Receive The Gift

617. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Push hands is a core practice in Tai-Chi. It is a done facing a partner, forearm-to-forearm, feet rooted to the floor, moving to sense the center of balance of the other person. If it were a game, the objective of push hands would be to knock the other person off balance.

I am a novice and am learning that the skill is to not assert force, which seems counterintuitive. In my western mind, if I am to knock my partner off balance, I need to push; I need to assert. It’s called push hands, after all! But that is not the case. As Saul-the Chi-Lantern says, push hands is a “listening energy.” Pushing with force knocks you off balance, not your partner. Listen. Feel. Stay rooted in your center. The skill is to feel my partner’s center and the moment they move off their center, I help them, no force necessary. I use my partner’s energy, helping them move further off center, moving them in the direction they are already going – off balance.

There are life metaphors a-go-go in push hands. Today there were two in particular: first, it is too easy for me, the novice, to focus on the moving hands and forget about the still center. The power is not in the moving hands, the power is maintained in the still center. A powerful person is not distracted by the moving pieces – we live in fast-river world with no end of rapidly moving pieces – it is easy to lose center with so much pulling at our attention. A variation on lesson one: a powerful person does not push with their arms (that is to assert force, thus throwing myself off center); a powerful person pays attention to and operates from their center. They sense. They feel. They listen. They move from their center, not from their extremities. The mind wants to assert, to force, to achieve; the mind is all about moving from the extremities. Power is in process. To force is an attempt to control; the moment I attempt to control, my partner supports my attempt and launches me across the room.

The second lesson was even more potent for me: power doesn’t feel powerful. It feels like helping. Push hands is a great exercise in creating power-with; there is no defeat, no winner and loser, there is a greater and greater capacity to listen, to embody a potent center, to support your partner in occupying their center. As Saul-the-Chi-Lantern often says, “Learn to receive the gift.” Translation: occupy your center; stop trying to make things happen; surrender your need to resist: Listen. Participate. Use what is right in front of you and amplify the energy. Help your partner stay in their center is the best way for you to learn to inhabit your own.

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