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Tai Chi
Illness as an Investment

22 Oct 2009
Illness, weakness, or loss comes to us all at one time or another. Most of us use the opportunity to invest in grief, sadness, fear, or despair. I see it as an opportunity to learn about myself.

A strong, healthy winner can talk about this subject until the cows come home, but to truly understand it you must experience it - "got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues". Lately my opportunity to truly understand has arrived in more than one vehicle.

Tai Chi Chuan is a unique art in that softness, acceptance, and yielding are the core principles for success. External martial arts such as kung fu, karate, or tae kwon do essentially rely on brute force, albeit skillfully applied.

As a result, strong, healthy people can have trouble fully appreciating the health benefit of Tai Chi, and even more trouble appreciating the need for softness and yielding insteading of force-on-force contention.

Perhaps this is why some of the masters of high attainment began when they were sickly. Not being invested in strength, they had nothing to lose by giving into softness and yielding. Cheng Man Ching (1900-1975) began Tai Chi practice as a young man after being diagnosed with tuberculosis - which went away after a few years of practice. Jou Tsung Hwa began at the age of 47 after being diagnosed with a mortal illness. Again, after a few years practice, he too was cured. Both went on to become accomplished and widely recognized masters.

When we are strong and healthy we want to use our strength for all of our regular activities. It is normal and easy, or we would not do it. So when we get older and weaker, or ill, we do not know how to handle it. Many people take it as a sign to stop all normal activity and put their lives in crisis mode. This causes disruption and stress that only add to the problems in hand. If the health problem is long term, they compound it by foregoing the exercise that helps keep them healthy. I saw this happen with my own mother after she contracted lung disease.

I am getting my own investment opportunities these days. First I experienced lower back difficulties, which gave me the opportunity to understand the difficulties of people with chronic back pain. I do not use this as an excuse to do nothing; I use this as a chance to find optimal forms of movement that avoid the pain. In the process I have come to understand - through personal experience - that the entire problem of back pain involves muscle tension. If vertebra are misaligned, they cause stress on muscles, resulting in pain. Back pain is an indicator that give us a very sensitive guide to muscle tension and relaxation. I also seek out exercise that makes the back problem subside, such as stretching, leg swings, and kicks.

My next opportunity involves recovering from serious surgery, beginning in a week. I will be allowed no exercise at all for a month, perhaps longer. When I return to exercise I will be weak, perhaps off balance, and may have to build up my routine only very slowly. Recovering wisely will be my entire health and wellness approach in November. I can also do neigong and perhaps, near the end, qigong as well. I expect to learn lessons I cannot anticipate now … but will report in due time.

You may also like this related article: Tai Chi Recovery (122)
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