“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change, there is power.”
It never fails the palpable feeling of dread and trepidation mixed with fear that surfaces in the minutes before I am to begin my practice. There is a tightening in my shoulders accompanied by an unwelcome heaviness in my chest. My reluctant muse is taking hold and giving voice to thoughts that distract and deter me. I become obsessed with a need to vacuum the dog’s bed, rearrange the linen closet, and reorganize stacks of paperwork on my desk. I realize the depth of my resistance when I consider shining my shoes. These thoughts surface and float with increasing strength and speed over my somewhat conscious mind. I am tired. The idea of all I must do “in the wake of my avoidance to practice” is downright exhausting.
I question the prevalence of my resistant thoughts and the apathy that plagues me. I am certain of the benefits of practice. Then why? Why must I convince myself each time? The answer is always the same. Fear of CHANGE. In my experience, while change may result in a greater experience of “self” my first and most conscious response to change is “NO!!!!” Fear of failure runs a close second with fear of the unknown casually pulling up third place. I become embroiled in my collective fears. The unconscious outcome is an inordinately “busy schedule” which does not allow time for daily practice. Or does it?
It is in these moments that I rely heavily upon introspection and discipline to propel me into beginning. Once I take the first conscious step, I am uplifted into the energy of movement, and the white noise of my hesitation quiets almost immediately. I am connected, through Taijiquan, to something greater than my ego’s concept of self. The practice precipitates a quietness of mind that encourages a grounded transcendence to come forth. With right approach and purposeful intention, my practice engages me in that place where true transformation and balance can occur. This quality of alteration is what makes my practice vital, exciting, and terrifying!
I asked renowned Santa Cruz mind/body physician, Bruce Eisendorf M.D. to share his experience about why people maintain unhealthy behaviors. He cited three main reasons:
Habit. People become accustomed to certain foods, substances, or experiences, such as watching television. They become addicted to a feeling of comfort in these familiar, yet unhealthy attitudes.
Distraction. These behaviors distract people from pain, suffering reality. Many favor a familiar suffering (smoking, alcohol abuse, overeating) rather than experiencing the uncensored emotions of fear, grief, guilt, and anger.
Lack of Insight and Awareness. Many people do not understand that it is within their power to change. They do not realize what they are capable of or comprehend their connection with the rest of the world or with a higher power. They therefore feel hopeless and helpless and lack motivation to look beyond what is and what has been.
Dr. Eisdendorf believes that by establishing a relationship of trust with his patients, he can challenge them to look outside of their paradigm. “Sometimes I see people monthly for years before they are ready to assume more responsibility for their health and well being. Sometimes people take a lot of responsibility for their diet and exercise habits but try to ignore their emotional and spiritual relationships. This limits their healing and I endeavor to find the opportunity to bring these dimensions to their attention and explain their interaction to overall health and wellness.”
In my very brief sixteen months of learning Taijiquan, the practice has shined a harsh spotlight on aspects of my physical and emotional body that needed attention. Subtle changes have taken hold as I questioned my experience in relationship to career, family, and health. And while this level of change has been daunting, I have learned to trust the healing power of Taijiquan by placing my faith in Shifu’s experience and instruction and that of the assistant teachers. Their passion carries me when my self-doubt inhibits me. Taijiquan, I am certain, is a path of healing.
Today, I am more and more convinced of the benefits to my physical and emotional heath, and yet I am still faced with my hesitation each time I prepare to begin. However, I now welcome my “resistant thoughts” and use them as impetus to alter my behavior. I make a daily conscious choice to participate in my own self-determined healing process. I believe that working with Qi as a vital life force has universal implications, I surrender my practice as I begin. I ask that my intention be to learn, grow, alter, and ultimately serve the greater good. I am humbled by the opportunity to study martial arts and I consider it a powerful gift. When my reluctant muse surfaces, I thank it for its consistency…and begin.
Paola Bruni has considerable experience in writing and spiritual energetics. She is a member of the Tai Chi division of the Academy and has completed learning the well known Yang style Long Form.