T'ai Chi For Dummies
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You don’t have to munch on mung beans and tofu to embrace T’ai Chi and its principles as a part of your life, day-in and day-out. Following a T’ai Chi path means just looking at, experiencing, and reacting to things a little differently. It provides a means for changing your life physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually.

Some people are content to simply walk along the T’ai Chi path as a means to improve health or reduce stress, which is no problem and is a fine reason to follow the path. Others, however, embark upon the journey as an entirely new way of life. Both paths are valid. Even one that is halfway between the two is valid.

Wellness principle #1: Unplugging from stress

Easy lifestyle changes you can make that are related to T’ai Chi principles are: breathing, connecting to your chi, rooting yourself, using only the muscles and power needed, and not freaking out over things you can’t change. Letting go to get hold, so to speak.

Have you ever seen or met someone who just seems to float along, being effective in life, but never really being ruffled by tempests in teapots? That’s you if you embrace these principles. Just as a turtle carries his home with him wherever he goes, you can carry you own little cocoon of serenity with you wherever you go.

Wellness principle #2: Concentrating on breathing

In all situations, breathe. Train yourself to be aware of your breath. You may be surprised at how often you catch yourself holding your breath. Really. Especially if you’re writing at a computer on a project deadline! It takes practice, but remind yourself just to check in with your body and see what it’s up to, including breathing.

If you’re in a conversation, debate, discussion, or even an argument with someone, take a moment to breathe before you respond. Focusing on slowing your breath can help slow your pulse and blood pressure.

Wellness principle #3: Taking a peek inside

Think about how and why you feel and react the way you do in certain situations or to certain people. Is it really something about yourself or your own frustration that you take out on the other person? Let yourself feel all during the day, in everything that you do, by looking inward in short meditative moments.

Wellness principle #4: Observing the goings-on around you

Observe both yourself and others in daily interactions. T’ai Chi is all about being nonjudgmental, so just observe. Observation doesn’t mean thinking, “How could she ever have worn those ugly shoes?” Observation just means noting things around you and how they affect you, then acknowledging that reaction or affect. After some time practicing these methods, you find more calm and peace day-to-day.

Wellness principle #5: Responding to the behavior of others

Everyone has to deal with an inconsiderate person at work or while shopping, at least once in a while. Rather than responding in kind, maintain your courtesy and continue to treat difficult people as you wish they were treating you.

When you allow the attitudes and behaviors of others to determine your responses, you give them an awful lot of power. And you give them even more power if you can’t let go of some exchange, but rather continue to dwell on it or the person after the fact.

So let go, be nice, and go with the flow.

Wellness principle #6: Going with your gut

If you don’t believe, you probably won’t ever plug into your chi. If you don’t trust, you may never be able to let go enough to find the strength in stillness. Trust and believe in trusting and believing!

Wellness principle #7: Taking five

No time for T’ai Chi breaks, you say? Everybody can find at least five minutes in the day for him- or herself. Try the little exercise where you write down every little thing you do from the time you get up until the time you go to bed. Everything. Find five. Make that your motto. After you find five, then begin the search for ten, creating a sanctuary

Finding a quiet place — a T’ai Chi sanctuary if you will — where you can feel safe to “go away” into your routine for 10, 20, or 30 minutes can be key to finding your practice time. Follow these guidelines to establish the ultimate T’ai Chi retreat:

  • Find a place where you can focus. Focusing on yourself is hard enough without having a place to call your own. When you try to do T’ai Chi, you don’t want to look at a cluttered desk, the kids’ toys, the piles of dishes, the heaps of laundry, or the great balls o’ dust in the corners.

  • Add items that help you forget distractions. Room dividers or screens can help you block out the family, the mess, or the chores that you need to do. Candles can also help set the stage or add a pleasant aroma to the area, if you like. A statue or a picture can help you feel as if you’re really on a true retreat.

  • Preserve your sanctuary. Even if this space can’t be permanent, look around for a corner and mentally claim it. You can then keep your “sanctuary supplies” in a drawer, on a closet shelf, or folded up under the bed. When you’re ready for your mind-body retreat, just pull out the dividers, candles, and clothes, and set yourself up in a flash.

  • Know when to let go of your sanctuary. Be able to take moments without relying on the physical nature of a particular spot, such as your sanctuary.

About This Article

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Geraldine Woods is the author of more than 40 books, including the popular English Grammar For Dummies. She has taught high school and middle school English for over 25 years.

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