Your mind-body toolkit consists of practices that lead to the cultivation of self-efficacy and self-mastery. The first thing in the toolkit is the practice of tai chi, which leads to the cultivation of good body mechanics, energy generation, and relaxed awareness. Tai chi as taught in my College of Marin class in Kentfield, California, and practiced each day enhances the ability to live from a place of being fully present in your body. Tai chi practitioners develop a sense of balance, coordination, and proprioception that is second to no other practice. It also serves as a moving form of Zen. The practice is a way of being fully awake, alert, yet deeply relaxed, wherever you are.
Tai chi is a way to become more physically and mentally centered. You will feel more grounded—more connected to the earth.
Although the course I teach is heavily based in tai chi, there are many other adjunctive skills introduced in the class. For example:
- Autogenic Training is a practice that supplements and supports tai chi in training you how to be deeply relaxed while simultaneously being very awake, alert, and tuned in to internal and external sensory input.
- Biofeedback plays a role in providing a way to actually test your progress.
- Mental imagery also assists in deepening the skills. Much of the mental imagery is inherent in the tai chi form, and there are several non-tai chi-related methods of mental imagery taught in the course. Mental imagery can be practiced to enhance a sense of relaxation and wellbeing.
- Diaphragmatic breathing is taught in a way that allows it to be used to either increase energy and awareness, or to reduce energy and enhance sleep.
Social support and a sense of belonging have consistently been strongly associated with high levels of wellbeing, and even health. For that reason, despite meeting only once a week for just seven weeks, the class environment is set up as a supportive community. Students have commented that they especially appreciated the supportive community created in the class.
My approach to tai chi involves going with the flow, which emanates from Taoism and mindfulness. It is about practicing a way of life that revolves around giving 100% to every activity throughout the day. This commonly results in a high degree of success in daily endeavors. Even when things don’t go as planned, a Taoist and mindfulness-based attitude can turn those situations that would otherwise be seen as failures into valued learning opportunities.
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