T'ai Chi For Dummies
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T’ai Chi is heavily steeped in Taoist philosophy. So knowing the basics about how to live that philosophy can give your T’ai Chi practice a real boost. And knowing the why and wherefore behind a form can help you do it better!

Wellness tip #1: Weigh your effort

Westerners tend to do harder than they need to most of the time — force the lid off the jar, jam the car into the smallest parking space, lift too much weight in the gym, and so on. Instead of performing actions so harshly, go with the flow, let it happen — basically, stop forcing life to be the way you want it to be right now.

Take what the opponent (life) has given you to work with, and use it to your advantage.

Wellness tip #2: Find humility

Some say to embrace humility; you must “be like water.” Water always seeks to fill the lowest place. The ocean is lower than the rivers, so the waters of the rivers flow into it. And yet the ocean, even in its lowest position, is the strongest. So if you’re like water, you’ll be powerfully humble, seeking lower positions, yet commanding others who still seek higher positions.

Humility serves two purposes:

  • To remind you that someone will always be better than you, be it in your bowling league, a gin rummy club, or your company’s department.

  • To keep you from going around blabbing and boasting about how good you are. Ever notice how the best of the best, the real masters, never tell you that? They let their actions speak for themselves. And if someone doesn’t know that you’re the best, he or she is less likely to try to knock you down a notch or two.

Wellness tip #3: Be soft and supple

Try to remain soft and supple, not only physically but also mentally — in word and in action. Would you try to tackle and topple the NFL’s leading blocker who weighs 350 pounds or so? Of course not! You’d scramble, duck, cover, and maneuver; therefore, you’d yield to superior force.

Wellness tip #4: Yearn for yin and yang

Everything in the world has a complementary opposite — for example, salt and pepper, oil and vinegar, Mutt and Jeff, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. These duos aren’t made up for no reason; they’re like yin and yang, and you can’t have one without the other.

The yin-yang symbol reminds you that life is made up of opposites and that life is a continuous cycle of these opposites. Good times follow bad, sun follows rain, and smiles follow tears. So when times are good, you cherish them, partly because of their impermanence. And when times are bad, you don’t worry too much, because you know that they can’t last forever.

Wellness tip #5: Sense “the uncarved block”

The Chinese word “p’u” (sounds like put without the t at the end) translates loosely into “the uncarved block” or, less abstractly put, “things in their natural state.” This is meant to remind you against trying too hard to figure things out or trying to use brute force to make things happen.

How many times does your rational mind get in the way of your true visceral understanding? It’s much easier to stop trying to make things into something they aren’t and accept their “natural state.”

Wellness tip #6: Emptiness be

The Western mind sees emptiness as something negative, an absence of something. However, enjoy for a moment how the Eastern mind sees ­emptiness — as something very positive. Why? Because Eastern philosophy says that the empty space is what makes a cup useful (what good is a cup that is filled in?) or that the empty space of a doorway is what allows you to enter a room.

Meditation is a practice aimed at “emptying the mind.” It unclutters the mind and leaves some space to bring in new thoughts.

Wellness tip #7: Seek simplicity

When all is said and done, life is simple. You live, you learn, you seek happiness and love, you get old, and you die.

Whether at work, in personal relationships, or shopping at the mall, live and act simply and truthfully. Get out of your own way, and you’ll be amazed how many of your problems resolve themselves.

Wellness tip #8: Center yourself

Too much of even a good thing can be bad. The lesson at its core? Live moderately and avoid extremes. As a human being, you are best to avoid extremes of emotion. Does this mean becoming apathetic and floating through life? Not at all! Does this mean not feeling? Oh my, no! It means looking at things calmly rather than just flying off the handle.

Wellness tip #9: Practice personal patience

Patience is about taking the time needed to get perform any task, at the same time, knowing that getting it right is not a matter of life or death. Really, impatience is a carryover of what infects you in everyday life.

Ask yourself: “How many times do I get impatient and perhaps curse a little when I get behind someone walking or driving slower than I want to go?” Breathe and let go.

Wellness tip #10: Live in the present moment

This lesson comes quite naturally after the lesson of patience. That’s because of a lot of hurry comes from wanting to be someplace, anyplace, other than where we are — or simply wanting life in general to move more quickly. However, why wish for your life to pass more quickly than it should? Enjoy the journey rather than rushing to what you think is the destination.

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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