Updated: Apr 13, 2020
by David Goodell
For most of us, learning to live in the present requires practice. We have to choose, each day, to cultivate a state of being that is connected to and aware of what is actually happening. Tai chi is one such practice and it has been my chosen path for many years. When I was younger I usually practiced at least a little each day, but often it was only in the morning or evening – not both. As I have gotten older, the difference in how I feel when I practice regularly is so striking that I rarely miss either. My favorite is to practice for an hour or more in the morning, and ten minutes in the evening. I feel more relaxed, energetic, and mentally clear. My mind has an easier time staying with what is happening, rather than getting lost in the past or future and, consequently, I feel more at ease and able to go with the flow. I find at the end of each day I have been more productive than if I only practice a little. Daily practice is essential to gain the benefits of tai chi or any spiritual or physical discipline. Professor Cheng, my teacher's teacher, felt that even ten minutes in the morning and again in the evening was sufficient to assure one of longevity and good health. I encourage everyone to use this time of social distancing to establish a daily practice if you do not already have one and to nourish and expand your practice if you are already in the habit.
Professor Cheng learned about the importance of an ongoing practice the hard way. As a young man, he became very ill with tuberculosis. Coughing up blood and very weak, he was approaching death. As a last resort he began to study and practice tai chi. Within a few months his health returned. He stopped practicing. He again contracted tuberculosis. Within a few months of resuming his tai chi practice he was well again. He again stopped his tai chi. He contracted tuberculosis a third time. Filled with despair, he resumed his tai chi. After regaining his health, he resolved to practice every day without fail. He lived another fifty years in excellent health. He later said, “Heaven sent me illness after illness to cure me of my indolence.” A brilliant classical Chinese physician himself, he advised his students and patients that if necessary “miss a meal or miss some sleep but never miss your tai chi”. Since the encouragement and camaraderie of a group is so beneficial in developing and sustaining a regular daily practice, we will be offering a 30 minute group practice every morning at 7:30 while we are all social distancing. You can stream it for free on Zoom.