Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 432

Special Tip

                                   Tai Chi is about learning to be aware of one’s actions;  Push Hands is about becoming aware of one’s reactions.

Facing Life and Death

Why do we practice Tai Chi? Most people tell me it’s because they want an exercise that is relaxing and interesting. Tai Chi surely fits that description.

But why do we exercise? At one time I lived near Ashland, OR, out in the country. I was doing a late morning run along a nice, country road, when I saw a man in a field moving irrigation pipes around. Heavy work. He stopped for a moment and just gazed at me, as I ran by. All of a sudden I felt ridiculous, wasting all this energy, when I could have been helping move the pipes – doing something useful. I never ran much after that.

Now I live in a house that has a large garden that always needs attention. Plenty of exercise lifting, bending, squatting. So why do I do Tai Chi?

My reasons are many and my focus keeps changing as I change. Right now, at this moment, RIGHT NOW, I think it is so I can face death head on, with an open mind, accepting whatever will be, with the same sense of wonder that I face life.

Why these thoughts about death right now? It is because I just finished a memoir, entitled “When Breath Becomes Air”, by Paul Kalanithi. He was a young neurosurgeon/neuroscientist who wrote about his life and looming death in a clear and open fashion. I recommend it. He looked at death through the eyes of a trained medical, brain specialist, and I found it quite profound.

Tai Chi trains the mind and body to remain present in all situations. Like all martial arts, the results of a distracted mind are immediate and can teach a stinging lesson. As I experience my 80’s, competition is behind me, but I did it, and learned many useful lessons from facing an opponent who is out to prove to himself that he has learned his lessons well.

When facing an opponent, one never knows what will happen or how the encounter will evolve. One must stay open and receptive at all times to the changes that are inevitable. The same applies to the final encounter – death. None of us will never know how we will deal with this final chapter of our life. Yet I practice Tai Chi so I can remain open and filled with the wonder of what we call life and death.