The classical Chinese concepts for intentional movement in Tai Chi are:
Yi -> Chi -> Li
Yi is the mind or intention. Chi is energy and is what we feel as our body when our eyes are closed. Li is the physical body or strength. The Yi leads the Chi and the Chi leads the Li. This means all change starts with intention moves through energy and manifests into physical reality. With full awareness we ensure that all aspects of the process are conscious.
This ancient concept reveals the essence of the Tai Chi method and requires patience and practice to realise. Before the Yi can successfully lead the Chi, the mind must be comfortable exploring the experience of Chi. This comes through developing a more sensitive awareness of the body – an internal listening. The Yi gets to know the Chi, practicing communication with it and learning its nature.
One way to develop this Yi -> Chi communication is to practice moving your awareness around the body. Start by sitting still and calming down. Steady your mind and let your awareness of the body grow. Focus your awareness on the feeling of one part of your body such as your fingertip and then travel with your awareness up through your finger. Practice this with different parts of your body and notice that as you move your awareness your Chi follows.
In Tai Chi movement the practice of intention also requires that the mind has a clear idea of what form the body is moving into. This idea can be a visualisation, picture or some other conceptual understanding of the position. The knowledge of where you are going is intention. It is similar to the process of life itself. The undifferentiated stem cells of the unformed embryo ‘know’ what the completed body will look like and so each cell changes into its special function such as bone, organ, fluid etc.
The process of intention in Tai Chi is similar to the process of life itself in another way. There is a subtle sense of a higher consciousness working – an inherently intelligent, yet non-existent, universal consciousness. In movement the more we let go and trust the deepest aspect of ourselves the more we become ‘sorcerers’ tapping into the ultimate source. Tao.
In the practice of Yi ->Chi ->Li on a micro level between mind and body we become clearer on how this works at a macro level throughout our life. We practice creating what we want in life with intention and allowing the universe to deliver it to us. Thoughts manifest in reality.