Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 221
Part Two of the interview I did with the Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association
* How did you become acquainted with Tai Chi? Please decribe your particular background with the practice and how you got to where you are today.
I have decided not to share the answer to the question he
re about my background with Tai Chi, etc., as I have shared so much about myself in the past, plus I have covered that information on my web site, and, in the interview, I delivered rather a long response to the question. I am moving onto the next couple of questions.
* Annals reaches out to a large readership of professionals in the psychotherapy field. Can Tai Chi be useful for therapists working with clients?
Tai Chi is a great tool for therapists. Firstly, for work on themselves. I feel people can only give what they have. If the therapist isn’t centered, the client will know it or soon realize it. If the therapist is coming from a centered place deep inside, a calm, relaxed place, the client will also relax and open.
A person seeks help from a therapist because he or she is out of balance on a physical, emotional, or mental/spiritual level, or a combination of all three. It doesn’t take long for the committed individual to regain balance given the proper instruction in Tai Chi. It has proven itself for hundreds of years to help people on all levels, as it did for me.
It is my opinion that many mental health problems occur because the client is stuck in his or her head. According to Tai Chi, the body/mind is a bioelectric system. The universe is energy, the human body is energy. If we could look closely enough inside the body, we would see that there is nothing solid, only energy. This energy forms itself into shapes with various functions, like digestive organs, circulatory system, thinking mind, etc. This energy moves, and collects in places where needed. When one eats, for instance, the body heats up as the energy moves to the digestive system. When doing physical exercise, the muscles heat up as the energy move to them. When problem solving, the brain lights up. This is all easily proven with current technology.
So when I say a person is stuck in their head, it means that much of their energy is in the head and they are top heavy, out of balance. It is as if the television set is on and the person can’t figure out how to turn it off.
Tai Chi study is designed in such a way that the energy system of the body is rooted and grounded at the beginning. We concentrate on the health and healing aspects of the art. Since most people seem to be top heavy, thinking too much, they are out of balance. It is like a pyramid placed upside down. It wouldn’t take much to cause it to fall. In the beginning stages, we turn the pyramid back onto its base. We build support from the ground up, allowing relaxation and a sense of the earth providing the support. The earth in Chinese medicine is the mother, the source of nurturing energy needed to feel confident and loved.
After the body is rid of self-limiting, physical manifestations of past problems, the student then works on building strength, flexibility, sensitivity, awareness, mind/body communication, and an understanding of the martial root of the form.
Finally, when the body/mind is healed and strengthened, the student learns to transcend the body and unify with the life force. Tai Chi becomes Chinese spiritual philosophy in action.
There is a saying in Tai Chi. “To know yourself is wisdom, to know others is enlightenment.” The first few years of Tai Chi study, students learn about themselves – the correct functioning of the body and mind. Only when one has mastered himself, do we move the student into situations where they have the opportunity to understand other people at the deepest, energetic level. The Tai Chi classics state this simply. “When the opponent (other person) is still, I am still. If he moves, I move first.” This implies the complete openness of the body/mind and sensitivity to the energetic field surrounding all of us. This is the ultimate goal of all martial artists, healing masters, and spiritual teachers.
*What sorts of general health benefits coincide with a schedule Tai Chi regimen?
If we look at what it would take to be a successful martial artist, or athlete, that is what we can expect. As the body is strengthened and rooted, blood pressure is stabilized. The arteries and veins open as inner tension is reduced, improving circulation, taking much stress off the heart. Circulation also improves vision and hearing. Because the circulation improves, the lymph system improves so colds, flu and other viral and bacterial invasions are lessened or eliminated. Joints are exercised, without the damaging effects of heavy impact. Bones are strengthened because the slow, relaxed movements are done in a semi squatting stance and the weight is placed on one leg at a time. Breathing is slow, relaxed, and controlled in Tai Chi practice so the lungs can clear and function at their maximum. The mind is focused at all times on the here and now, eliminating internal chatter and distractions. One becomes present and able to see a situation more clearly. Posture is improved, strengthening and aligning the spine, thus eliminating many back problems.
There are many special exercises in Tai Chi study that involve moving energy consciously inside the body. Many involve working with the internal organs – cleansing toxins, and strengthening the function and interaction between the various organs. This idea might be quite foreign to most Westerners but has been practiced in the East for many thousands of years.
Tai Chi is generally regarded as a general, tonic exercise. It helps the entire body in a very balanced way. For special problems, the Chinese tend to use Chi Kung, as it can be more directed towards specific targets.
Note: I will finish the last three responses next week. I hope you are enjoying this as much as I did in answering the questions. It is always interesting for me to see what comes out of my mind when questions are asked. That is one of the wonderful benefits of teaching and sharing from deep inside.