The familiar five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) help us to perceive the world around us. Except for the sense of touch, all external sensory perceptions are perceived via sensory organs on the head.
Analogous to the five external senses, we can also divide the internal perceptions into five senses. The inner senses give us information about the state of the inside of our body: we can perceive pain, temperature, pressure, muscle tension and joint positions. The last three are especially interesting while the body is in motion. The first three are used in meditation. Some of these inner senses are relatively easy to perceive consciously, others are difficult to find and intensive training is required.
In everyday life, the majority of our consciousness is usually in external perception. We use the five external senses to consciously interact with the outside world. Our activity is concentrated in the head.
In Tai Chi training, we try to shift the focus of our consciousness from the outside to the inside. To do this, we first deactivate our outer consciousness – exactly the same process as falling asleep. Then we activate the inner awareness by trying to sense a process in our body. As soon as we can sense it, we try to change the process and again feel if and how the process changes. Over time, perception becomes more accurate, and in parallel, intention becomes more effective. That is, the intention to change something leads more and more to the intended result.
The perception of pressure from the outside (sense of touch) and pressure (or fullness) from the inside sometimes occur together. For example, the pressure in the soles of the feet (when weight is shifted) can be perceived both from the outside and from the inside. Pressure in the soles of the feet is therefore an appropriate process to begin sensing internal perceptions.
The tension of muscles can be influenced in different ways. It is relatively easy to tense muscles voluntarily. It is more difficult to relax muscles in a controlled way. In advanced training it becomes especially interesting to activate muscles so finely that they lengthen, but at the same time increase their tension.
The position of the joints are already perceptible for untrained people: we can estimate our approximate posture even with closed eyes. On the other hand, an exact perception of the position of all vertebrae in the spine, for example, is possible only after quite some training.