Interview with Alec Jones: Taiji teacher and Reiki MasterIn 2000 my wife, Kate, interviewed me for Reiki Magazine Internaltional about my practice as a Taiji teacher and Reiki Master. In early 2013 she reprinted it as part of a celebration of my 60th Birthday in her Reiki Newsletter and on her blog.
K: What drew you to learn Taiji?
A: I’d always wanted to learn a martial art and meditation. One day in 1973, I was watching a TV programme about the Hong Kong kung fu movie industry. There were shots of actors leaping across buildings. It went straight from this to a little old man in a park, standing still. Then he started moving very, very slowly. What I didn’t realise was that he was actually moving at that speed; I thought they’d slowed the film down. At the back of the park was a road hidden by trees and a lorry went by. It just went belting across the screen and I realised that this man was actually moving that slowly! It struck me as unusual and extremely graceful; how on earth could he keep his balance, moving that slowly? So I started looking for a taiji teacher: it took me seven years to find one.
A: After studying and teaching taiji for some years, several people had told me that they felt a particular quality of touch in my hands. They suggested I should do something with it in some kind of healing capacity. Then I found a leaflet about Reiki. I thought that if I learned Reiki, when I touched people to adjust their posture in the taij class, I could zap their tension. Then they would relax into the posture and understand the movements better. Part of my mind thought that this was what I was looking for: it didn’t take long to learn and it wasn’t expensive. But the other part of my mind thought it was some kind of get-rich-quick scheme – how could you possibly learn a healing technique in 3 days? I rang the number that was on the back of the leaflet and they started telling me about the course. They told me how much it was and I had enough money; when it was and I had the weekend free. Then they started telling me where it was and it turned out to be held in my taiji teacher’s house! So that clinched the decision.
Several of my taiji students have learned Reiki. There are certain exercises in the taiji and qigong classes that give you an opportunity to feel your energy moving through your hands. Most people who have done Reiki can feel it sooner and stronger than those who haven’t. It enhances that connection because it’s all Qi or Ki.
K: Do you feel that being a Reiki master affects your Taiji?
A: There’s a parallel path of my personal growth in my practice of taiji and in Reiki. Becoming a Reiki master was part of that growth. So I couldn’t say exactly what Reiki or taiji has done, but they have both greatly affected my path of personal growth. I met someone in 2000 who I hadn’t seen for over 10 years. She said that I’d changed completely in that time: I was a more confident, more open person. She could really see the growth.
I sat down once and wrote a list, taiji one side, Reiki the other. For each of the taiji principles, in terms of using them in daily life, I could put something in the Reiki column as well. It’s the same with Reiki: anything I could put down about what Reiki is or does there was something in the taiji column to match. When I’m giving Reiki to someone it puts me in touch with that sense of there being no boundary between where I end and the other person begins. The energy crosses that boundary and blurs it. I also experience that in my solo taiji practice: I feel a part of my environment; I don’t stop at my skin. Both disciplines give me a sense of my place in the universe, my connection to the scheme of things.
A: When you’re giving a Reiki treatment, whether you’re standing or sitting, you have to find ways of aligning your body to be comfortable and relaxed, so you don’t lean on the other person. One of the main things in taiji is posture and the alignment of the body. You work with balance, so that you’re not fighting against gravity. Also, there are taiji exercises that work on the quality of touch. There is one called ‘sticking,’ where you rest your palm on the back of someone else’s hand. They move their hand around and you keep the same quality of touch as though your hand is stuck to theirs. Having done that for several years before learning Reiki, I found that when I came to put my hands on someone I knew how to touch them: the quality of touch was already established.
A: There are different styles and schools of taiji, but whichever form you learn you do the same form all the time. That’s the discipline of it: you don’t need to change it. If it’s difficult in places it’s meant to be. Once you relax into the idea that it’s like that for a reason, that simple understanding changes it and makes it easier. Mental resistance creates physical resistance and constriction, so relaxing mentally relaxes you physically. Then the movements become easier.
There is a freedom in discipline. The structure of the form is what gives you the freedom to express the quality of your own energy. You don’t have to change the form to be creative. It’s the boundary of a movement that defines it. If you go beyond that boundary it becomes something else, a different movement. That’s true of the whole form: it’s the boundaries that give shape to the art. Without the boundaries, there is no shape and without the shape it’s just somebody moving about, not following the taiji principles any more. For example there is the principle of empty step: if you take a step that’s too big it’s no longer an empty step: you fall. The boundary of an empty step is very important to discover and to work on the edge of. A boundary is a dividing line; if you cross that line then what you are doing becomes something else, something formless. The difference between form and formless is that form can be reproduced and therefore passed on to others. For example if someone offered you some water to drink and you said yes please and they pour some water at you, it’s not very helpful. You need a container to make use of the water. The container is the form.
I see an exact duplication between Taiji and Reiki in that. I see that as true of any spiritual discipline – you have to have a container and the container is the form. The form includes the personal practice and the method of teaching.
(for Taiji read 'Taijiquan & Qigong')