It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you do the same form every day. As a result, it’s critical from time to time to focus on preliminaries. The Qi Gong forms which I do first — Five Golden Coins and Eight Pieces of Silk — are there to get me into the mindset necessary to do the form later on in the right state of mind.
When you write, do you open a new word processing document, or do you sharpen your pencils, or pick a good pen? Do you establish yourself at a desk at home, or surrounded by friends and acquaintances in a coffee house? When you sit to meditate, do you light incense and fluff your zafu pillow? So it is with qi gong before tai chi.
Today during the two preliminary forms, I noticed that my left foot was drifting out of alignment. Is this a symptom of the hip problems I was having before Christmas? Or is it the core cause of the hip problems I was having? The correct solution in both cases is to pay more attention — to where the foot is on the floor, and its relationship to the other foot, and to the hips; and to attend to the fact that it shouldn’t drift out of alignment. Small things like these help maintain health and well-being: if you can devise a short ten-minute to half-hour “preliminary round” where you carry out highly detailed analyses of your actions and activities, you will work with a much greater degree of clarity during your ‘normal activities’.
Do you want to be in a heightened state of awareness during tai chi? Then pay attention to the preliminaries. Don’t rush through your qi gong forms and routines. Do them carefully and deliberately, and then it is easier to continue in the same mindset moving into the tai chi routine.