Recently I attended a workshop instructed by a leader of the International Taoist Tai Chi Society. This was my first workshop, as I am fairly new to the practice of tai chi. One thing that impresses me about this volunteer-based society is their intention to improve health through tai chi, no matter the level of one’s physical capacity. Tai chi can be practiced by people with limited mobility, energy, strength, or flexibility.
As we were practicing particular moves, Tony instructed us to focus our intention on particular points of our body as we moved. Maybe the tips of our three middle fingers, or the palms of our hands. I found that focusing on the intention concentrated the flow of energy in my body, and yielded amazing results. He worked with one woman who had shoulder and balancing problems. As she practiced sitting into her hips, he helped her place her intention on the tips of the fingers of her outstretched hands as she sat lower. We could see her posture straighten, and she remarked that she could feel a shift in her understanding and practice of this one move. All through a shift in her intention. Tony said that with our intention placed correctly in our movements, we could stretch the fascia (connective tissue) throughout our body and increase its plasticity, allowing muscles to more easily glide over each other. As we continue our practice of tai chi with such specific intention, we increase our flexibility, improve circulation, nourish our internal organs, and strengthen our core. Ah, beginning with focusing my intention properly in each move, I can nourish my intention to improve my overall health.
I like Don Clark’s definition of intention: a person’s aspiration to his or her goals. He says because we normally have a strong will to actualize what we want to become, our intentions become the purposeful activities that our inner visions create. Sharon Salzberg once said, “Each decision we make, each action we take, is born out of an intention.” Inner vision -> intention -> action. The intention happens before the action. It influences the action, directing it along its way. As with the focus on intention practiced in tai chi, the focus on intention in our daily actions can help increase our ability to be who we want to be, where we want to be.