Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do you get angry?

I was working with my class the other day and I was asked do you even get angry anymore? The question took me aback for a moment because I definitely do get angry. In fact my family can tell you I get angry quite bit but my anger is no longer the explosive sort of rage it once was. Once upon a time I could be quite frightening when angered. I'm not a small person by any means and so seeing this incredibly tall guy ranting and cussing and clenching his fists would definitely give someone pause.

However as time has passed I do find that my temper has declined in its sharpness. I no longer feel the need to fly off the handle or pick verbal fights. In fact much of the time I will simply let people insult me, my mother, my country, my honor, and my cat and just walk on shaking my head. We are too eager to fight things these days. We want to overcome, destroy, tackle our problems. We are stuck in the aggressive go get them mode. Either that or we freeze into inaction. Afraid to do the slightest thing lest we upset the status quo and cause ourselves more harm than good. In this mindset we become either complete wimps wanting to be merciful to all things or we become raving warmongering idiots.

As with all things there is a polarity here. Mushy pacifism is just as bad as hardcore militarism. You have to remember an old truism: Choose your battles. Yes you can get angry over all sorts of things. I get angry quite a bit myself, but the difference that my student noticed is that I can choose my actions more easily. We all need to live a more balanced lifestyle and Tai Chi is one of the things that moves me closer to this balance.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tai Chi and Your Problems

Everyday we are faced with more and more disturbing news. The Financial Crisis, the "New Great Depression," our failing healthcare system, overpopulation, climate change, genetically modified foods, war, poverty, and a thousand other things that our news outlets beam at us every single day.

Combine these world problems with the personal scale problems of paying the bills, raising kids, dealing with annoying people and you have a perfect storm of stress. Tai Chi is an excellent answer to these problems.

You may ask: What the hell is standing around breathing deeply and moving slowly going to do to solve these problems?

The simple answer is nothing. Tai Chi will not fix these problems but it will make you better able to deal with them. When you do Tai Chi you slow down, relax, and make an effort to let go. This is necessary. We cannot run on adrenaline forever and we must stop and recharge our batteries otherwise our bodies will break down. You don't drive your car for over a year and not change the oil. You change the oil, make sure the battery is good, you get fuel. If you do this for your car then you owe it to yourself to practice Tai Chi. Your body and mind can only benefit. Then you can return to your problems refreshed and better able to deal with them.

Tai Chi cannot directly solve all the problems you face but it can make you better able to tackle what must be done to solve them. No other exercise I have ever practiced has ever been as useful in recharging, restoring, and strengthening.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Feeling Better with Tai Chi

The beauty of Tai Chi is that there is something for every mood you can have. Feel like you want a really hard work out? Hold all the postures in your form for 1-5 Breaths, it's called Ding Shi and it will make you much stronger. Want to do something a little more aerobic? Then practice the form at a fast pace. Feel like you can't do anything else that day? Sit down and practice one of the Qigong meditations. Tai Chi is a vast subject. It is a martial art, a meditation, a Qigong exercise, and it is just plain fun regardless of your mood.

I used to focus on telling people how Tai Chi could overcome this or that ailment. About how studies had proven that it was beneficial for some ailment or another. Then one day it hit me. Those things are good and Tai Chi can do them but they come from dedicated daily training over time. Most folks in our world today don't care about six months from now. They care about right now. So, I decided to focus on the immediate benefit I get from doing Tai Chi which is simply that I feel good having done it. It's a simple thing to measure really... do I feel better having done this exercise? If the answer is yes then you will continue doing it.

Really for Tai Chi it is essential that when you finish the exercise you feel even a little better than you did before you started it. This goes for qigong, yoga, or any other form of exercise. In my experience You will do exercises that make you feel good. You will avoid those that do not. So try out Tai Chi from a real live instructor today... see if you can feel a little better.

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Five Benefits of Tai Chi

Oftentimes we hear about how Tai Chi is good for this or good for that. But those anonymous benefits tend to fade into the blah blah blah of the constant streams of information we get these days. Today I'm going to share with you what practicing Tai Chi has done for me.

1. I became more graceful.

When I started Tai Chi I was a very clumsy kid who could barely walk and chew gum at the same time. I bumped into things and fell a lot. However, after I started learning Tai Chi I slowly got more and more graceful and became more comfortable in my own body.

2. I am better able to cope with adversity.

About a decade or so into my Tai Chi practice I lost my mom to cancer. It was a very rough time for me as my mom had raised my younger brother and I as pretty much a single parent. We muddled through and one of the only things I can remember about that time is doggedly practicing the 37 movement Yang Style Form everyday twice per day.
More recently about ten months ago I lost my son in an automobile accident. It has been the most devastating experience of my life. I will not lie and say that this is easy but I will say that Tai Chi practice has been the one thing I have felt in control of in this awful experience. It doesn't make the loss easier but it does help you have a center while everything else crumbles.

3. I am in better health than most of my peers.

I am 35 years old as I write this and am on no daily medications whatsoever. I don't get headaches, I suffer from no allergies or chronic pains, I haven't had a cold or the flu in years, my blood pressure is normal, I sleep soundly, and nothing gives me heartburn. I kinda doubt this is genetics because my non practicing brothers do have all these problems. So I feel that Tai Chi has really benefited me on this front. Also despite my loss and grief I have not had to resort to antidepressants and other happy pills.

4. I am in better control of my temper.

When I was younger I could fly off the handle into a blinding rage. I was angry all the time and felt pent up. Slowly as the years pass and my Tai Chi practice becomes deeper I find myself not moved to such extremes of emotion. This makes me much easier to be around and makes my friends and family very happy.

5. I am overcoming overeating.

Back in the day when I was in High School and college I ate a tremendous amount of food. I did so up into my late 20's so that by the time I reached 30 I was over 314 lbs. That was nuts I was starting to feel bad. So thanks to my favorite Vietnamese Qigong teacher I took myself in hand started out eating low carb, then slowly just began eating a normal diet but eating less of it. I cut out soda, iced tea, hot tea, and any caffeinated beverages. As a result I'm very slowly and steadily losing weight. I realized through my teacher's guidance and my own practice that I control what goes into my mouth in a very real and visceral way. I wasn't fat from genetics. I was fat from stuffing my maw.

So... it's a process. That is what Tai Chi is about. The ancient Chinese used it as a form of internal alchemy and now I understand what they meant. Alchemy is about making lead into gold... transmuting the base and the not so appealing to the more pure and appealing. Only thing is Tai Chi doesn't turn metals to metals but helps to make you better in a gradual and reliable way.