As for the final question: what practice has benefitted you personally? What things should I look out for? What things should I experiment with and seek out, in your opinion? And, of course, why?
My 2 cents is find yourself a good teacher, which isn't easy. You may first encounter poor teachers. People who are not properly trained completely, understand and/or apply well these constructs, I spoke of. After sometime with one or two such poor teachers you may find a good one. Most of the time good teachers are not adverting or making themselves a high profile item. That is different then a community, like the Chinese community, recommending or not recommending a teacher. Chinese community centers are often good places to start. You probably don't want to learn from someone who is a student of a teacher overseas running a class. You want an instructor that is conducting classes on the spot and not remotely though a student. It is like any other art. A good instructor, can tell you what to experiment with and seek out.
What has benefitted me by having some exposure to CMA and the CMA community is all of what I have been posting. It provides me a good model in understanding CMA and the similarities they have to Japanese Martial Arts. There are allot of good books and bad books out there, but with a little research you can find good books and stuff on the net that provide you information that will help you learn. That is background, history, models of a good teacher, and help you bridge the communication barrier often existing when information is translated from one language and culture to another.
Oh, and the old rules apply, buyer beware, and if it sounds too good to be true it usually is, and hard sells ( or any selling ) are often signs of cultish martial arts behavior. There are snake oils salesmen out there in all martial arts, and people who talk a good talk or mavericks, rebels, etc, usually don't know much, do, much, or understand much; all applies to CMA, which are no different then any other.
The only thing am aware of that I hear the guys in CMA- Tai Chi, is an exercise called "reeling silk." I noticed some competitor at a CMA competition doing it in a hall way as a warm up I guess. I was told that it is important to breath purposefully and rhythmically while doing it. That's all I got, and thought to share it.