When you have the strength to keep your body upright, when you can understand how to separate the substantial from the insubstantial, and when you can begin to move from your tan tien, you can learn to relax. When you can learn to relax you begin to become aware that your body/mind is interconnected and interdependent. This is a feeling, a sense of wholeness that happens when all parts are communicating and working together. Then your hands naturally become soft and sensitive without any force in them.

Relaxation does not happen all at once through the whole body because we have years of built up tension patterns and they are not going to all let go at once. In my experience the body does not work that way. That is experience from my 35 year practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and Chi Gung and from  many years of doing bodywork for people and horses. However, your body is willing to listen to the messages that you send it and when it finally understands those messages it will do as you ask. The hard part is remember to ask your body/mind to relax, stay upright, and move from the tan tien.

For example, when I am riding I keep a dialogue going with my own body while also keeping another dialogue going with my horse…multi-tasking at its finest! The dialogue goes like this: “relax your ankles, let go of your calves, let go of your groin muscles, let your legs hand down, keep your body upright and soften your hands. Feel forward with the reins.” Then I enjoy the feeling of openness for a moment or two and repeat the dialogue since my body loves excess tension and it seems to creep up on me when my attention wanders. But each time that I do this my body gets more responsive to the messages and I relax a little deeper into myself and then I can sustain it for longer periods of time.