At Golden Flower Tai Chi we don’t have a strong focus on creating/grading levels of attainment for students as they progress in the school. I am still wearing the same battered leather belt my stepmother gave me 30 years ago and, though part of me wants a Blackbelt, I am aware that my level is different in each domain (physical, energetic, mental and spiritual).
We have one main certification process – becoming an Instructor. We put a lot of energy and focus into this process and it is very inspiring to watch students transform as they become Golden Flower Instructors. In my teaching I distinguish three stages of development up to instructor level – beginner, intermediate and advanced student. It is good too stay open-minded about a student’s progress because some like to focus on the internal meditative aspects whilst others refine their movement and posture or develop their fitness and flexibility. Ultimately on the road to mastery of course all aspects become highly refined.
If you choose to develop to instructor level then, afterwards, you can look forward to a long and (mostly) enjoyable process of growth and development and years of practice. On most days I notice something that has improved, From a combination of dedication, consistent application of natural intelligence and most importantly high level teaching from a Tai Chi Master you may begin to approach mastery.
I have focussed diligently for the past 10 years since I became an instructor and I know I have a long way to go…and interestingly, as each year passes, I become less attached to pre-defined outcomes like getting to a certain level within a certain time – Tai Chi is just not like that. I am, however, very committed to continuing to grow and develop and move in the direction of mastery. The path has its own energy that is very powerful and one aspect of this is a sense of purpose.
I recently had the pleasure of looking after Master San Gee Tam and Annukka at my home for a week whilst they were here to lead a 5 day Residential Instructor Training (as well as an all-day workshop for students.) Spending so much time with my teachers moved me along in so many different ways and not all of them are describable. What I am practicing now is creating a new feeling of contentment with where I am and less focussed on pushing myself forward. In this space I feel lighter and more energised and this is helping me to rebalance my perception of time. I have been deeply conditioned to feel short of time and I am progressing steadily in a process of transforming this relationship. This lighter space that I am generating translates into my relationships so my family and students are finding me easier to be with. My Tai Chi classes are fun as well as more being possible. It feels like contentment comes out of a greater trust for the process of life and what is coming – this is grounding and staying connected to physical reality …now – something which I am also contually working on in my form. The direction of mastery is in embodying the principles of Tai Chi simple yet profound things like, grounding, being centered, life balance and alignment.
In hanging out with San Gee I learned a new skill – the art of insulting people in a way that they have the opposite reaction – instead of feeling insulted they feel lighter and entertained – practicing this I found my sense of humour (never far away luckily). There is no end to the exploration of Yin and Yang on the timeless path to Mastery.