Taichi Secrets to a Happy Life, part 2

How often does this happen to you?

  • You have a great idea that you think everyone will love.
  • You take the time to explain it, expecting them to love it too. You’re imagining they’ll be just as enthusiastic, and ready to make it happen.
  • What actually happens is they reply with skepticism, doubt, or disinterest. Or worse, they just ignore you altogether.
  • This could happen the other way, when someone comes to you with one of their ideas.

For you, there could be certain emotions that come up, like anger, frustration, disappointment, and feeling rejected or defeated.
And then there are physical sensations that come along with these. For example, if you’re angry, you might feel tense, feel your heart pounding, and have shallow breath. If you feel disappointed and defeated, you might have a heavy, sinking feeling in your chest or stomach, you might start slouching, or hang your head. Or you could have an entirely different emotional and physical reaction from either of these.

What comes next is usually a protective, defensive move. Each of us tends to have something we do by default. It could be:

  • Arguing: “You’re wrong, and here’s why…”
  • Convincing / explaining: “You see, what I’m trying to do is…”
  • Belittling: “Yeah well you’re the one that…”
  • Dismissing: “Whatever, I’m just gonna do it anyway. I don’t need your approval.”

Taoist Secret #2: Acceptance

This is where Taoist Secret #2 comes in: Acceptance. Accepting someone else’s opinion, perspective, or intent does NOT mean that:

  • You need to agree with them;
  • You need to give up your opinion, perspective, or intent;
  • You need to surrender to whatever they want to do.

You still get to have your own point of view, feelings, and opinions. Nothing about you has to change in order to accept another person. All that’s required is that you set aside your point of view, feelings, and opinions for the time being. You can pick them back up later. Set them aside just long enough so that you can step into their experience and their reality. You can’t really understand someone else while still holding onto your own opinions too.

NOTE: Herein lies a paradox. You cannot change someone else’s opinion or point of view without fully accepting it first. And you cannot accept it without fully letting go of changing them.

This idea is simple, but not necessarily easy. It’s more difficult when the issue/topic is more important to you. It’s also more difficult when you’re emotionally closer with the other person.

How Taichi Push Hands Can Help

In Taichi Push Hands, which is the practical application of taichi movements, we work in the physical realm. You are given an opponent who has the same goal as you: stay balanced while imbalancing you. When they move forward to push, your physical and emotional reactions are identical to verbal argument or opposition.

You will feel the same emotions like fear, anger, hatred, or frustration. Or it could feel more like giving up, surrendering, not even trying. Or anything else, since human reactions are all unique and unpredictable.
You will feel the same physical sensations like muscle tension, a pounding heart, tight or shallow breathing, or widened or narrowed eyes.

The understanding is that uncovering things in the physical realm correlate with who you are in the emotional realm. The physical experience of having someone with the intent to imbalance you creates emotional responses that we can then explore. Then we can turn what you perceive as disadvantage or opposition into opportunity and growth.

The lesson is that when you react in an oppositional way, it creates and perpetuates the oppositional nature of your interactions. In order to get out of it you will need to let go, soften up, accept and understand what the other person is doing.

So when your opponent moves forward to push, you need to first go with the push. Move back at the same speed. Offer just enough to let them know you’re still there. What direction is it going? What’s their intent? Once you have it, you’ll notice that you don’t need to resist it. Unlike other martial arts, taichi does not have hard blocks. Instead, we divert and redirect, while using as little force as possible. This leads to a smooth, flowing feeling, rather than a tense struggle.

How can you accept their intent and still remain balanced? How can you go in their direction while maintaining your integrity in your own stance?

If you ask yourself these questions and still don’t have an answer, don’t be afraid to just start the conversation and see where it goes. Understand that a lot of this is emergent, which means we won’t really know how something is going to work itself out until we do it. This happens a lot when I’m teaching push hands. Students will want to know what I would do in a certain situation. My answer is, “Try it on me and see what I do.” Each time they try it, I may react differently because of tiny details about their balance, our orientation to each other, how my body is feeling that day, or any other number of factors. The key though is to be sensitive to yourself and your balance, as well as your opponent and their balance.

Be sensitive and aware, relaxed and flexible. The solution will present itself.

NOTE: This segues into another Taoist Secret: Recognizing Opportunity and Taking Action, which I will cover in a future blog.

Reader Reflection

Take a moment to observe yourself. Think of a time when you came up against a difference of opinion, perspective, or intent.

  • What do you see as your patterns?
  • What’s your initial emotional response?
  • What’s the accompanying physical experience?
  • Were you able to accept their intent?
    • Or did you give in and give up? go quiet?
    • Or was there another reaction?
  • What would it look like if you were to accept them as they were?
    • What difference would it have made in your actions?
    • What difference would it have made in your relationship with them?

Please tell me what this blog opened up for you, I’d love to know!
You can email me: Steve@CoachSteveYang.com

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