Books, 2001 $16.95
Available through Plum Publications: yes
last, a book that gives a "gentler side" to T'ai Chi without
compromising the integrity of the exercise. Ms. Lehrhaupt
brings insight, humor and experience to this series of essays
all revolving around the art of T'ai Chi. She explains her
experiences from both standpoints: teacher and seeker. She
glides gracefully the one role where she brings tasks to her
class then places herself in the position of a student searching
for finer levels of understanding. Ms. Lehrhaupt has taught
the art since 1982. An ordained Zen priest, she is the co-founder
of La Martinie a center in France where Zen and other meditative
arts are studied.
of these essays, rendered by someone else, might have been
too sweet; but there is a strong yet gentle spirit here. The
author touches important subjects, the kind that twist every
T'ai Chi student's arms. Her general topics include inspirational
pieces on the secrets of practice. She keeps returning to
the core idea not of practicing T'ai Chi but of practice itself.
author has an open-hearted view of the relationships of teacher
and student. While she advocates that students should take
martial arts for their own reasons she also believes that
the substance of teaching should be firmly grounded in the
real art. With a feminine strength Ms. Lehrhaupt walks a line
confusing and treacherous to many instructors. The respects
the autonomy of the student while now lowering her standards.
This is illustrated by one story in which she brings a camera
to film her class. On seeing themselves they surprise her.
She assumed they would see themselves critically and be forced
to realize how much practice they neededTo her astonishment
they are happy with their performance. Her conclusion was
that her students, "Éhad discovered that they didn't need
to search somewhere else for the treasure." A the T'ai Chi
Classics suggest, her students were not "seeking the far and
forgetting the near".
likens the T'ai Chi teacher or student to the gardener who
must know things can only grow at a certain pace. You should
no more rush during T'ai Chi as you should rush trying to
master T'ai Chi. She quotes freely from people in the field
like William Chen and other sources of knowledge outside the
sphere like Scott Peck, Sharon Salzberg and Roshi Dennis Genpo
Merzel. She even feels free to cite martial arts movies and
legends. As we read we are reminded that martial arts - at
its best - is the kind of practice that keeps spilling over
into daily life. It's the same as being a painter, after hours
in the studio even normal trees appear altered. Teacher Lehrhaupt
looks for the links between her practice and any other source
of understanding and insight. As a meditation practitioner
she has the unchallenged openness of the alert journeyman.
Without mixing everything into soup she sees experiences informing
one another. Like a detective assembling clues she sees parallels
essay has a little arch of meaning. Some deal with simple
exercises such as following the path of the T'ai Chi diagram
to create a feeling of reeling energy. Others tell of her
experiences with different teachers in Taiwan and Europe and
the challenges presented by different approaches to T'ai Chi.
The author often owns up to her frustration at levels of information
she can't initially absorb. But she also shows us how she
comes to grips with these experiences.
own ability to accept and absorb is summed up in a chapter
that talks about practice.
you make it lighter? Is a question that doesn't flow only
through one's T'ai Chi practice. The ripples of this quiet
but persistent inquiry can spread to other areas of our
lives. The next time you change your baby's diapers, chop
a carrot, embrace your partner as he or she returns home,
carry the garbage out, put your shoes back on, ask: "Can
I make it lighter?" This question awakens that part of us
that smiles as butterflies alight in front of us, as leaves
dance in the wind. In time we may sense how all life is
a T'ai Chi dance - and that all the beings of this world,
even the tiniest ant, are our dancing partners."
to this book