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Posts Tagged ‘tai chi’

Single Whip, Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi

If you have ever played a competitive sport, you have probably been exhorted to give 100 percent. Or, as the sports cliché would have it, “110 percent.” And the attitude embodied in that exhortation extends well beyond the arena of athletics. Whether the field of activity be business or law, selling cars or playing tennis, giving 100 percent of one’s effort and energy is widely regarded as a virtue, if not a moral imperative.

In the present American workplace, those fortunate enough to be employed might have little choice but to give 110—or 150—percent, day in and day out, to their jobs and sponsoring institutions. But for the conduct of everyday life, a wiser guideline may be found in the ancient Chinese practice of Tai Chi. At once a martial art and a contemplative discipline, Tai Chi is rooted in the Taoist tradition. And a cardinal principle of Tai Chi states that the practitioner should not exceed 70 percent of his or her physical capacity. As Bruce Frantzis, a contemporary Tai Chi master, explains, “[s]triving for 100 percent inherently produces tension and stress because as soon as you strain or go beyond your capacity, your body has a natural tendency to experience fear and to begin, even without you[r] being aware of it, to tense or shut down in response.”* By staying within the limit of 70 percent, you “can use your full effort and energy, but not to the point of strain.”** (more…)

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If you have lived in a northern climate for any length of time, the chances are good that you have slipped and fallen on an icy sidewalk. Or that you will, no matter how careful you are.

Such was the case a few weeks back, as I was walking down the sidewalk in Alfred, New York, wearing shoes more suitable to spring than winter. Coming upon a puddle in the middle of the sidewalk, I stepped onto a mound of ice to avoid the water. Down I went, face forward, landing on my knee.

Thanks, I suspect, to my daily practice of T’ai Chi, I was back on my feet a moment later, suffering no worse injury than a scraped knee. But as the day wore on, and as I felt the lasting effects of my fall, I considered what to call it. Was it a mishap—something, as they used to say in Ireland, that could happen to a bishop? Or was it an avoidable mistake? Although those two small words share a common prefix, their meanings differ widely, as do their implications. (more…)

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