Do you feel that work and the responsibilities of life are tearing you apart?  Are you exhausted, more due to aggravation and worry than physical work?  Tai-chi and Zookinesis explains why this is so and what you can do to avoid getting torn apart.

One day I went to a lake at a nearby park, armed with a bag of healthy, whole wheat bread for the ducks and geese.  I got there early and was apparently the first person to feed them.  At least 75 ducks, geese and swans surrounded me, demanding bread and I soon had nothing left.  They kept coming at me, biting my hands, hoping to at least get a crumb.  I had to leave in a hurry to get more bread.  At one point I thought my life might end by getting pecked while surrounded by white feathers. 

When I returned to work, there were calls from customers, calls to suppliers, computer work to do, video editing, packing orders etc., etc.  I felt that I was still being pecked to death but this time by my work (video production and distribution).  But I had one advantage.

My training in Tai-chi and Zookinesis helped me to stay centered and calm and just do what I could.  I didn’t rush or get aggravated.  I thought, “What about people who do not have this training?  They must feel like they’re really getting pecked to death!”  I understood why, in these frantic times, Tai-chi and Zookinesis training is especially important.  If you can devote fifteen minutes a day to a Tai-chi form or a series of Zookinesis exercises, you can remain centered throughout the hectic day.

In most ancient cultures, the purpose of the culture was to help people enjoy and understand life.  Children went through initiation rituals to help ease them into each new stage of life.  Ceremonies, timed to the changes of the seasons, became the binding force of life of the community, helping people to live in harmony with nature.

In our culture the purpose is to work hard in order to buy things.  As we enter into this season of ceremonies (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Yule, Kwanza and the rest) we have time to reflect on some of the important things in our lives that we often neglect – family and community.

On a smaller scale, our Tai-chi and Zookinesis practice is a daily custom that reminds us that our health, mental and physical, and our connection to nature is so important, that if we neglect these things, we will be miserable. 

Remember that people and circumstances around us are always ready to take from us – whether our money or energy.  Most people are frantic and unbalanced because of the effects of our hectic culture.  Without a means of protection and renewal of our inner strength, they will surely tear us apart.

These practices connect your mind and body so you are aware of how each situation affects you on all levels.  By remaining centered and relaxed you not only prevent your own deterioration but become more effective in your work.  Much of what goes on in the workplace is politics, rather than actual useful work.  These politics are the result of a lack of self awareness, self esteem and the lack of a path in life.  Most people just frantically try to grab for as much as they can get before they die.

By practicing your exercises each day, you remind yourself of the principles behind the exercises – self awareness, living in harmony with your surroundings, staying calm and healthy.  You realize that the behavior of another person is their behavior and not yours.  You don’t have to play into their patterns. 

You cannot gain this awareness just through the mind.  While each of us may know these ideas are true, putting them into practice is another matter.  The exercise of Push Hands, for example, teaches you to deal with another person’s aggression without tensing up but just letting the force flow by.  Yet it may take a couple of years of practice to be willing not to tense up when pushed.  Tensing is such an automatic reaction that it is hard to break.  You know that tensing is exactly what you should NOT do, but you just can’t help yourself.

The teacher explains, in excruciating detail, how each part of your body has reacted and how your mind and your attention have reacted to the push.  He explains exactly why you are reacting in this way – what concepts in your thinking, drive your body to react ineptly.  He explains the proper way to react in order to neutralize the force.  Yet you seem to have no control over your own body.

It is the same way in everyday life.  You say to yourself, “Why did I just do that?”  It is as if you have no control over some aspects of your life.

Zookinesis teaches students that the reason we have no control is that we don’t have training of the attention as part of children’s education.  We teach children to memorize and to calculate.  We do not teach them to be intricately aware of each part of their bodies and how they work.  We do not learn to pay attention to many things at once, as you do in Push Hands, so your attention can be more efficient.  We certainly do not teach them to remain centered and relaxed as threatening situations surround them.  And they don’t learn the importance of proper breathing.

When you are properly trained you can really see “inside” the other person.  You are aware of the dynamics of their attention and what is driving them to their behavior.  This allows you to see their behavior in proper perspective. 

The strange thing is that when you react to another person’s frantic behavior, with your own centeredness and relaxation, they can feel how you are in control of yourself.  They come to think of you as someone who cannot be fazed and who can be trusted to take care of situations.  They feel safe around you and trust you.  It improves your relationships.

Luckily you can just learn a simple series of movements (such as the Zookinesis “Laughing Dragon Exercises”, the Tai-chi Yang Short Form as in the “Tai-chi for Beginners” program, or the “Spirit Breathing Workouts”) and practice these a few minutes a day.  With these simple exercises your life can be turned around.  Imagine if you were no longer “torn apart”, if you no longer got aggravated but just dealt with each situation as best as you could.  Imagine if you didn’t even come down hard on yourself for not being a superman in every situation. 

You could actually enjoy your life! 

The winter is a great time for asking yourself, “What am I doing with my life?”  Set aside a portion of your life to learn a centering exercise and to practice it every day.  You can have fun by learning different exercises.  One of my favorites is “Chair Exercises for Seniors” (even though I don’t consider myself a senior) because it is easy to do while sitting at work.  I can do a single exercise for two minutes here and there and stay flexible.  Even if I do that only four times a day, by the end of the day I don’t feel drained. 

What could be worse than, once you finally get some time off, being too tired to enjoy it?  We all deserve to enjoy our lives.  Devote a few minutes a day to yourself!

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