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OVER-VIEW: THE PRACTICALITY OF A TAI CHI SOCIETY
EVOLUTION AND SOCIETY
The development of a civilized society is intimately influenced by the traditional and cultural ways that people shared in their given region or country. The term “civilized” is something of a misnomer since we Humans seem to have retained many of our more “savage” qualities (ref.: wars, poverty, rape, crime in general etc.) but our attempt never-the-less, is to live life in a more orderly fashion, with the help of rules, guidelines and laws put into place to remind us to “do what’s right” or learn to defer to our higher nature. We might question if the rules, laws and guidelines are still functioning under the original prime directive. Staying in touch with our higher nature, for most of us, requires that our “survival needs” are taken care of, a definite part of the civilized society framework. Social conduct/protocols and religion seems to attempt to set the examples for what’s correct but clearly, much has been lost, perverted and used for personal gain.
Consequently, there are many variations of what might be referred to as civilized and historically, these differences have been the justification of much savagery. We have not always seen eye to eye on how things are done or what is important, and have been willing to kill to prove it. Surely the irony of “holy wars, scape-goat genocides, slavery, resource exploitation/occupation and governmental take-overs does not escape us...
Just as there are individual belief structures within a society that have divided groups and their various community members, so too does this happen between whole cultures and countries, separating peoples of both different and similar origins.
Some of the older cultures have recognized this and created ways or protocols for returning and maintaining harmony. These are based in shared or common orientations, such as: ‘we are more similar than different, we recognize that Humans, no matter where we are from, share common needs, desires and interests, and that our lives are intimately connected to nature, seasons and natural phenomena.’ Seasonal ceremonies helped us remember sharing comes from the higher nature, organizing systems that served & shared resource supported the community and the concept of equality in their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing. This we can recognize as our first steps, and was a common starting point of the extension of our higher nature. Becoming skilled and organized in one of the “original trades or guilds”; food production, shelter building/materials or cloth/clothing-related fields was part of that continued development and natural order.
In the Eastern cultures and civilizations, it was observed that the lower nature continued to be ever-present in daily life, rearing its head and mocking our notion of civility. Systems and teachings were developed to help Humans become more in tune and in response to the higher nature. One could learn how to unravel and heal mental, emotional and spiritual traumas, so growth in these areas could continue. This was our earliest beginnings in the organic sciences and the relational consciousness of quantum physics. It was seen early on that any sort of trauma left un-resolved, could leave a person stunted or locked. This was sometimes visible but often unseen, as injuries can be in the mind and emotions, leaving a person at the mercy of the past, as the trauma colored every aspect of their life.
Groups or mini-societies have always formed within larger communities, ever trying to find a place we feel comfortable in, attempting to share like-mindedness and later dis-banding when the primary individuals lose or change their direction. Many don’t seem to know how to change without separating from each other or the need to make others wrong. The toll for losing this primary perspective is individualism, ego justification/gratification and a general sense of dysfunction. This type of separation seems to breed cancerous activity (working against each other/feeding off each other).... not a small price to pay.
Internal Arts, or the cultivation of the self development, has historically divided itself into the two primary camps; selfish personal cultivation and selfless cultivation through service. Inevitably, both paths lead to the other (or are suppose to) with the idea that to follow one of these directions, one will either: run into the self (when following the selfless direction) or be obliged to learn to accept others (through self realization). It would seem that both are needed to have a more complete understanding, which is what birthed the third or primal original method also known as The Middle Path. This is also referred to as the connection to all things and has its roots in the principles of Internal Arts: meditation, Tai Chi practice, QiGong and the original practices of Yoga.
Yoga, Tai Chi, QiGong, and meditation practices are some of the greatest self-healing systems shared by Humankind. These practices teach how to harmonize with self, how this harmony translates to consideration for all sentient beings (all life-forms) and how we might understand sharing environments without the need to dominate or compete. For illness and injury prevention/rehabilitation, they remain unrivalled, even after hundreds of years of technological advances. Literally, we can experience the true constant, that ‘All things are connected’, and learn to live in accord with the change-able aspects of nature and its cycles. A society that shares the understanding of personal development, evolutionary growth (in a general way), can agree that there are basic parameters for balance and learning to live our lives in a harmonious way that can be shared, measured and supported.
