knowing, growing, becoming
Popular Eastern teachings seem more yin or passive in their approach to life. They often teach you to stop resisting your experience. Resistance is a mind body spirit phenomena. Physically it can show up as tension, emotionally it can be defensiveness, mentally it is often rigidity or judgmental-ness, spiritually it could be a level of refusal. We've all heard the phrases " go with the flow"and "let it be" to describe this philosophy. Since we are a culture addicted to constant doing, this is sage advice. Yet sometimes, the other side of the art of living gets lost in the process; the yang or active side. The balanced Yang approach involves having clear intention and purpose without being obsessed, discerning what is relevant and appropriate for you, being empowered by your choices while understanding they have an effect on others and actively developing harmonious relationships (to name a few). This creative and co-creative aspect may seem missing from Eastern teachings if you only read books about them. The actual lives of adepts are often extremely creative and fully engaged.
Mindfulness can sound like a lot of work. It's common definition includes the steady application of awareness in a non-judgmental way with attention to detail and increased effectiveness as an outcome. Mindfulness can be understood from at least three different perspectives. Borrowing from the work of Dr. Les Fehmi, we can discern that most mindfulness techniques fall under the category of what he terms "narrow focus" or focus on an object of attention. This can be the breath, movement, a mantra, a feeling, thought or a physical object like food. Dr. Fehmi has identified another category which he calls "diffused attention". Diffused attention is awareness of the background field of awareness. The best football players are aware of the field and acutely sense what is occurring in it but they are also focused on their task. This is the third category; narrow focus while maintaining diffused awareness. You can get a taste of this by reading these words while becoming aware of the space between them, between you and the screen and all around you simultaneously. Dr. Fehmi terms this attentional state "open focus". Although this takes training to do well, (hopefully) you do it every time you drive a vehicle.
Being in the moment and mindfulness are often attributed to eastern teachings and may seem hard to implement in fast paced society....one more thing you have to do. There is another way that can liberate you from that burden which is also a key to mindfulness in the flow of living. That secret hidden in plain sight is to participate. Whenever you are interested in something you easily and naturally participate. The more passionate you are about it, the more intensely you participate. In those situations, aren't you naturally present? The life skill is to find ways to upgrade your level of interest and engagement toward more passionate participation. Sometimes, it is as simple as a change of attitude, from "I have to", to "I get to". It can also be a change in perspective, for example, from the dichotomy of the glass half empty or half full to being totally full; half with water, half with air.
Most people suffer from too much stress and probably have a constant drip of adrenalin in the background of their busy lives. If you tell them they need to learn to relax they may dismiss it saying they call that "sleep". But if your default setting is on constant background stress, you cannot feel healthy and whole. We are a society of jangled nervous systems, dysfunctional brain, heart and respiratory patterns. New research on the Vagus nerve (vagal tone) indicates how important it is for immunity, anti-inflammation and sleep patterns. It is well documented that trauma patients often get locked into high stress patterns interfering with dopamine, cortisol, oxytocin and other hormonal homeostatic cycles. Techniques which foster heart, brain, nervous system and respiratory coherence are powerfully restorative, whether they are ancient disciplines like Qigong, yoga, pranayama and meditation or modern adaptations like those Drs. Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg elucidated in their book, "The Healing Power of Breath" or those applied to trauma recovery detailed in, Dr. Bessel van der Kolkt's book "The Body keeps the Score". We need a new view of relaxation; an integral interdisciplinary model to more fully understand how to augment that deep sigh of relief which signals being well.
Tai Chi Chuan or Taijquan?
Chi Kung or Qigong?
Chi or Qi?
Hsing-I Chuan or Xingyiquan?
These are the same words but are spelled differently because initially Chinese words where romanized according to the Wades-Giles system. In the 1980's the transliteration was switched to the Pinyin system. Today you may see a combination which may vary from author to author. Hence, the confusion.
What is Taijiquan? "Taiji" refers to the duality of the universe depicted by the famous symbol of yin and yang. That symbol is called the Taiji symbol. It's half black with a white dot and half white with a black dot. It symbolizes a dynamic state of interdependence, transformation, and balance. Taiji refers to the primal condition of the universe after it split into two from the primordial Oneness. It is often translated as the "grand ultimate or grand terminus". "Quan" refers to fist or force and martial arts. Taijiquan was originally known as Cotton fist.One story is that the originator of Yang style Taijiquan, Yang Lu Chan, was an unbeaten pugilist who employed the principles of yin and yang. His embodiment of Taiji philosophy in his art gave rise to the name, Taijiquan.
The vast majority of people who practice Taijiquan today do not use it as a martial art. Most practice it as a flowing set of mindful movements which reduce stress, increase well-being and balance.It has a long list of scientifically verified benefits including, increasing grey matter in the brain, helping with diabetes, improving bone density, reducing blood pressure and more..
To study the martial aspects of Taijiquan is becoming a little more popular in America than it once was.To actually
use it effectively in real martial arts contests is rare and would require very intensive mental, physical and energy training for years.
Taijiquan is a masterpiece. Woven within it is Qigong, the physics of effortless movement, a through and gentle exercise system, Meditation, Inner Alchemy and the study of Yin and Yang within oneself as well as with others.
It is deeply influenced by Taoist philosophy, i.e. the philosophy of being natural and harmonizing with Nature.
What is Qigong or Chi Kung? Qi or "chi" basically means energy or life force** and "gong" refers to any skill which is highly developed through dedicated practice. Qigong is a method of building, balancing, and refining your energy and awareness. There are thousands of forms of Qigong which may focus on health, martial power, inner alchemy, spirituality and ethical development or can be a synthesis of these. Qigong often includes still meditation and self-massage/acupressure as well.
Qigong movements are done mindfully with different focuses depending on the goal. Generally, there is regulation of breathing,mind,movement and posture with deeper alignments of energetic structures (dantein's, meridians, energy gates) all done in an integrated fashion.
Most Qigong sets are separate movements which are easy to learn. Taijiquan, in contrast, is a series of linked movements which some find more challenging. There are also some Qigong forms, like Wild Goose Qigong, which have a long series of linked movements.
** Qi meaning life force is very simplistic and limited. To begin a deeper understanding of "Qi", please read this: http://jaybulloch.com/articles/what-is-qi/ and start practicing Qigong or Taijiquan.
Understanding the philosophy of Yin and Yang