Magpie Mind And Tai Chi
“You are all suffering from ‘magpie mind’….”
Sifu looked around at the gathered class to see what effect his statement had.
And of course it worked…. “Magpie mind? Wassat when it’s at home then Sifu?” asked Amanda.
“It’s a mind that’s attracted to ‘shiny objects’” said Sifu.
“You mean that we’re not concentrating on the form and our mind is wandering too much” queried Jane?
“That can be a part of it,” replied Sifu, “but it’s more than that. Even when you are concentrating on the form, your mind is attracted to the ‘shiny objects’ that are the beginning and end of the technique. It’s bound to happen when you think about it, because it’s the way you have to learn the form when you first start. It’s a bit like learning to draw by numbers but never getting to join up the dots.”
“So even if we can focus our mind on the form, we’re only focusing on the ‘dots’ and not the bits in between?” asked Amanda.
“Exactly,” said Sifu
“How do we solve that? asked Jane.
“By developing ‘video mind’instead of ‘snapshot mind’. At the moment your mind is like a camera taking photographs at the beginning and the end of each technique, because that’s what it is attracted to. It needs to be more like video camera, on all of the time and following each complete technique, studying each centimetre of movement” answered Sifu. “Now try doing the form again maintaining the right kind of mind.
We had only got as far as lan chiao wei (grasp sparrows tail) when Sifu stopped us.
“You’re throwing your arms and legs instead of driving them.”
“Is this still to do with the mind” asked Amanda.
“Yes” answered Sifu. “Because your mind is ‘snapshotting’ it’s only recognising the beginning and the end of the movement. This means that you are only powering the technique at the beginning and then throwing it. The technique then gets weaker as it progresses and you are vulnerable all the way through the movement. It also means that it lacks the ‘bite’ required for penetration.
If the centre of your body is behind and driving the technique all the way through, it could contact the opponent at any time and still be powerful. At the moment of contact you can also release power for that extra bite and penetration still powered by the bodyweight. If you can also keep your frame and alignment throughout the movement, you can be attacked by anyone at any angle and still be able to respond.”
Jane responded: “The mind has to be the hardest part of the body to develop. It just seems to wander off or slip back into bad habits… Can you give us any help on how to be able to get this kind of depth and concentration?”
Sifu though for a moment before answering, “maintaining concentration is a continuous vibration of the mind, I find that if I ‘growl’ internally as I move it helps me to stick my mind, my emotions and therefore my concentration on the movement. It also helps me to develop the ‘hunters awareness’ that we are trying to maintain.”
Amanda laughed… “So you’re asking us to growl all the time that we’re doing the form?”
“No….. Jane asked for help in her concentration and that was the best bit of advice I could give her on how I manage to improve mine. You don’t have to take my advice….”
“But if you don’t you’ll be damned!” laughed Jane.
“Enough mirth and merriment,” interjected Sifu – “Let’s do the form!”
I decided to follow Sifu’s advice and growl, the first thing I noticed was that you only growl on the out breath, but then I discovered that I could still ‘vibrate’ like a growl on the in breath. I didn’t have to make any noise as it was completely internal. It immediately made my mind continuous, the term ‘growl’ was a good one because it made me use my lower abdomen and energised all my movements with a ‘Hunters’ type of mindset.
This was good because it made me feel in control. ‘Emergency’ or ‘survival’ type of mindset always seemed too desperate, panicky and non thinking for me.
I guess that we’re all only made up of vibrating molecules and therefore the way that we vibrate must have an effect. The ‘growl’ created a positive, continuous mind that helped me to ensure that I was continuously moving my centre and using it to power my movements. It also kept me aware so that I could concentrate on my framing and alignment and ensure that the yin yang transitions occurred seamlessly and completely – creating much more power.
I glanced over to Amanda and Jane and could see that they were both trying the growling because they looked far more focused and concentrated than usual.
When we stopped, the silence of ‘standing’ felt like it was more powerful and as if no one wanted it to end.
Eventually Sifu broke the silence. “You don’t have to say anything…. I felt it.”
All Jane could say was “wow…..”
“I didn’t think that it could possibly make that kind of difference,” said Amanda… “I’m so glad I tried it – I think I’ll be growling all the time in the future!”
“Make a difference from moaning” muttered Sifu with a bit of friendly humour…