In Shang Lee’s post on What Does it Mean to Relax in Taiji, Shang writes:
A limped hand is not relaxed. However, if you have the intention to “limp” it, that is relaxed. The qualitative difference is quite startling.
This notion of qualitative difference reminds me of a correction I received during a private lesson. In most of my private lessons, we would only get through about 2-3 postures over the course of an hour. The corrections were very detailed and required that I ‘hold’ the correction as the instructor further tweaked my posture. This often resulted in feeling the burn.
Soon, I started to notice a common correction that was being made to my hands. The instructor would often “brush” my hand open and tell me to put some intention on the middle finger. This slight change of intention had a HUGE qualitative difference. I felt as if the qi was extending out to my finger tips!
These corrections lead me to focus on the middle finger when I settle into a posture. I think Shang’s quote sums things up quite nicely:
Relaxing without being mindful about it is not relaxing, it’s being lazy.