FORM AND FUNCTION
Both the cosmos and the life-cycle of Humans are subject to the attributes of Life Force; the ever constant qualities of change, movement chaos and balance... always in a state of rhythmic, cyclic flux. This is no small statement as it refers to the primal original source that everything is beholden to, what and why things change, when or timing of change-rhythms, how patterns, rhythms and cycles guide and shape our lives and how harmony and chaos fit in to all the variables we experience. As we seek relationship and mastery of our lives, we become aware of how we fit into or are a part of the Life and its cycles. We begin to relate to rhythmic patterns (as they continue to change) and how natural intelligence refines from survival and reactive states, to a more flexible precision that stays in response, a type of calm and complete attention. We also understand the role of awareness, timing, correct position (right time/right place) and preparation. Tai Chi and QiGong teach us how inside feelings, fluctuations and flows of circulation are influenced, how system-cycles ebb & flow, contract and expand, and relate to outside changes and seasonal cycles. Thoughts cycle according to routines and change with creativity, feelings fluctuate in accord to both inside and outside changes, and the many circulations of the body filter and adapt to any and all changes. Form and function rise and fall in accord to the changes we experience in our lives, a constant state of flux and change.
Living our lives in a rhythmic relationship that includes what we are feeling being connected to our outer actions, requires an on-going state of awareness. Our senses interpret how to engage/respond/react very rapidly and relay the feeling to the heart first, then the brain. The brain then engages past experiences, creative possibilities and/or the mixing of the two, looking for what might fit the situation...Sometimes past traumas have blocked or “over-take” this natural process and this where we experience a loss of connection to what’s happening, but generally speaking, this allows us to be timely and appropriate in our responses. We become aware of “constants in our lives”, we become aware of rhythms that change relatively fast (ex.: the need to eat), things that change at a predictable pace (seasons), and things that change more slowly or in a more long-term sense (ex.: knowledge as it turns to wisdom). This flexible lens of perception in our lives allows for a natural intelligence to re-emerge, and relate to our awareness and connection to all things.... all the time. This “shift in consciousness” contains an emergence of many our higher nature abilities/qualities, all accessible and working together. In this the awake-state, everything generally improves that we participate in. This is the living state of Tai Chi and is the practical context for using Tai Chi principles in daily life-balance, regulation and prevention. It is formally called the Life Style Change Arts of the Tai Chi, a part of the original lineage teachings that has almost become lost/forgotten as family styles have become more prominent and fighting has become the measure
As Human beings, we could become more aware of how the ego seems to dominate our perceptions; we could become more aware of how easily we allow ourselves to be lead into unhealthy competition, and how often we choose opposition and defiance as the answer to life situations. The fighting arts of Tai Chi have always been the “more glamorous or flashy side” of the art that gets a lot more attention. Historically, family styles have added there “specialties or Kung Fu family secrets” to there style of Tai Chi, changing and in many cases, deviating away or emphasizing particular qualities. Perhaps we could reconsider that the original method is based in balance and harmonizing, and the martial skill set is a product of openness and refinement, a by-product of inner balance and higher nature qualities. The development and true benefits of Tai Chi, QiGong and all Internal Arts is the integration of the Life Style Change Arts...
BENEFITS OF TAI CHI TO OUR CURRENT SOCIAL IMBALANCES
When we get to the point in our lives that we feel it is time to “look deeper into ourselves”, it is hard to admit that there could be some aspect of ourselves, our activities, our relationships that have glaring imbalances. In many cases, we may not feel we have the time, the inclination or the skill set, to deal with these shortcomings. Besides, there are so many interesting distractions to choose from :) and really, who wants to do all that work when we can choose to play or be distracted.... fair enough, but at some point, that which we do not want to deal with, continues to tap us on the shoulder and demand our attention. If we were more aware of what life-balance could feel like, we might well choose to make the effort. Mostly, we swing from excessive behaviors into conditions of deficiency or exhaustion and really spend very little time in the range of “manageable balance”. This is the true expression and life-balance-gift, of the Life Style Change Arts. In more modern psychological terms, we are abandoning dysfunctional roadblocks and internal blockages, and choosing to put down our personal arsenals (weapons of attack/defense), in thought, word and action. We should remember that information is not knowledge or experience, we must enter into the process and allow the experience to change with-in us...and it takes as long as it takes. We can replace lesser abilities with skills that re-cap (hind-sight, that explores options with the courage to let things change) our experiences of imbalance. It is with-in our power to choose an experimental attitude to openness, to changes, and create and gain experience in functional choice making. This type of change replaces dysfunction and is the beginning of how to harmonize with the rhythm of life’s only constant...change itself. Let’s look at some of the areas this will affect in our lives.
