Tai Chi and the Wall of Resistance

Tai chi makes me think, causes questions to arise … it’s a mystery common somewhat early on in the learning of many who practice regularly for long enough. Feelings, thoughts, insights, and memories suddenly surface to the forefront of our awareness as we practice. Sometimes its surprisingly intense, such as when memories of experiences we would rather forget come up. You might have heard of coming up against a “wall of resistance.” I’ve encountered it myself. It’s a common phenomenon that practitioners will experience in their training when “stuff” is released by virtue of loosening and moving chi. Early on, when trapped chi begins to loosen and memories surface, the reflex reaction is to push them back. An internal conflict takes place. This is the resistance—you fighting with yourself.

When this happens it is wise to continue your tai chi practice. Some people stop, but that delays you from taking the opportunity to learn about what my teacher, Master George Xu, calls “qi go through.” This beneficial releasing makes once-trapped energy available to you once again; which, of course, is a major objective of tai chi practice. A lot of lessons in taijiquan are learned at this point of dynamic tension in which you’re challenged by energy to let it do what it would do if allowed: move, flow, rise and fall, expand and shrink, open and close, fluctuate with outer and inner forces, constantly alive, agile, and free to evolve.

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Tai chi and change

To shift the attention is such a big feature of tai chi. Holding on to a view is detrimental to change. The tai chi practitioner seeks not to be, ultimately, the same person you were when you began the day’s practice. Every practice session ends with you being a different person, or at least feeling differently from when you first began … Having a little more knowledge and ability than before. Every practice adds another piece of the puzzle until many practice sessions accumulate new knowledge and fresh clarity.

Tai chi is about where the move is leading from

Tai chi is not about where the move is leading to, rather it is where the move is leading from. One common expression from traditional tai chi is: “Pull the silk.” Why the metaphor? In the time that this phrase came into being it made sense because pulling silk was familiar to many people in that that part of the world. It’s not so familiar now because most people are so many steps away from how fabric makes its way from the plant to cloth and the shirt on your back. But it is a perfect analogy for moving the the tai chi manner.

Self-discovery is at the core of tai chi

In tai chi (the way I practice it) you don’t prove who you are. You discover who you are. Mistake: to see ourselves as a conglomerate of separate things. We are connected…our parts merge into one through meditative movement. Learning to understand this connection and eventually apply it in practice and in daily living is at the core of tai chi practice.

How Tai Chi Can Help to Alleviate Allergies

Tai chi is a powerful healing art. It is medicine for the mind, body, and spirit. This is obvious if you’ve practiced tai chi long enough; not immediately if you’re not familiar with tai chi. You have to do tai chi in order to grasp that tai chi is a powerful healing art.

The body is designed to heal itself and, as long as it has the right tools, it does a great job of it. For a lot of people, that means getting the right kind of exercise, eating well, and reducing stress, especially the kind that weakens the immune system. Effective physical activity and good nutrition feed the body’s inherent ability to heal.

Allergies are one modern ailment that I’ve alleviated by practicing tai chi and eating more consciously. The symptoms of allergies—congestion, itchy eyes, headaches, fatigue, low energy and so on—result from the body trying to heal itself; they are not the illness itself, nor the cause or source.

Over-the-counter drugs and doctor-prescribed medicines don’t necessarily cure the cause in the case of allergies; they might help, but they don’t get to the source of the problem. They didn’t in my case more than 15 years ago when I suffered from the symptoms of Meniere’s Disease.

Years ago, I realized—haphazardly—after having practiced enough tai chi, that not getting enough exercise and eating poorly were causing my deteriorating health. Stress from work and life in general further also hindered my body’s ability to fight the effects of pollen, dust, the Southwest’s arid air, chemicals, and food allergies that mounted one on the top of the other throughout the year.

Unexpectedly, after I had practiced tai chi long enough, I began to feel relief and now if allergens do get in my body fights them more readily and effectively.

In tai chi, energy (chi) movement is a key to healing. Healing occurs once chi is released from mental and physical constraints and it flows like water flowing down a mountainside or a breeze through the trees.

Doing tai chi relaxed my body (and my mind), and allowed it to heal itself of the allergy symptoms and help eliminate the source of the problem. It helped having a good teacher, as I did with Dr. Susan A. Matthews, by the way.

We should be able to eliminate allergies these days. Alternative methods like tai chi are available. With tai chi and nutrition at the core of my strategy for health. I’m still learning about nutrition and what diets, or parts of diets, are the most effective.

I have found good information reading Eat To Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, including pretty good plant-based recipes. My acupuncturist recently recommended Practical Paleo, so I just ordered that on Amazon.

It should be simpler to eliminate allergies in these times. Most of us wait until we’re sick, hoping that drugs and surgery will come up from behind and clean up the mess. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Either way, it takes a change in outlook to switch lifestyle choices and refocus daily routines with the intention of avoiding illness and developing a healthier, more resilient immune system. Prioritizing health over other things in life is not easy to do, but tai chi (and other Chinese internal martial arts) is a way to do it.

By focusing attention on learning specific, simple movements and techniques, and practicing them regularly over time, you can strengthen body and mind, and see healthy results surprisingly quickly.