What Does T'ai Chi Want to Become? World Altering
by Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
WORD COUNT: 1,780
“The great empires of the future will be empires of the mind.”
I see T’ai Chi as perhaps the most important aspect of humanity’s future. In fact, in June, Consumer Reports Magazine named Tai Chi the #1 exercise of 2000. Paradoxically, I realized just how important T’ai Chi was going to be for humanity, by being told to “let go” of just how important I thought it was. Everything changed for me a few years ago, when I went to a weekend growth seminar, and during my discourse on why T’ai Chi was “very important” to everyone’s health, one of the moderators interrupted to suggest, “why don’t people just do it because it is fun?”
Another moderator interrupted later with another suggestion, she said, “Bill, why don’t you let go of everything you hold about T’ai Chi and ask T’ai Chi what it wants to become.” These two concepts stuck in my brain and changed . . . everything.
The age that we are entering is the most exciting time in human history. The Hopi Indian prophets once foresaw that the time we are living in is when the dream world and the waking world would become one. Indeed we are there, when a new concept can be uploaded throughout the planet via Internet to become a global reality within nanoseconds, we are reinventing our reality through the power of what we dream. But, what we dream depends on what we feel. If we feel fear and disorientation, than our dreams will be distorted. This is where T’ai Chi comes in.
T’ai Chi can be two very powerful things, one is “fun,” and the other is “centering.” These are the antithesis of what modern life is bringing most of humanity, for stress disease is the number one killer and causing 70% of illness (National Institute of Mental Health). In fact, the United Nations World Health Organization warns of a global epidemic of stress-induced depression due to the constant strain of future shock.
Why is stress such a problem? As so often happens the promise of the new age is also the danger of the new age. Bill Joy, Chief Scientist for Sun Microsystems, recently spoke on how physical evolution set the speed of change for life over the millennia until the advent of humanity. Then change accelerated one thousand times over to the speed of “social evolution.” However, in our generation, due to the advent of the information age, change has accelerated exponentially, and in fact the speed of evolution is now doubling every 18 months. J.W. Forrester of MIT has pointed out that human evolution has not prepared humanity for this relentless rate of change, and the complexity of life is overwhelming us all. Research shows that change causes stress, even good change. Stress can stimulate healthy growth, or damaging paralysis. Unfortunately, for much of humanity it is causing the damaging paralysis, as we are caught like a dear in the headlights as change explodes all around us.
Which, again, is where T’ai Chi comes in. All of us who have used Tai Chi in our lives have experienced how when we find ourselves spinning and nauseated by the turbulence of life, and after T’ai Chi’s centering experience, we are left calm and humored in the center of life’s hurricanes. After playing Tai Chi we see the turbulence spinning “around” us, but not “within” us, and in fact those turbulence become not only more manageable, but much more inviting and “fun.” Life becomes what it was meant to be fun, and solving the problems of life become “challenging” and “fun,” not “paralyzing” and “insurmountable.” It is no accident the Chinese called T’ai Chi practice “playing” T’ai Chi, for it is a microcosm of life, and it teaches how to “play” in life.
Again, this doesn’t mean we “avoid” the great issues, or renounce our sorrow or our grief. When we see rainforests decimated and skyrocketing child incarceration rates in our country, weeping is very natural and healthy. T’ai Chi’s centering should promote this response in us, which is the first step to be motivated to do what is in our power to change it. Often weeping over it is the first and most important step. To “feel” is a powerful thing, and in the big picture “sorrow” and “weeping” are part of the beautiful song of life, or the game of life. If we had a game with no drama, or a concerto with no low notes, we would have a mundane screech of high notes boring and annoying. However, this avoidance of low notes is becoming the rule of the day, in an age when fortunes are being made by “medicating away feeling.” Yesterday Lily Pharmaceutical’s stock tumbled over $30 per share, only because their sole production rights for the mood-suppressing drug Prozac was about to end. An entire drug industry was in shambles because so much of their profits depended on drugging people out of their “discomfort.”
What we have forgotten as a human race, is that part of the game is “feeling” discomfort. When you play TAG, you have to be IT sometimes or else the game isn’t fun. T’ai Chi is a microcosm of flow, we feel tension and discomfort, we notice how our busy mind spins full of tensions and worries, and then through the Zen-like process of “being with” those feelings they begin to release and flow through us with the energy. In today’s world millions are trying to only play “the best parts” of the game of life. The flat-lining drug Prozac is a multi-billion dollar industry created to sedate people into accepting life as is with no drama, no change, no evolution. In the US over 5 million children are on Ritalin, a drug meant to flat-line children’s behavior so that they can “fit in” to overcrowded classrooms. It is important to realize here that many of Albert Einstein’s teachers wanted him thrown out of school for being “disruptive.”
