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8 Tai Chi inspired lessons for every day life

Updated: May 7, 2023

Half a year ago I started to learn Tai Chi. I thought that it was due to the Facebook post of Confucius Institute at the University of Luxembourg I saw and got curious but more I think the more I have the feeling that the post was only the materialized finality of what I was looking for longer. Before, at the end of the summer I painted yin and yang symbol at the old chair. I was in transition, leaving my old job, having a dream about a new start in my head but no concrete plans. The ultimate goal was to find a purpose and an equilibrium.

I did not look up what exactly Tai Chi was, but I knew that the teacher was a Chinese. This somehow reassured me that he would not be somebody who did a crash course on martial art and now leads a training course. After a couple of lessons I texted to a friend of mine to tell him I was learning Tai Chi. He immediately called back, because the very morning he was looking into the book on this martial art. Then he elaborated that the teacher had to be at least 6 decades old to be able to transmit the art properly and I argued that four would be enough. By the time you are over 40, you have had solid experience in a career, love life and reached almost perfection in one or two hobbies.

After initial excitement of my new discovery came the shock. 74 movements in one so called form. Hands doing one thing, legs another, hips move in the shape of infinite, lower body flexible, upper body straight, balance is the key. Eyes follow the direction of hands but also check the periphery, ears listen carefully what is happening behind. Arms never form a rectangular shape, punching is fast but muscles must relax quickly, there is rhythm and flow and elegance....once you master the form. While trying to learn Tai Chi, I learned some extra lessons useful for everyday life.

  1. Forget about the future outcomes, enjoy the process. Being new on a learning path, setting goals? You have the exact idea how the teacher should be. What you could or should already be able to do in a couple of lessons. The ideal speed of your progress. What the accomplishment means to you. How you will present it to others. All this creates useless expectations, pressure and eventual disappointment. Do not let the focus on the results take away the joy of the process.

  2. Forget about in-depth analysis and understanding of things you need to do in order to move forward. Initially I tried to observe and memorise the movements as words of a poem. It did not work. Then I tried to find a logic of the direction, shifting of weight and accompanying hand moves. It did not work either. Then I let it go and listened more the body and repeated many times the same moves. The muscles do the remembering not the head. Similarly in adult life you need to learn to listen to your bodily sensations, where your energy rises and where it dies out. You do not need to understand everything in detail. Constant analysis of the technique of walking will not help you to move a step forward. You need to step.

  3. Do not use excuses if you did not do what you were supposed to do. You could not come to a training lesson? You did not have time to practice in between the sessions? The teacher has never been interested about the whys. The consequence was not remembering, not being able to learn new steps. In life whatever you want to do for yourself or others, be it a favour, spending time together, learning new things, loving each other either you do (it) or not. Explaining why it has not been possible serves to your ego to feel better, and even the ego knows that excuses are usually lame.

  4. Let go of perfection. Do not compare yourself with others but with yourself of yesterday. As it still happens to me, I was looking around myself and of course I saw that there are faster learners. I already saw natural talents and winners of Tai Chi local competition. I already saw myself not passing to intermediate level and thinking whether it would be worth to repeat the beginners´ level. This can happen anytime to anybody for various reasons. Either you were constantly compared as a child, you were in a highly competitive classrooms or were a member of a sports team. Forget about the past, what matters is your individual improvement in your own pace.

  5. In order to achieve balance you need to train balance. Tai Chi is about balance. It comes with training, with feeling wobbly many times, with correcting your posture, with stepping more carefully. We look for work-life balance, for equilibrium as if it was a winning prize at the end of our constant battle between two things. Work and life, work and family, the boss and the spouse. Yet, the balance is achieved only with the correction of missteps right at the moment. Not after dozens of lessons.

  6. If you do not know how to continue, connect with familiar. When your muscle memory is weak, in other words, you do not know what to do next, you need to do a circle, to connect one movement with the next one. Circular movements are key in Tai Chi. Circles have no stops and no starts, there is no segmentation or disconnection in a circle. Make sure you have your "circle"in your life. Family, friends, rituals, pets, journaling, listening to music, walks in the nature. Once stuck, out of equilibrium, connect with your circle, it will allow you to continue.

  7. Do not judge yourself, be kind to yourself. I was and am still impatient and self critical, wanting to be different - if only I could follow the mirror version and not to mess up. Wanting to be something else than you are right now means you are not accepting your limits. Everybody has limits. Acceptance of own limits (without fatalistic tendencies that change is impossible) allows us to be more patient and kind also with others.

  8. Learn the form, forget the form. Once you learn the form - the sequence of movements in Tai Chi, you do not need it anymore. You would be able to combine your movements freely but abiding to the principles. It reminds me of the Biblical "the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath." In other words the form is there to help you, not to burden you. As everything in life, any rule, moral principle, noble goals are there to help us to be the best version of ourselves, not to become dependent, narrow-minded followers of ideal formal scheme or narrative.

Tai chi short for Tai chi ch'üan is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for defense training, health benefits and meditation. Tai Chi also draws on Chinese theories of the body, particularly Daoist internal alchemy teachings on Qi (vital energy). To learn more about health benefits of Tai Chi read:


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