Social Entrepreneurship is another way of saying “community sustainability”, and acknowledging the need to work together, work with seasonal availability, sharing and trading goods. It’s answering the call of many hands making lighter work, passing on the lineages of craft and skills to the next generation as well as learning how to find our places in life, in our families and in living in community. Natural teamwork comes from this way of life, natural leadership is born from the mastery of our “birth-gifts” and the areas of our life that we may be less skilled in. Finding the school of life is always open if there is sincerity and the willingness to learn.
When life is about living and not about accumulating more than we need, when personal relationship is not a tool to better our personal position through dominance or competition, when learning is not used against but rather as a way to form union, only then will we be beginning our re-entry in to social evolution. Economic control must give way to the practical aspects of survival just for starters; environmental ecology, inclusion of the right of all species to live a natural life, and the shared priority of living in harmony with natural law and Human consideration.
WORKING ENVIRONMENTS AND HEALTH AND WELLNESS IN BUSINESS-
Integrating a daily routine of Tai Chi or QiGong practice allows us a regular period of time to re-set ourselves, change lingering attitudes, thoughts, emotions that stagnate our perspectives and slow our momentum.
Days of job-stress typically build up as unresolved work related issues create limitations and separation. Soon we are dragging ourselves around and the work-place becomes a burden, an environment where descent, sabotage and unproductive behaviors breed and multiply as the accepted norm.
This has the effect of spinning our wheels; activity that creates little to no momentum (present-ism), and leaks or extracts the life force out of us. The environment of a work place and its effects on everyone is much more important than given credence to. One must remember that deadlines are time-line-guide-lines (no one is really going to die), and how we treat each other is long lasting; we never forget when someone treats us poorly and we all have passive ways to enact retribution. Fear and dominance management creates cheating, lying, stealing. It’s a proven fact!
From the owner/manager perspective, taking care of your staff is a strong statement that translates to loyalty, hard work and a feeling of trust and dignity; all traits that strengthen a business and support efficiency in working together. Shaping and providing an environment that allows for re-training in illness and injury prevention, is a form of “core-support” to an individual, and sends the message to learn to care for themselves, one more step up on the scale. Leading the march as an example is the support and greatest gift owner/managers and leaders can give in the re-education process...
Investing in healthy ways of interaction is a pro-active or “prevention-approach” to management and efficiency. Extending, and in many cases educating employees in “personal health management skills in one of the best investments a company can make. Now-a-days, just treating our fellow Humans with respect is so rare that a simple shift in this direction can turn around a small business in a very short time and create exponential momentum and creativity for unresolved hurdles. All businesses would benefit from health-management-skill-building, and compound management applications that support daily programs that gave back to the individual. Programs such as meditation, Tai Chi and Qigong “break-outs” that are tuned to pre-work start-up momentum, lunch-time and short-brakes rejuvenation are not a “luxury”, they are a need for both productivity and basic sanity. Bringing these two worlds together creates a sense of empowerment and a type of “release valve” for build-up conditions that inevitably spiral into some type of break down if not allowed to re-set.
Insurance premiums drop as less people are taking sick-days, absenteeism/presentism is significantly lowered and the cost-effectiveness of group classes for Health & Wellness is measurably lower than all the other existing methods. The over-all “results-curve is slower to start, but in the medium and long-range measure...far surpasses the current norms, standards for prevention and equally important, the economic stability of the company. This not rocket science to understand.
