Mind and Brain
For purposes of discussion, we will for now separate our mental function into two parts: the software or “mind,” and the hardware or “brain.”
Rather than being totally discrete from each other, they overlap and are closely connected, but we can speak of the mind as that aspect of ourselves which gives orders to the underlying brain, while the brain is that aspect which carries out the actions the mind requests, by controlling the movements of the body.
The mind is essential for living in this world. The mind tells us to eat when we are hungry but before we do so, to finish a meeting that we are in the middle of. The mind tells us to pay bills, and when to pay them; to send invoices to customers; and to prepare and file taxes, again on a certain schedule. The mind lets us choose and reserve hotels and transportation if we are preparing for travel. And so on.
The mind / brain connection also provides emotions to motivate and energize us in carrying out various activities.
Where the mind does NOT function well, and gets in the way, is when there are unseen messages playing over and over in an endless loop. These often intense and usually hidden messages may say, “I am no good so stay away”, or “I am great so give me respect”, or “No one will like me”, or “This pain will never change.” In body language, the message might be summarized as “Protect yourself, because you are weak” leading to muscle tension and various aches and pains.
All of these messages cause distress in the mind and body, even if we are not aware of the specific messages. Examples of the resulting sensations are anxiety or depression in the mind, and pain or excessive fatigue in the body.
Tai Chi Chuan helps the mind perceive, interrupt, and release these extra, unneeded and counter-productive mental processes so that the mind / brain connection works quickly and seamlessly, with more enjoyment and energy, and less stress and discomfort.
The process by which Tai Chi Chuan works to release unneeded mental activity is the introspective awareness that we practice, which is the reason that the Short Form is practiced slowly. The flowing movements and pulsing energy of the Short Form encourages introspection, like a moving meditation. As we gaze inside and observe ourselves, we start to heal internal divisions.
Turning the light of awareness onto the mists of our inner world helps evaporate the illusory thoughts that lead to tension and stress.
When the mind and brain work smoothly together, we can catch a falling object without even knowing how we do it. We can get through each day without painful tension and stress. And we can be more genuine with other people, and enjoy our connections with others more fully.
In a few words: turning awareness inwards to experience our own deeper processes helps the mind simplify its activity, and frees the brain and mind to collaborate and function more smoothly and energetically as one, in all aspects of life.