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TAI CHI HEALING

Tai-chi Yang Form with Bob Klein

Tai-chi Yang Form with Bob Klein

The medical field is based on military strategy. We are attacked by micro-organisms and we defend ourselves with weapons (medicines) or surgery. Tai-chi is based on a different strategy so its concepts seem strange, or low tech.

My main job as a Tai-chi teacher is to develop an even distribution of attention in the student. The modern human is trained to withdraw attention from the body and concentrate it in the head. This weakens the body and over stimulates the head. The result is an “empty cleverness”.

We are taught to rely on the thinking process to interact with our world and to depress other means of interaction. The Tai-chi teacher’s job is to remind students of their original state of attention and of the ways we can connect with and interact with the world around us, rather than just thinking about it.

When we do push hands, for example, we have to be able to feel the state of readiness of every muscle and joint in the partner and the ever-changing pattern of attention from moment to moment. In this two-person game of “pushing” each other off balance, using tension by just shoving with the arms puts you at a disadvantage. The only way we can be this aware is by keeping our own attention completely calm and even, even though we are being pushed and shoved around. We then use this awareness to easily take advantage of the partner’s inefficiencies.

The Tai-chi forms teach us to generate all movements from the center of the body, and then, like a wave, allow each joint and muscle to flow out from that wave. The initiation of that wave is a relaxation – just like a pebble dropped into still water, creates circular waves.

It is very difficult to bring the student to this natural state of attention but it is the basis of healing in this system. As long as the attention is “trapped” in the head and thinking process, all the drugs and surgeries in the world, will not bring him to great health.

Yet, even these ideas about attention seem meaningless to someone who has not experienced them. You have to be brought to that experience by a teacher in order to even understand what it is and how powerful the experience is. It has been described as feeling like you jumped off a steep cliff. We are, indeed, standing high up on a steep cliff, struggling to stay on top of it and wearing ourselves out.

It is this struggle that wears out our minds and bodies and leads to disease. Yet the student asks, “If I let go of the dominance of my mind, how can I function?” In reality it is the even balance of mind and body that is required for true creative functioning, rather than just robotic functioning.

Tai-chi practice leads you to this very gently, yet it is a tough practice – very exacting and specific. The journey leads to freedom from fear and stress and a healthy way of interacting with people and situations, which in turn, results in a joy filled life.

Suggested training aids:
The books, “Movements of Magic – the Spirit of Tai-chi-Chuan” and “Movements of Power – Ancient Secrets of Unleashing Instinctual Vitality”
http://store.movementsofmagic.com/msbose.html

The dvd series: “How to Learn and Teach Tai-chi”
http://store.movementsofmagic.com/howtoletetap.html

HOW SICK ARE WE?

My doctor told me that it was unusual for a 60 year old man not to be on prescription drugs.  That shocked me.  Apparently most people my age take several drugs on a regular basis.  Does this mean that we are an advanced society because we have invented so many drugs or a very sick society that we need so many drugs?

I recalled a monkey I knew in the jungles of Panama.  He was the head of his tribe but was badly battered from territorial fights or perhaps from encounters with predators.  Three fingers were missing from one hand, two from the other and he had only one eye. Yet he still was the alpha male of his monkey troop.  What he lacked in body parts he made up in attitude. 

One day a potential Tai-chi student walked into my studio with a severe affliction.  He was able to walk only by leaning over and holding his knee with his hands, inching his way forward.  As soon as he made it into the studio he sat down, exhausted from the fifty foot walk.  I thought to tell him that he would never be able to learn Tai-chi but I would never discourage anyone who was willing to try. 

At first he did the Tai-chi Yang form while holding onto two chairs, which I re-adjusted for him with each movement.  He could only last for two or three minutes at a time and then had to sit down.  To make a long story short, he learned the entire sixty movement form without holding onto chairs, the tiger form and the staff form, which are very vigorous.  He also learned the Push Hands exercise and was quite good.  In this exercise you stand facing each other and try to throw each other off balance.

After a few years he told me that he was very discouraged.  He practiced the forms for an hour a day, then did Yoga for fifteen minutes, worked out with weights for forty five minutes and then practiced chi-gung for another fifteen minutes. 

So what was the problem?  He told me that after all this he was so tired he had to stop and sit down.  I reminded him that he used to be tired after two or three minutes and could barely stand up without holding onto something.   He had gotten so used to being healthy that I guess now he expected that he could leap over tall buildings at a single bound.

To some degree we can determine whether we slide down the slope of increasing sickness or lift ourselves up to greater health.  It largely depends on whether we focus on our ailments or our potential.  This is not to so say that we don’t all have some legitimate medical problems.  While modern medicine makes our lives better with great advances, it can also make us lazy.  We reach for the pill or the operation rather than trying exercise first. 

Many doctors will encourage their patients to try exercise to alleviate their problems before trying drugs but unfortunately many people don’t want to be bothered with the exercises.  It is easier to pop a pill down their throats.  But remember that each drug has side effects and you may start taking drugs to alleviate the side effects and then more drugs to alleviate the side effects of that drug and so on. 

I am suggesting that if your doctor suggests exercise rather than drugs then you probably have a caring and knowledgeable doctor.  While the television ads push you to ask your doctor for drugs, I suggest you ask him or her for exercise alternatives. 

Your body and mind are powerful when they work together cooperatively.  Even if you do take drugs, exercise itself can help to alleviate the negative side effects.  Drugs can only really help your body cure itself.  But the body also needs good food, rest and exercise.