfectly, which he couldn’t possibly do, he would imagine that there was a mini-Martin at his dantian who WAS able to do the form perfectly, and he would rest his mind at his dantian and let this mini-Martin do the rest.
I loved that image—but I could never really get it or a lot of Martin’s other images to work for me, even though they seemed to work for other students.
At the time, I thought it was my inability to visualize that made it difficult for me to utilize Martin’s imagery suggestions.
Now I know that wasn’t it. As Martin points out in “A Tai Chi Imagery Workbook,” you can hold images in your awareness without “seeing” anything; what you can and indeed must do is feel them in your body. Continue reading