When I finally, after so many years of looking forward to it, turned 18, I graduated high school, I had an entire life to live, and I was forced to make decisions for myself, but a question kept nagging me…
How do I live the best life possible?
There is no one single answer for this as each and everyone of us finds a way to wake up, navigate the world and find a place to sleep; the bare necessity of life. Arbitrary opinion is how we judge each other and thus gauge our own success, but we are all succeeding every single day we wake up.
Tai Chi gives us the opportunity to experience the extremes and find balance with a lifelong mind-body practice based on the Non-Exertion and Pleasure Principles making it an ideal exercise for all ages.
What does that all mean?
Tai Chi Masters have a sense of balance far developed beyond that of an average person. Spending hours over months over years over decades leads to something incomprehensible on Hour 1, Day 1.
There are legends like the great story of the founder, Zhang San Feng; a man said to have lived 1,000 years, who could catch a snake by the head and a tiger by the tail.
Consistent, mindful practice provides far more than a round, slow, soft dance routine. A deeply studied and well understood mind-body connection improves every aspect of life from simple awareness to nigh instantaneous reflexes.
By regulating our effort to 60-80% for long periods, our 90-100% improves and we realize amazing ability. By feeling good during practice, we find few obstacles to personal and group training and noticeably improve with consistent effort.
We want to move, it is natural for us to move, it is a sad day when we realize that we cannot move. Keep exercising as long as you can to maintain your health as long as you can to live the longest life possible.
This is how I learned to live the best life possible.
Tai Chi is Taoist Philosophy expressed in Human form. The words, Tai Chi Quan 太极拳translates to Great Ultimate Fist. The Yin/Yang dynamic is present and demonstrable in all areas of life, all levels of existence. For every Pull, there is a Push. For every Rise, there is a Fall. For every Success, there is Failure. And through all of it, there is Balance.
Feel the air in your lungs. Inhale long and deep, feel your belly then chest expand, exhale slow and relaxed, feel the tension and let it go.
Stand up, feel the weight of your heels on the Earth. Balance on one foot, then the other. Do not lift either foot from the ground, just shift from left to right and back again. Find the center, 50/50.
Keep your spine straight with your head floating as if held by a thread and sink a heavy stone to your belly while your tailbone suspends a stack of iron plates.
Your nose aligns with your bellybutton, your shoulders relaxed and down, attend to your center line, front and rear. Listen behind yourself. Stare at the horizon, lose your focus and see everything within your peripheral vision.
Relax starting from the top of your skull to the tips of your fingers and toes. Focus on any tension and relax it. Scan your entire person, notice tension, focus and relax.
Meditation and Qi Gong are foundations of proper Tai Chi practice.
Meditation reveals our deepest thoughts and allows us to reflect on them. We discover ourselves in silence, we test the limits of our patience, we remain still until it is no longer possible.
Qi Gong improves daily life by stimulating blood flow, increasing lung capacity and organ function. The mind directs the body to perform simple, repetitive movements and align them with the breath. The heat grows in the core, flows to the palms and feet, and new sensations abound.
Self massage relieves soreness, reduces recovery time, evens out the fascia and elongates the muscle fibers.
Investing time and money into your health, wellness and longevity is a supreme benefit with the most valuable dividends.
I encourage you to visit multiple Tai Chi groups and clubs before committing to one! You will eventually meet a 70, 80 or even 90+ year old player who will regale you with stories before and after Tai Chi. The benefits are near infinite. Once Tai Chi begins, it never stops.
Our capability is directly related to Diet and Exercise.
You are what you eat! Cook and eat clean, real, whole food like our ancestors. There is no substitute for potent sources of fat, protein and fibrous carbohydrates. And when socializing, make the best choice possible. Remember, the body is a temple; respect it, clean it, cherish it.
When we stop exercising, cease moving, our health deteriorates, our muscle density wanes, and our once great capability fades. Exercise your whole life to extend your lifespan and maintain function. I encourage Tai Chi as we can practice at any age, in any position. Do whatever exercise you can, you are doing yourself a great favor.
Tai Chi Quan is a daily, weekly, monthly, annually practiced habit that only benefits your Mind-Body relationship. Mindful practice teaches you how to feel your breath, your balance, and improves your connection with the Earth, the people around you and your very own self.
Awareness of the self, others and of the world provides a noticeable barrier to threats.
Avoidance of the threats keeps us safe.
When Awareness and Avoidance fail, Attack is our only remaining option and thanks to practice, we can respond calmly and appropriately.
Now that you’re ready to start, I want you to know that most teachers are perfect for beginners, a few teachers are great with students of 2 to 5 years of practice and even fewer teachers are ideally suited for students with 10 or more years experience. Your first teacher is usually not your last teacher.
I encourage you to explore Tai Chi, enjoy the practice, improve your life by some amount everyday.