I took up t’ai chi this fall, for a lot of reasons. It appealed to me on for its mental and its physical aspects. But I didn’t know how helpful it would be in Real Life.
You see, in Real Life, I thought I knew how to mentally “roll with the punches.” I thought I had the “stay loose” flexibility that Wayne Dyer wrote about recently. I knew all the aphorisms: “And this too shall pass.” “The only thing constant is change.” “Here and now, boys.” — all those sayings that remind you to live in the moment, and go with the flow. But this year I didn’t feel calm or centered or relaxed. I felt beat up.
Now, t’ai chi has a lot of energy transfer, transferring your opponent’s energy away from their intended target — you. I didn’t take t’ai chi for the martial arts part, though. I was more interested in the mental imagery, the form, the energy flow, the kata. But one Saturday morning, I showed up at the advanced class, which was a mixture of karate and t’ai chi. As we reviewed some redirection techniques, the instructor had this to say:
Don’t let an opponent get to your core. If they do, it’s very hard to recover.
Amazing. I realized that with the work stress I’d had this year, I’d done just that. I’d let my opponent shake my core, and I was struggling trying to recover. If I thought of the circumstances causing the stress as dealing with an opponent, rather than just dealing with a situation, I could bring t’ai chi into play. I could defend my core.
It improved the work situation, almost immediately. The environment wasn’t much different, but my attitude changed, and as we all know, that’s more than half the battle. Later, when a new drama erupted on the home front, I felt better prepared to cope.
So if you ever get the opportunity to take t’ai chi, I recommend it. The physicality is terrific. But the mental part — that may be just the survival tool you need, when Real Life mugs you.