“Mindful awareness is the supreme tool in training, and is the essential energy of taiji. This energy is classically known in taiji circles as ting jing or listening energy. So what is it that we listen to? Through mindfulness we direct our awareness to the knowing or listening to form, feelings, mind and phenomena. First is form or the material body. Starting with our own body in our taiji forms practice and moving on to the bodies of others in our taiji push hands practice. One directs their awareness to the knowing of the aspects of the body. Structural alignment (alignment of the 9 pearls) weight distribution, relaxation, the stretching and unstretching of the tendons and the presence and placement of the physical centre of gravity. This knowing of ones body when nurtured can be projected to knowing the bodies of others in push hands and martial practice. The mind controls and directs the physical body so there is a mind body connection. Most so called internal arts stop at this level of refined awareness of the body led by mental intent.
Second is mindfulness of feelings, it is at this stage that we work with the chi or fine material energy. The chi is most easily perceived through feelings and this path of practice helps one to bypass the common pitfall of relying on imagination and visualization of the internal energy as this can quickly become a fabricated fantasy rather than a direct knowing of reality in the present.
The student trains in mindfulness of the feeling of the chi as it moves up and down the body or is projected from the body through intent. It is from this relationship between mindful awareness, feelings and body that the saying “mind leads chi, chi leads body” finds its meaning. Moving waves of relaxation through the body with the intent moves the chi through the body, the relaxation acts as a pump to move the chi and makes the body more sensitive to the feeling of the chi, the deeper ones ability to relax the higher the potential for the movement and cultivation of the internal energy. Once again this process starts within oneself and progresses to encompass ones training partner as well.
Third is the training of mindfulness of mind, once again both of oneself and of our training partners. Mindfulness of the mind starts from the courser aspects of mind and moves to the refined. The thought formations in the mind are observed and trained to act in a skilful way, perceptions are observed and purified. This help the martial artist in many ways as our perceptions govern our subconscious reactions. Unskilful mental states such as aggression and fear can be known directly in the mind and let go of and replaces with clear awareness. In this stage of training we a working heavily with the mental intent and how it leads the internal energies and the body. Finally we have mindfulness of phenomena. This stage refers in general to the awareness of the workings of cause and effect in relation to the training of the first three foundations of mindfulness and specifically to the realization of emptiness through direct experience. One trains in mindfulness of body, feeling (chi) and mind. Through direct experience we begin to realize that body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and sense consciousness are all inherently empty and thus release attachment to them. This is the goal of the training, in this emptiness the duality of yin and yang, yield and issue, self and opponent, taiji and non taiji cease to remain. Everything becomes an aspect of your own mind which in itself is empty. This is the realization we aspire towards.”