Know where your central equilibrium is. Move around it, up and down its length. Forward and back. Straight, strong, alive, flexible, always regenerating.
It is said that we are born with a finite amount of energy and that is all we have to make it through life. As life progresses that supply of energy is depleted through living: events, act, thoughts, points of view. It takes energy to live. Less of our original life force becomes available to us as we age. It becomes stuck, tucked away, or wasted upon others. We can get much of it back, however. If you knew this were possible, would you consider doing what it would take to get it back?
One of the first things you’re asked to do in tai chi is to relax. Not easy for many beginners, who seldom can relax on command. Actually, most of us forgot how, or even define what relaxing is for ourselves. Life is like that.
Tai chi offers a strategy for relaxing. My own approach is two-fold: mind intention and physical activity, both based on tai chi principles with which I have become familiar over time. It takes time, but more importantly, effort. You don’t have to work hard, rather calmly, regularly, consistently.
Breathing meditation, single-basics, stretching, moving meditation and taijiquan forms all combine to form a pretty sophisticated strategy for relaxing using these two core principles. Of course, if you develop a practice using these methods, you’ll not only cultivate relaxation, you’ll also evolve a more energetic, lively composure that will probably amaze you.
This article’s news is good reading, but I’m a little disheartened as tai chi teacher. But that’s okay. I still am forwarding it because it’s yet another documentation of people utilizing tai chi with measurable success to address challenges they have with their health.
Composed by Alice Park for Time Health, it describes a tai chi program for heart-attack victims that demonstrated positive behavioral changes after practicing twice or three times a week for 12 and 24 weeks.
Many of the practitioners were obese and had not exercised much in their lives. They were actually afraid to exercise after having cardiac arrest. So they tried tai chi and got good outcomes.
I live in a health-oriented town. Outdoor recreation activities rule. The median age is 31.7 years (city-data.com). Not the best market for a tai chi teacher if you compare all the studies finding tai chi helping people with age-related issues or life-threatening illnesses. None are about young people.
Young people don’t do tai chi as a preventative practice, not even as a health and well-being maintenance practice, not even as a practice for attention deficit disorder. The up-trend in articles suggest populations get sick before starting tai chi. But articles like this one should create more buzz around tai chi. The next thing I would like to see are studies demonstrating the preventative and daily lifestyle management qualities of tai chi and qigong.
Anyway, enjoy reading the article.
I was talking with an alpine climber friend the other day. He spent some time in Switzerland as a guide and teacher. Mountain climbing, at least the way he describes it, sounds very familiar to tai chi. He was describing to me some of the things he would say when interacting with clients or students. One of the things he said that resonated with me was that a big key to alpine style rock climbing is the need to save energy. A big part of tai chi is to save energy, because we only have so much given to us to work with throughout our lives. We don’t make new energy, technically. We re-access what is stuck and we save what we have.
I think many people think of exercise as giving them energy, or perhaps, by rearranging energy by loosening bound up Qi and redistributing it to fill weak empty places in our being. But saving energy shouldn’t be overlooked. I mean, what do you do with the energy we do release and make newly available? I try not o spend it on unnecessary activities. I’d rather save it for when it comes in handy.
My friend brought other similarities tai chi and mountain climbing have in common. I particularly liked the idea of grabbing the cliff edge with the center of your body and mindfully attacking the rock. Look at it, connect with it from the center of your body, then carefully place your feet and hands in strategic points. This resembles using the dantian to move and connect internally and externally.
Of course, they are talking about implanting a device in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, but why don’t they look into tai chi and qigong doing similar stimulation and results, especially since this article talks about deep breathing, meditation, and even yoga. Oh yeah, that’s right, that’s what we’re doing when we do tai chi! Better take notes.
I sometimes see pain as a sign of the body or brain talking to you, trying to get your attention, telling you to listen. If you have a painful joint or muscle, it might hurt because it’s doing more than its share of the body’s workload. It’s doing the work of other joints or muscles. One or more of these other parts might be holding back, either reacting to tension or stress, or creating tension and stress.
I trace some of this back to the influence of emotion or knowledge. Often it’s low-level, under the radar sort of fear. Sometimes its a lack of clarity on how to respond to some force that you don’t quite understand enough about in order to act on.
I’ve heard of one reaction called “clenching,” a subconscious attempt to control, which has the opposite effect: no control, or perhaps more accurately, causing undue control of other parts of the body by hindering their movement, and reducing their contribution to the movement of the whole.
In other words, trying to hold back the inevitable: movement. If and when you discover yourself doing this kind of thing, tell yourself to listen in a different way than you’re accustomed to:
“Change View. Shift. Release.”
Flow with the compelling force of the mind and body and spirit that is always present whatever we may, or may not, be doing consciously or unconsciously. Move and adapt with the ever-fluctuating force of life.