T’ai chi ch’uan has the capacity to transform us—physically, mentally, and spiritually. We may get a taste from a class at the Y, or from a weekend workshop, but that sense will eventually fade when the energy patterns accumulated over decades reassert themselves. The transformation requires gongfu: dedicated practice over time. Our body/mind won’t jettison even an inefficient system until it is certain that something better is there to replace it. And that takes time.

When most of us hear that something is going to take up the little free time we imagine we have, we quickly shut the door. The payoff had better be pretty spectacular if we’re going to devote a half hour a day. Even those of us who are in it for life don’t always take the time each day to practice.

How can you squeeze more gongfu into your busy schedule? You can’t replace hours of focused study under ideal conditions, but you can add depth to your practice through “bus stop t’ai chi”.

Bus stop t’ai chi is working on your gongfu anytime you have a moment. You’re standing in line at the bank and you surreptitiously practice finding central equilibrium while standing on either leg. You wait for a 6 train and train your energetic coherence by pointing your index fingers. You slowly and deliberately rotate your forearm and sense the ch’i. You nonchalantly turn your body while focusing on your dantien.

Practicing this way adds depth to your gongfu by exploring body/mind connections in different contexts. If we only practice at the school, the lessons learned may stay there. By practicing your empty step when you step off a curb, it gets cross-referenced with real life experience. It gets more real.

Just pick a small piece and work on it during your day. No one has to know.