by Richard Farmer
Along with the rest of the country I was celebrating at the beginning of June. However I was celebrating my 50th birthday! I must confess, when I was in my early 20’s I had a foreboding that I would not make 50, so to be celebrating on the day gave me a sense of an important personal milestone, a feeling of having earned my place on this earth.
This year also marks the 25th year of exploring the meaning of Tai Chi Chuan; a quarter of a century of Tai Chi! Can you imagine how many single whips that is?
It also marks 22 years of teaching Tai Chi Chuan and 22 years of exploring how to build a structure that supports teaching the principles of Tai Chi. Can you get a sense of how many classes? How many day seminars? How many weekends? How many Summer Gatherings?
I feel a master of what I do.
Having said that I know that I know nothing and that I am just beginning. That whatever I can think about what Tai Chi is, it is more. By simply beginning and then continuing, I would not have believed in my wildest dreams where the path of Tai Chi has led me.
I was lucky in that my first teacher showed me in no uncertain terms that to be good at Tai Chi did not mean you were a good human being. Yet somewhere in me I knew that the path of Tai Chi could be used to strip away what had got in the way to reveal the simple unobstructed, magnificent truth of a human being.
My own personal path has always been a spiritual quest to know why I am here and to explore how to allow that more. I stumbled upon Tai Chi by accident and only continued because it worked. It worked because I gave it 100%.
It has continued to work over the past 25 years because I have continued to explore and ask questions and apply the answers, again and again and deeper and deeper. Early on, when I went to see Doctor Chi, (this was after about 8 years of practice) it became obvious that I would have to let go of everything I knew in order to receive what he was going to teach me. Did I want to be comfortable or did I want the real thing? I now know that when faced with this question I will always step forward, sooner or later, to move deeper.
It is this continual exploring and applying that has brought me to an ever more simple and truthful place in myself.
The process of exploring the truth of Tai Chi principles, i.e. what really makes Tai Chi work? has revealed a path that uses Tai Chi Chuan as a valid path of personal growth.
It has revealed
how to bind the body back into one unit - to return to the original body.
how to let the mind rest in the moment rather than be continually collapsed into the past or the present.
the path that uses the Form to play and celebrate rather than a path of postures and discipline.
the Yin and Yang of full and empty that allows the complex to become simple.
how to be aware of silent awareness and be released from the tyranny of the thinking mind.
I am that I am.
The solo form has helped me come back to myself and in the process develop excellent health and vitality. The duo forms have helped me stand up in front of life and move with what is required of me, be it stillness or movement.
Over the 25 years I have witnessed many miracles.
Broken backs healed.
When it became clear that the path of creating and developing a School called Rising Dragon Tai Chi was inevitable, I used the principles of Tai Chi to show me the way. Now that School has come of age and its fate rests in its own hands. Your hands.
So what are the differences between you and me? There are none. We both walk the same path, all you have to do is apply what you know from your practice into your life.
I feel myself in a very simple place at the moment. I rest in the centre of my life and take what comes one unknowing moment by one unknowing moment. I let what is coming touch me and because I have fewer and fewer preconceptions about what it should be, I can see what it is, I can know it, and that's how I know what to do next.
It sounds simple and this simplicity comes from making many mistakes. Making mistakes is part ofthe path of learning and of course I will make mistakes in the future. The difference between now and when I began is that I return to centre faster.
25 years ago I began this journey by attending an introductory class. By following one step at a time, by putting all my energy and trust in the Tao and letting life take care of the rest, by wanting to help myself and others be happy, I find myself here.
And where is that?
I find myself at the beginning of my life but with a sense of maturity, of innocent wisdom and a feeling of letting the winds or storms of the future come to me like a breeze caressing my cheek. I feel I am ready for what the Tao has in store for me.
I want to thank you for journeying with me even if you did not know you were. I hope that you continue to share with me this extraordinary adventure that is Tai Chi Chuan. I want to encourage you to not hold back, life is too short. There is much to unlearn and much to savour. The Tao has far more exciting things lined up for us than our mind’s version of the future, which is usually constricted by fear and doubt. You have come for a purpose, you have met this School’s teaching and not another's, for a purpose. Trust it, engage in it whole heartedly and you will be rewarded a thousand fold.
I know this to be true.
Out of a sense of standing up at this milestone in my life I would like to draw your attention to some some future invitations for you and perhaps your friends. Within the structure of the School one important place that I share the fruit of my explorations is on the Summer Gathering. It is important because it is long enough to allow the knowing of what is offered to be absorbed at a deeper level. This year I have called the meeting “Beginners Mind”, in honour of the path I have trodden and where I find myself on it. I want to celebrate this quarter of a century of Tai Chi by sharing it with you in the place that the Tao gave us to support the work of living Tai Chi - Poulstone Court. Those of you who have come on courses, however short, know the magic that can happen when all these elements of Rising Dragon Tai Chi come together. It will be nourishing, informative, inspiring and a course that will confirm you on your path for some time to come. Take a moment to read the flyer enclosed and then come!
Whatever course I offer, I share the living of Tai Chi with all who come to study with me but I have developed another structure called the Deepening whose sole purpose is to put you back into the picture of your practice and life and free you from the burden of discipline and Form. In January 2003 I shall be starting the 6th Deepening, the application for which will be out in September. For 10 years the students of the School have engaged in this rich journey, it has been extremely rewarding for all of us and a great adventure. All that is required is that you have finished the Short Form and know the sequence, the rest you already have.
Finally, I have recently developed a way of sharing these Tai Chi experiences with people who do not have Tai Chi as a practice. I offered a course called the “In the Eye of the Hurricane” in May which was a great success. The next stage of the unfolding truth of living Rising Dragon Tai Chi is to offer a mini “Deepening” for non Rising Dragon members and this I am doing, starting in January 2003. I am calling it “Living Transformation”. Anyone can come and its aim is to help people live directly the benefits of the Tai Chi principles without having to go through the long apprenticeship of learning a Form. What I have found though is that once people have found that living flame, a lot of them want to practise and nourish that flame by learning Tai Chi, and so the circle is complete. If you know of someone who might be interested, let me know their address and I will send them the details. Thank you.