Whee Nan and Eliot on Cathedral Rock

“Getting out of your head,” means to stop thinking or worrying obsessively. “Getting into the game,” means to be an active participant in your life. While thinking is an absolute necessity for the full human experience, too much nervous and anxious thought traps you in a hall of mirrors.

“Tai Chi Alchemy: Get Out of Your Head and Into the Game” is a seminar we’ll be teaching November 30-December 2 at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, in Lenox, MA.

All thoughts take us out of the present as the mind seeks to REPRESENT what is happening in a meaningful way. While it’s busy representing, the mind is distracted from what is happening NOW. Ideally, there is a smooth and rapid transition between the “thinking about” mode and the “participatory” mode, between thinking and being and/or action.

Sitting meditation has been employed for thousands of years to train you to get out of your head and into just “being.”  Slowing things way down like that is helpful to many people, and may even carry over into the life’s activities. For many others, however, that runway is too long or arduous or passive to be effective when they rise from the meditation cushion and meet the challenges of the workaday world.

That’s because the part of the brain designed for updating “the Story of ME” is the default mode network. It’s the default setting and where our attention returns when not engaged in life. When our energy is non-coherent, this part of the nervous system busily tries to figure out what is wrong, usually by introspection or imagining all the terrible things that could go wrong.

Here’s a Wikipedia summary of the DMN’s main functions:

The default mode network is known to be involved in many seemingly different functions:
It is the neurological basis for the self:[17]

  • Autobiographical information: Memories of collection of events and facts about one’s self
  • Self-reference: Referring to traits and descriptions of one’s self
  • Emotion of one’s self: Reflecting about one’s own emotional state

Thinking about others:[17]

  • Theory of Mind: Thinking about the thoughts of others and what they might or might not know
  • Emotions of other: Understanding the emotions of other people and empathizing with their feelings
  • Moral reasoning: Determining just and unjust result of an action
  • Social evaluations: Good-bad attitude judgments about social concepts
  • Social categories: Reflecting on important social characteristics and status of a group

Remembering the past and thinking about the future:[17]

  • Remembering the past: Recalling events that happened in the past
  • Imagining the future: Envisioning events that might happen in the future
  • Episodic memory: Detailed memory related to specific events in time
  • Story comprehension: Understanding and remembering a narrative

How do we get out of our own way—physically, mentally, energetically—and live our lives as full participants, not just observers? How do we experience the joy of authentic encounter? How do we subdue the demons of fear and anxiety and fully occupy the present moment? The ancient art of tai chi may have some answers.

T’ai chi is not just a relaxing exercise that helps with balance and blood pressure. It is a proven moving meditation for body-mind-spirit integration. It re-wires your nervous system and permits access to parts of your brain that lie dormant most of the time.

It takes us beyond sitting meditation and gives us valuable tools that can be used anywhere: shopping, driving, playing golf, dancing…whatever.

The mysterious and paradoxical world of tai chi ch’uan seems to defy the laws of physics. A finger stops a fist. A tiny woman lifts a man three times her size. That world becomes instantly accessible, however, when approached as an exercise of authentic engagement. Tai chi practice brings us into heightened states of body-mind-spirit integration and the remarkable abilities that come with that, including:

  • Presence
  • Effortless power
  • Rooting (energetic connection with the earth)
  • Instant meditation (accessing the “space between thoughts”)
  • Hemispheric synchronization of the brain
  • The transformation of fear into love
  • Authentic soul-to-soul connections

When we meet with our whole being, we become full participants in an alchemy that unearths treasures buried in plain sight. This is not just a form class. It is an exploration of tai chi principles applied to real life, offered in a lively, fun, mind-altering way. There will be movement. There will be laughter. There will be transformation.