T'ai Chi and Recovery from Stress

My class and I have been doing the T'ai Chi form several times in a row at least once a week. Friday morning, this last week, was the morning we chose to do these multiple forms. This experience of multiple forms in a row, with a period of standing Chi Gung in between, takes me deeper and deeper into the experience that T'ai Chi has to offer. I can feel my body loosen with each successive move and I am more deeply relaxed, my body is more open and quiet and grounded with each passing form.

It is an interesting experience, this T'ai Chi. It is interesting how it takes one deeper into the body, expanding and opening the tissues down to the bone. There is nothing else in my life that produces the same result in my body or for my spirit. If I don't do T'ai Chi for a few days I feel my body as noticeably more stiff and less mobile. It feels like a slow but inexorable contraction of my body, like a net being drawn tighter and tighter around me, restricting my movements. This is all reversed after a session of T'ai Chi, it feels like a nurturing breeze is coursing through my body and the pulse of life which is my heartbeat is moving through every part of my body. You know how a piece of music, when played softly with passion will allow you to hang on every note until the last one which lingers in the air and expands the seconds after the actual note has played? Well, T'ai Chi expands that last second that is opened up in the music I described--you can live there, look around at your life from that expanded vista and feel yourself connected to the life around you with more than a surface connection. It is as if you are joined, have a perception to a level of reality that is not ordinary and is touching the pulse of life more directly.

There I go, talking about the spirit now and how poetry surges out of openness of the body. At this level, you know the body and spirit are not separate. But the violence done to our bodies, which we accommodate to on a daily basis, closes our spirits and tightens our bodies and obscures the connection between our bodies, our spirits and ultimately ourselves.

Our reactions to and our interaction with the events of our life have an effect on us. It seems as if there are more contracting events to interact with than expanding events. And you know, we remain contracted after our interactions and this contraction in our body and of our spirit remains and, in fact, grows. Think back to the last time you took a long vacation. Remember how it felt? How loose and open and relaxed you felt? How long did it last when you got back in your daily life? Three days? A week?

Incredible isn't it, that our state of being can become so pinched just living our lives. Unless we take the time to get in-touch and bring those moments of poetry and freedom back into our bodies and consciousness, we remain contracted. The tissues of our body actually change their shape and shorten causing actual physical constriction.

T'ai Chi reverses all that. On a daily basis it has the ability to transport you to that state of being you felt from your vacation and beyond--way beyond. It provides a path for a return to normal, a return to the natural and balanced and open state that is how we were meant to live--freed from the constricting reactivity we generate in just coping with the events of our lives. I thank God everyday that I found T'ai Chi and have an avenue to undue the violence life wreaks on my body and spirit. I frankly don't know how people who don't do Yoga or T'ai Chi stand it. I think many things help--reading, art, appreciations of beauty, meditation, physical exercise. When I measure my experience of these activities against what I feel with T'ai Chi though, I fin d even these wonderful activities give just part of what I feel with T'ai Chi. To combine all those things--working out physically, poetry, beauty, inspiration and art into one activity which has such a profound and healthful effect on a person is magnificent.