Graeme Waterfield is a jovial Tai Chi and Meditation instructor. His smile and his peaceful energy are infectious and inspiring. He is a living breathing artifact of what “doing the work” does to someone when they show up for their practice, committed to aligning themselves so they can greet the world from a place of calm, loving presence. He is also very human, before you imagine him floating in the air…full of bliss. As he reminds the audience during our podcast interview, even he gets stuck scrolling through the vast Netflix media library with nothing to watch.
A brief overview of Tai Chi, Loretta Wollering of International Gardens:
“Tai chi is a deep, meditative, internal Chinese practice. At its original core, it is a martial art, but is nowadays commonly practiced and taught in a manner that strengthens and promotes the mind/body health of dedicated practitioners. Though a myriad of people – several millions – practice it daily around the globe, most don’t even know what the term “tai chi chuan” means. And those that believe they know the translation will offer up the popular canned response, “Grand Ultimate Fist.” Ask those same folks what that exactly means and you’ll probably be met with a blank stare and a stammered explanation.
Let’s first consider what the “tai chi” part of “tai chi chuan” means. To understand that, you first have to understand that “tai chi” is a term from Taoist philosophy. Taoism is the ancient spiritual, nature-based philosophy native to China. The Taoists sought to understand reality and how we are a part of it and exist under its natural laws. The Taoists explained that before the universe came into existence, everything (nothing?) was in a state of “wu chi.” Once you understand the concept of “wu chi” you will instantly have a deeper understanding of what “tai chi” means. “Wu chi” means “no polarity.” In essence, it is the nameless, incomprehensible state of void or nothingness. If there is nothing, then no differentiation can exist. It’s somewhat the non-existence of nothingness… space… void… When there was a “change” in the state of wu chi, then there was a differentiation – the original wu chi part, and, the changing part. That state of differentiation is a phase called “tai chi.” It literally means “great polarity.” The opposite poles on of this polarity are referred to as yin and yang. Just like plus and minus, each opposite exists because of the existence of the other. The Taoists say that the yin and yang (born from the state of tai chi) give rise to all things and processes in the universe.” (www.internalgardens.com)
Graeme explains “Tai Chi represents the fusion of yin and yang, meaning fullness and emptiness.” Graeme’s approach to Tai Chi is anchored in Zen related to the classical expression of the Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu. He goes onto to say. “which becomes a moving meditation and you start with no answers at all and you are steeped in the mystery of the practice. Over a period of time, your practice deepens and you begin to understand what it is, not from a intellectual standpoint but from a lived experience.”
I asked Graeme specifically, “What has this exploration into this modality meant for your life and how has it changed you as a person?”
Graeme responds with “It is the slow disintegration of illusion, the slow falling away of who I believe that I am, what I believe of the world, people, the universe to be…it’s a simply falling away. And what has come from that is an incredible sense of joy and simplicity. A kind of growing sense of desirelessness, flow–in which I am enjoying being carried by life as opposed to trying to direct it and demand it go this way and that way. Off that back that, is a constant companion of ease and happiness.”
In the case of Graeme, it’s not what he picked up in his practice and education of Tai Chi–it’s what he lost and let go of.
Letting go becomes a vital practice inside of our spirituality. Our spiritual practices allow us the luxury of letting go, peeling off what no longer belongs to us, and releasing any delusions we have long held onto. Our spiritual practices are an alchemic refinement and uncovering of who we truly are as human beings. We find our clear reflection in our practices and the clarity to see the world as it is.