Our relationship to gravity defines much about us: how we move; how we age; how we present ourselves to the world. Tai chi teaches us to live with gravity and not against it, to be at home in our bodies and on this planet. Gravity is the thing that holds us to the earth and lets us rise from it. Our very posture, and everything that grows in this world, grows upward, toward the sun. Within our relationship to gravity, we have what allows us to rise.
When we are balanced between above and below, gravity becomes not a weight but a freedom from weight.
As soon as we stand in our opening posture to begin the form, with our heels together, we remember our alignment. The golden thread hanging from the center of the heavens, infinitely strong, allows us to relax. We are aligned with Heaven and with Earth, with the great cosmos and our own home planet, and with gravity.
I like to feel that thread as if it were indeed a physical thing, trusting that I am held up from the center of the top of the head, literally feeling a subtle but real pull upward. And from there, my whole skeleton hangs. I feel my spine relax, the heaviness of my tailbone. My whole body feels the change, and all my joints soften.
As we trust our wuwei (our action of non-action) and give up ‘holding’ ourselves up, we can feel that hanging weight right down through the centers of the arches of our feet, and we are aware of the life in our feet. Our feet are aware, and they feel right down through our shoes and our socks and the floor and the ground, right down into the earth…and then deeper and deeper into the Earth.
When we are connected to and aligned with Heaven and with Earth, we are in our best relationship to gravity. There is far less for gravity to pull on. All is relaxed and hanging with gravity, and we’re naturally straight and upright.
Throughout the form, while shifting the weight to 70/30 or 100%, while stepping our empty steps, rising or sinking down, we never lose this connection, this posture.
Like most of us, I grew up reacting unconsciously to the gentle strokes and not-so-gentle blows of our universe, and I developed bodily compensations. Tight places, leans, bends, hunches and contractions, painful places and others I couldn’t feel at all. So, for me, tai chi is an ongoing process of remembering and paying attention, allowing myself to be in the balanced posture I have learned and reinforced in all these years of doing the form. Embodiment has come slowly but steadily.
We are in a dynamic balance, like the axis the earth turns on, within this force of gravity that causes things to fall toward the earth. One way to say it, of course, is that the upward yang energy is in interaction with the downward yin energy.
And in our lives, when we walk, sit, meditate, work on the computer, and even do the dishes, our posture in the world has changed subtly, been refined by the work of the Tai Chi form.