Tai Chi Class

Welcome to WholenessInMotion. Tai chi is a whole body and mind exercise that combines meditation, martial art and health tonic in one. This particular form is the Yang style, 37 posture short form as taught by Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing. This fascinating and intricate exercise has many benefits and just about anyone can practice it.

Take a look at this site and consider the study of relaxation and how it can benefit you in your daily life. I look forward to working with you. Tom Daly


 

Archive for February, 2011

Tai Chi Chuan – Kultur Shok!

Posted By Tom Daly on February 19th, 2011

Tai Chi Chuan – Kultur Shok!

Culture Shock: The American Culture versus what could be called Tai Chi Culture.

Tai chi develops a different cultural mindset from the one Americans typically encourage and identify with. In simplified terms, it goes like this:

American: getting, doing, having, strategizing, manipulating, leading, individuality, making a claim, staking our territory, taking risks, family centric, competitive, divisive, aggressive, acquisitive, exclusive, fast, moving forward, expressive, taking control, looking for gain.

“The hard will overcome the soft – get to the gym!”

Sound familiar? We value these qualities, but I think this is small-mind living. (Yes, all of humanity shares these qualities, and America excels in them!)

Tai Chi Chuan: being, non-doing, non-striving, no strategy, no manipulation, “sticking and following,” group sensitivity and connectivity, ceding all claims and territories, being comfortable, community centric, cooperative, cohesive, allowing, letting go, inclusivity, slow, cultivating stillness, listening, yielding control, “investing in loss.”

“The soft will overcome the hard – relax….”

This is large mind living. Business executives might read this and scratch their heads in disbelief and cry out: “Show me the money!”

America is about consumerism gone wild. Tai chi is about relaxation, integration and connection. The conflict here is deep. We find it difficult to see the value in a tai chi existence (which is really Taoism in action.) We too often crave the American approach because it is held up as the best option for success and happiness.

Let’s look at two Americans:

Bernie Madoff. Do you find him appalling? Are you envious? I feel both ways. His greed,wealth, manipulation, cleverness, selfishness and those years of avoiding detection. But then came the aftermath of his behavior; destruction of lives – his own, his family’s and his victims.

Can we surgically excise just the good part of Bernie and emulate it to succeed? Most of us are not as vile as Bernie. Is there a “success” story out that takes the “good” of Bernie and leaves the bad behind? There are many, of course, but they are hard to replicate and depend on many factors beyond our control.

Let’s consider:

Bill Gates. He followed the path of honesty and hard work. He became wealthy and created a charitable foundation to give back. If his path looks logical, very few are privy to it and those with the means often DON’T give away their wealth. In fact, even Gates was initially using his foundation to counter bad press because of lawsuits against Microsoft.

To think that hard work and talent create a happy outcome ignores many other factors. Bernie and Bill had both. But what about luck, circumstance, upbringing, personal conditioning and even genes? We worship American style success, but never examine the factors that create success. Success is not all about being in control, talent, hard work or strategy, though these qualities will certainly contribute.

Sometimes all the factors arrive at the right moment and the individual is not so much the guiding force, but is the conduit for other forces to express themselves.

Bernie and Bill exemplify American values. One is odious; the other agreeable. It reminds me of a study involving twin brothers – one a successful physician, the other a derelict. When asked how they got to where they are, both replied in unison: an alcoholic father.

Back to my original statement about Culture Shock: the American approach and the tai chi approach to living both have plusses and minuses. But the value in tai chi as lifestyle has been greatly overlooked.

My own feeling is that the American lifestyle may create a certain kind of security – if it works out – but it can be a false security, a fantastical lifestyle about living. Such fantasies are created, in part, by advertisement, with which we are bombarded. We can’t avoid those commercials showing smiling beautiful people with white teeth and perfect bodies. Hot babes are still used to sell merchandise (as if there is a connection!) By confusing such imagery with reality, does this create real happiness? Madison Avenue is hard to resist.

Yes, the American lifestyle can create blissful moments for some: you reach a goal and feel joy and pride in your accomplishment. But joy and pride always fade and the need for a new surge of joy and pride quickly rises. Keeps you busy, right?

Americans love to applaud the winners, because we want to identify with the notion that hard work and talent equals success. How easily we forget the Bernie Madoff’s of the world, or how many other factors are involved in success that have nothing to do with hard work or talent.

On the other hand tai chi works on “being” which creates happiness. Research supports this finding. In 2010, the press often reported on what constitutes happiness. Happiness is interesting to consider, almost impossible to define and, practically speaking, impossible to create through willful intention. For me, however, happiness results from “being here and now.”

Look at it this way: If you “stick and follow” (a basic principal in tai chi’s push hands practice,) don’t manipulate others (or yourself for that matter,) immerse yourself in acceptance of what is, don’t bank your happiness on achievement and don’t create situations that destroy, the result will be a mind that is happy and content. If only we could understand that the source of happiness is here and now with what is and your complete participation (no wandering minds!) in the task at hand. It is being fully engaged with now, and not being engaged with a fantasy about some desired future result, a result that you can’t really predict or count on anyway.

Many “successful” people describe their path in just this way: Working hard from where they are and NOT planning the next step. They just follow opportunities as they appear.

“The here and now” may sound fuzzy, but really, is there anything else other than the here and now? Can you show it to me? And is there a better way to be here and now than to be fully engaged in the here and now? Existence in “real time” – that is tai chi’s deepest lesson.

The American way puts the cart before the horse. Not all people in the world have the luxury of living life as we do. What we think is natural and a God-given right – this American lifestyle – is a historical anomaly. America is an odd conglomeration of the right time and the right mix of people: Our rebellious forefathers, a nation of immigrants, a country without traditions and free from a past, the pronounced desire for independence and freedom. As a result of this confluence, some aspects of “the American way” turned out to be successful.

Positively speaking, America has done remarkable things in short order in terms of our economic growth and commitment to human rights. Alas, we think our achievements are inherent in our existence, as if the “good” is a logical result of our values. We take it to the next step by exporting it to the rest of the world as if the final word regarding our “good” is in and others would be well advised to follow suit.

Look, the American approach has certain benefits and I’m not urging to you give up all goals, plans and dreams only to enter what might seem like some sort of directionless la la land. It means that while you participate in that American mindset, remain fully aware of another more important aspect of life. You can’t predict success or achievement; but you can be here and now.

Back to “being”.

The catch? “Being” is hard to “get.” “Trying” gets in the way of “being.” But not trying is not a solution. Tai chi is counter intuitive: As a meditation practice it teaches “non-doing” to get things done. You go back to go forward. Going slow teaches you how to go fast. And so forth.

I could go on but the real solution is not in my words….

Try a slow moving class in tai chi and see how it feels. Start with your body and see how to use it by not trying to use it. After a good round of tai chi, or attending a class, I feel much better than I did before. Unlike other exercise programs, you learn a way of being and reducing stress. You may want a bit of tai chi in your life.

Check out the David Brooks article, The Humble Hound, included in this blog site. He states my proposition in more practical terms.

(Special thanks to Stuart Dim who questioned incomplete or undeveloped thoughts along with bad grammar and syntax. The topic was so grand that I needed an objective eye to challenge and clarify my statements. The result has more punch and greater polish.)

Posted in Philosophy
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