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There is a wide variety of ways that one can organize one's daily personal practice of the many movements and exercises found in the ChiFusion curriculum.
Perhaps the most common way is to pick a certain number of exercises and divide your total daily practice time between them, thereby devoting a few minutes to each one. This certainly makes sense multiple exercises will help to develop several different attributes, and it keeps the mind engaged as one changes over to a new movement.
Alternately, one can choose just one movement and focus all of one's attention and energy on that. This is the path I chose to follow for the past four weeks.
Specifically I chose the movement Cloud Hands as found in ChiFusion Level 3 to work on exclusively. It is one of my favorite exercises, because it is a somewhat complex movement involving the entire body and I wanted to achieve the maximum benefits from its practice.
As a goal to focus my efforts I determined to gradually lengthen the time that I performed Cloud Hands until I could keep the movement going continuously for 30 minutes. My desire was to find out what experiences might arise from this extended practice of just one exercise. What would happen if instead of sipping from several cups, I dug deeper into this single well?
I began by performing Cloud Hands for five minutes on one side then changing sides and going for another 5 minutes. I would try to continue my practice at least every other day, each time adding a minute on each side.
As I moved through the exercise I actively engaged my mind on the many ChiFusion details of the movement.
I would start by mentally checking the structure of my bow stance, thinking in turn about such details as foot placement, alignment of the sacrum, keeping the spine straight and the shoulders relaxed. I made sure that my arm movements were correct and properly linked to shifting movement of my legs and torso.
Then I would concentrate on my breathing. I tried to keep my breath controlled and in a rhythm with my movements. I would visualize the breath coming in and sinking all the way down to the dan tien while at the same time keeping my movement steady and smooth.
Only after I felt that the details of my structure, movement, and breathing were being correctly performed would I then turn my attention to the energetic flows as described in the ChiFusion Level 3 program.
Level 3 of the ChiFusion Complete Course covers four primary energy flows for Tai Chi's Cloud Hands movement. Energy flows #1 and #2 focus on moving chi within the body. Energy flows #3 and #4 focus on exchanging chi outside the body using the protective chi covering known as wei chi.
Soon after I began turning my attention to the silk reeling energy of the first flow, I began to note something very interesting.
Up until this point in my practice, I would be very much aware of the muscular work that my legs were producing in the Cloud Hands movement. I would even start to feel some soreness in the legs as a sign that they were being depleted of energy. But was I focused on visualizing the silk reeling energy moving back and forth through my lower body this soreness went away. It was replaced by a feeling of riding a wave of energy that was carrying me along in the motion.
There was no longer effort involved, but rather a relaxation into this energy wave. This feeling extending into my upper body and arms as well as I moved on to focus on the second energetic flow.
At this point I would stop the movement for a few moments and perform the Chi Emission exercise. My purpose here was to get a solid sense of the flow of chi first in my hands and then to the rest of the wei chi field around my body. Because of the amount of qigong exercise I had completed up to this point, I would be able to detect a strong chi flow fairly quickly.
I would then turn my attention to the third and fourth energetic flows. I found I could both visualize and feel the flow of chi around my body. It was an invigorating feeling of gaining energy rather than expending it as I continued on in the exercise.
Finally the day arrived when I was to go a full 30 minutes. The plan was to go for 15 minutes on each side, with only a quick break to change my position to the other side. As I went along I progressed through all of the previous stages focusing on structure, then breathing, then each of the energy flows in order. As before, I paused the movement briefly before energetic flow #3 to sensitize myself to my wei chi field.
During the last two minutes of this session something amazing happened. I was able to feel all four energetic flows simultaneously. It felt as if I was moving with no conscious thought whatsoever.
The only other thing beside the energy flows that I as aware of was my breathing. It seemed as if my breath was the engine that was driving my body to perform the movement. I didn't feel tired or experience any muscle soreness at whatsoever. In fact it was quite the opposite. My entire body was tingling and pulsing with inner energy. I was feeling really good - vibrant and alive.
I know that what I am describing here probably seems a little unbelievable and over the top to those who have not experienced this for themselves, but that's really how it felt to me. In fact I didn't want to stop the exercise. I continued on well past the 30 minutes mark. It seemed as though time itself was suspended. Eventually I had to stop and get on with the rest of my day, but I was so energized that I could have continued for another hour.
Of course, there are good reasons to go through a variety of exercises in your daily Tai Chi/Qigong practice. But there is a lot that one can learn and many benefits to be gained from occasionally focusing on just one movement exclusively. I would recommend choosing a more complex movement such as those that are part of Levels 3 and 4 of the ChiFusion program. Determine a goal time and gradually work up to it. As you progress, be sure to take note of your own experiences.
Jeffry C. Larson has completed all four levels of our ChiFusion Complete Course, and is a Certified ChiFusion Level 1 Instructor.