The Importance of Flow
In the beginning, a lot of time is spent learning the Single Forms and focusing on the physical aspects of your practice. This is necessary at first, in order to set your body up for the specific type of energy you are trying to work on. While important, this is only a preliminary part of your practice. Remember that there are three levels of practice and this is the most basic of them.
Initially you are trying to relax and calm the mind, and through these postures you can begin to do that. You are also learning to "put yourself back together". We have all become very fragmented in every way. You start first by learning to move the body as a whole through these postures, reconnecting yourself physically. As important, you want to feel the movements, rather than think about them as you are doing them. This is important to progress to higher levels of practice.
The danger to avoid is losing site of what Taichi is really about, which is flow. Too much attention to doing every Form from a strictly physical viewpoint can in fact, hamper your progress. The flow of your energy is always the most important focus. Too many times I have seen students sacrifice flow in order to do their posture "perfectly". You want your Form to be done correctly, but more importantly, you want to adjust your Form to the flow of energy, not the other way around. As your flow gets stronger and more dominant, it will shape the Form for you, which is unique to every individual.
The thing to remember is that each Form is intended to teach a specific energy flow. As my students are no doubt tired of hearing me say "Wardoff is an energy, not a Form". The forms are tools that are used to help you feel a type of energy flow. It is similar to improvising in music. You learn a lot of scales, interval, arpeggios, etc., but that is not improvising. Those are all just tools to help you develop your technique and ear. Improvising is playing what you feel, just as Taichi is following the flow that you feel.
Your goal then, is to develop a smooth, strong, continuous flow, and let that direct everything else. The size of your stance, height of your stance, speed that you move, all of these should ultimately be driven by flow. So while correct posture is important, you always want to pay close attention to your flow, and let that drive everything else. This will result in smoother, more relaxed movements and help you to progress to higher levels of awareness. This is the way to greater achievement in Taichi.
To help put this into your practice, start by practicing with your eyes closed and focus inside. As you move, imagine your energy flowing inside you in that direction, and let that move your body, rather than thinking of your muscles doing the work. Remember, as it says in the Taichi Classics, that you use the mind to drive the Chi, and then the Chi drives the body. Try and feel yourself flow in the direction you are moving without physical effort. Do this until it is completely natural, then open the eyes and do the same, but now feel a part of everything around you as you flow. In time you will no longer have to think about this at all and it will come naturally, giving you a sensation as if floating rather than physically moving as you did before.