GENERAL PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELLNESS EDUCATION
In the general realm of public health reformation, there are really no equals in health, wellness practices and exercise that compare with Tai Chi/QiGong and the origins of Yoga. Some of the hurdles we face and must consider are cultural un-familiarity; principles and standards of self-care that we were not brought up on. Educational training classes that are on going can easily remedy this. Encouraging regular attendance and personal practice seems to be a key factor. Personal self discipline is often a slower development; getting ourselves to class regularly and in a timely fashion, and gaining momentum towards daily-practice regularity takes some shifting. We must “make room” in our lives, to gently and daily develop health momentum, and learn how to regulate our activities so as not to exhaust ourselves, or ignore our own needs; a user-friendly perception of moderation and balance.
The concept of regulation is tied deeply to the ability to feel deeply into ourselves, notice what we need and in a timely fashion, so as not to burden or tax the over-all bodily-system; we must re-learn to adapt, refine, and stay aware of changes. Tai Chi/QiGong is the most adaptable physical practices available, especially for systemic or compound conditions of imbalance, allowing a gradual but effective course on self care that supports, enhances and balances all aspect of our daily needs. Tai Chi/QiGong fortifies transformation or life-changes, seasonal adaptation and regulate core imbalances; mental, emotional and physical.
I am a big fan of the two birds with one stone approach to energy output, and the internal arts of Tai Chi/QiGong far surpass this standard. It is more like a measurement of “many birds with one stone” benefit, and far exceeds the effort involved....really!!
Lastly, I would like to point out that in a world where war, fighting, cleaver deception, resource-wasting, dominance and competition reign, we must acknowledge the internal separation we experience inside ourselves, on a daily basis...the cultivation of resistance, opposition, accepted confusion, distractions, apathy and hatred being bred in to each of us. Would it not be practical and an act of saving ourselves (and each other, our children), to develop a personal practice and evolving skill set, that cultivates harmony and re-sets the negative build-up? We have the ability to slowly create a type of pro-active knowledge in self-healing that we can participate in regularly to counter the negative effects of our social dis-orders.
Young people today are faced with hurdles around health, wellness and exercise that even one generation ago did not exist. With the existence of the computers and gaming, TV’s expansion to 1000+ channels, cell phones and ipods, it’s a wonder any kids have time for basic outdoor activities or the inclination to even move around. Everything has become virtual in experience and our kids don’t even grow up learning the joys of growth and change that happen naturally through physical play. I remember when as a kid, reading the comic periodical called ‘MAD Magazine’, and there was a particular comic strip about what would happen to us (based in the future) as we entered the automated age. It showed a de-evolution process taking place as we became more dependant on automation, and the effects on the body slowly becoming “rounder” on the lower half of our bodies causing the atrophy of our legs, until we were like a “weeble”, just round on the bottom half and only prehensile legs, a memory of when we use to use them.
Not long ago, I had a discussion with a 15 yr. old boy who reminisced about how in his youth, he used to be good in basketball. He was still in his teens! I always had plenty of physically active and highly skilled examples to see every day of my youth. The thought of not growing up strong and physically capable was non-existent. While past generations may have been a bit excessive about sports, physical strength and being active was a part of life and served me every day. Striking a balance is important, learning to maintain health, in part, requires understanding the needs/functions of the body, and partially relies on regular physical activity. Most of us don’t even know that the use of the legs and the weight in the feet are what governs blood circulation. We are also mostly un-aware that good blood circulation is what increases the need to draw in more oxygen (needed by every single aspect of the body down to the individual cells)...And, that good blood and oxygen circulation is the crux and foundation of increasing and regulating energy. If these systems are not invigorated daily, our desires to participate in life is severely diminished. Our very life force itself is jeopardized and a cascade of Human traits and qualities are never realized, the core of every aspect of growth and learning capacity in hampered. The basic effect is many variations of limitation and the stunting of our growth.... essentially, we never fully grow-up.
SENIOR HEALTH PROGRAMS
While the current standards for Senior/Elder care has already taken a strong direction, we might choose to re-evaluate what we have quickly accepted as “normal” in this area of our lives and the lives of our Elders. Unless you die early, these standards (when tried on personally) will reflect what happens to you, as you enter your Senior years...Let’s just sit with that for a moment.........your/my fate, as an Elder, having given your best to all of life, might well finish out with you being sectioned off in an old folks home. This not the only possible fate and when faced with this thought, well...certainly not part of my top ten list. What might be worth reviewing is to remember that retirement home living and assisted home living facilities are not “ inherently evil in their nature”, but they do play on our weaknesses...and it is guided and driven by a multi-million dollar industry.