A national organization of geniuses has expressed concern that we may be drugging our next generation of child geniuses into normalcy. Some parents of such children have noted their children are obsessed with the state of the global environment. Actually this is a very healthy sign, given the fact that we are breaking heat records year after year as ice caps melt, weather is disrupted worldwide, fires rage as droughts increase, and yet the world continues to spew more and more CO2 or greenhouse gases into the atmosphere year after year. HOWEVER, teachers who are struggling to teach a set curriculum with overcrowded classrooms don’t have time for such “nonsense,” so these kids are drugged so they can stop “feeling.”
T’ai Chi as it permeates society through education, healthcare, government, prisons, etc., will begin to “loosen” our rigid perceptions, just as it loosens the tissue of the body. As Qi permeates our being “rigidity” melts from not only our body, but from our consciousness. We may begin to see that we need to create an educational system that accommodates the freedom of feelings and expression of those feelings, rather than drugging students to fit the rigid mold that exists. We may discover that as a society we “feel better” and can become healthier by consuming less fatty meats, and also that less rain forests will be destroyed to produce endlessly escalating demands for red meat. T’ai Chi’s sensitizing and centering quality simultaneously enables us to “feel” more, and yet be able to fluidly relax into the solutions required to solve the problems those feelings alert us of, not by denying ourselves the pleasures of life, but by becoming aware of what truly “feels good.”
This future we are hurtling towards may be the most fun time of human existence, IF we can enjoy the full spectrum of human feelings, and not try to avoid the uncomfortable ones with synthetic drugs. We can create the world of our dreams if we open our mind to limitlessness. When we try to limit our feelings because of fear, its like when we were kids and a coat hanging on the rack in our dark bedroom looked like a evil boogey man. As long as we cowered under the covers, it got scarier and scarier. But, when we got up and turned on the light, it wasn’t scary at all. T’ai Chi brings light, or Qi, into our bodies, minds, and lives. It enables us to look our problems in the face, the full light of day, without rattling apart.
In fact, as T’ai Chi players know, T’ai Chi reminds us that life is FUN. As we move into an age when we are literally creating the world of our dreams, our state of mind becomes all-important. If we are controlled by fear and panic, we will create a world where our lives become harder and harder. For example, consider that with the advent of the computer age each person is 40 times (or more) more productive than the average worker a generation ago. Yet, most people are working longer even more stressful hours on the job. While this is occurring, most crime is being committed between 3 and 7 pm while parents are either working or stuck in freeway traffic trying to get home. And all the while parent’s health is being diminished by the strain of long work hours, not knowing what the kids are up to, and fighting smoggy traffic. This translates into dollars. The US spends about $500 billion per year on crime, and $700 billion per year on health care for stress caused illness, translating into $1.2 trillion annually because we’ve created a world of unconscious stress.
As a human resources administrator I became aware of this on a personal level, but now see it happening socially. One accountant I worked with was struggling with the fact that he never saw his new infant son awake. He communted 2 hours in from Riverside, California to our corporation in Irvine, and then 2 hours back each day. I asked him how much of his job could he do over the computer, and he replied that he could do about 2 or 3 days per week of work that way. So, I explained that Systems Management Department could set him up with a home terminal, he could avoid 8 to 12 hours per week of freeway traffic by working out of his home and he could actually form a relation ship with his new son. When I left the company 4 years later, he still had not installed the terminal in his home, and was still hardly ever seeing his son. Tight minds create tight realities. The tighter society gets, the harder we will work ourselves, not out of necessity, but out of a lack of “relaxed joyous vision.”
T’ai Chi reminds us daily that life can be A) easier, and B) more fun, if we breathe, loosen, and allow life to be easier, just as during T’ai Chi we allow our minds and bodies to relax around our lives. If the modern stress crisis is tightening our mind and body, and these socially “tight” minds are creating reality, then we are unconsciously creating a more and more stressful world. T’ai Chi’s loosening quality, as it permeates business and government may find legislators or business leaders getting light bulbs above their heads exclaiming, “Hey, if we make life easier on people, we save money!!” Who know what kind of world we will create as T’ai Chi reminds us that life is for living. Systems, jobs, and economies are created to serve people, and not the other way around. Let’s dream big, and let T’ai Chi keep the door to limitlessness opening ever wider.
I began this article with a Churchill quote, and will end it with one.
“We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”
Bill Douglas is the Tai Chi Expert at DrWeil.com, Founder of World T'ai Chi & Qigong Day (held in 60 nations each year), and has authored and co-authored several books including a #1 best selling Tai Chi book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to T’ai Chi & Qigong. Bill’s been a Tai Chi source for The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc. Bill is the author of the ebook, How to be a Successful Tai Chi Teacher (Namasta University Publishing). You can learn more about Tai Chi & Qigong, search a worldwide teachers directory, and also contact Bill Douglas at http://www.worldtaichiday.org