To some Tai Chi people it’s important to know where the eyes are looking when doing a Tai Chi form for slightly esoteric reasons: “your eyes lead your intention and your intention leads your chi.” But I think we can come up with reasons for using the eyes in Tai Chi that require no mention of intention (yi) or chi.
Try this: Sit comfortably. Turn your head slowly to the side, back to the middle then the other side. It’s a typical neck stretching exercise that you’ll find done at the start of your typical Kung Fu, Tai Chi, or Yoga class. It’s good for your neck, but there’s nothing particularly special about it.
Now try this: Instead of just turning your head to the side, actively look to the side. Lead the movement with your eyes looking to the side. Now compare the feeling of doing that to the feeling of just turning your head to the side.
If you’re anything like me you’ll find the experience quite different. When you are looking to the side for a reason your whole body co-ordinates better, not to mention, I think you can turn your head a bit further too. I’m sure there is a scientific word for this purpose driven movement, but I don’t know it.
Think of an owl, when it turns its head to look at something interesting that might potentially be prey – the eyes are always locked in.
When doing the Tai Chi form, try actively looking with your eyes and turning your head in the direction you are going. Hopefully you’ll notice the different in the quality and coordination of your overall movement.