If we want to consider what would be good steps towards re-structuring larger dysfunctional social patterns, and social health options for all including Senior health care, we may need to review how exclusionary we are becoming, with regard to those who have raised us and the over-all message that we get to keep separating ourselves from each other. Senior health programs are a very basic way to return the love and values back to our old people and re-connect to our own hearts. Technology and progress would have us believe that an Elders wisdom is no longer needed, that the old outlook that Elders carry is out-dated and that we have somehow grown past the need for this type of interaction. It has long been known that the wisdom of a life lived is sometimes the most crucial view for life’s unknown challenges. It has long been understood that Elders can advise and see into life in ways younger people cannot sometimes see. It is the life-blood of many cultures to listen, learn and reflect on wisdom-earned & learned that can only come from those who are closer to the source of life & death. Senior health programs should reflect the highest level in age-appropriate care and that can only be realized by paying attention to their needs and a simple projection of how you yourself would like to be treated.
From this simple insight, we can see that engaging with younger people in enjoyable activities is time well spent for Seniors and is vital to well-adjusted children. Elders traditionally are the best storytellers and who doesn't enjoy a good story? Because Elder life is more centered around sedentary activities, they need routine daily exercise that moves blood, oxygen and lightly invigorates energy. Elder diets need foods that promote regularity, as the digestive peristalsis is not as strong. They also need good bone broths to nourish the blood, seasonal foods to harmonize the system and foods cooked with herbs that build aspects of their weakening systems. Elders need to be loved, touched, massaged and re-assured that they still have a place in our lives, even if this place is just to notice, care and love them. Elders know things that you and I don’t, just from having lived as long as they have, and they often have the perspective of lightness and humor about things we take too seriously.
You may have concluded that I have had a fair amount of Elder interaction in my life, which is very true. I would be so much less without having been sat down and talked with by so many Elders, many who have been family members and some who were not. Elders have the special gift of insight and years of reflection that can be condensed into a short conversation; conversation that can just straighten you right up! They can often see into your soul, and they may have had to face situations like yours and know things about it. Elders will share with those who will listen, those who take interest, those who can share a little bit of time and some of their heart with them. Each of us will come to know these things in the twilight of our later years. I want to look back and know that I didn’t forget those who came before me and paved the way.
A “Tai Chi Society for Humans is a way to understand wholeness. We understand that knowing ourselves helps us know others, we understand that that we share more commonalities than differences, and that we share many different environments that we “steward for the next generations”. Personally, we are here to learn and that we are also born with a certain innate natural intelligence. There is a central consciousness that we have access to, and it exists inside each of us. We are much more than our bodies, life here is temporal and we will exist here until our time is up. We are spirits, having a Human experience, and we are made up of millions of cells or individual mini life forms all bonded in agreement for this life. What we think, say and do are all known by each other (cause and effect law of our connection) and this effects everything (Quantum Physics)...why? Because all things are related & connected...what we do to ourselves and to each other, radiates though time and space, though who we are, is not what we do. Balance is hard to relate to when we live our lives in the loop of imbalance, investing in drama and extremes and paying the price in fantasy and exhaustion. Most of us know more about fashion and beer, than we do about ourselves or how to treat each other respectfully.
Health and Wellness is about knowing ourselves, which means paying attention in the short, medium and long terms...you know, learning from our experiences, making slight alterations, and being able to do simple addition, all a developing process of life-refinement. Knowing how we would like to be treated is a guideline to how to treat others, just a simple way to participate in the natural development of common sense.... which is unusually un-common these days. We can learn to ask the right questions, approach problems in an open way (knowing all situations are in fact “workable”), learn to read the sign and clues life leaves us everyday and be willing to participate in life. Where we can start is with ourselves, and learn from our feelings (our inner radar system), pay attention to what we feel and what is happening around us, correct ourselves, speak with our Elders and re-learn how to learn...When a crisis comes into your life, practice the art of “opposites attracting”, give or serve someone.... and watch the crisis transform itself. To understand this more deeply, my suggestion is the Internal Arts of Tai Chi/QiGong/Yoga, the premier, time-tested practices that teach us that Life is an Art...with many expressions.........