Recently, I have had the desire to add to my mindfulness routine. I hope it will increase the effectiveness and enable me to reap the benefits quicker. Here’s why: have you ever had one of those days where the kids won’t stop crying, the sink is full of dishes, dinner is nowhere near ready and you are trying to get some work done? Difficult isn’t it? I must have re – written the same sentence about 5 times! How do people manage to juggle it all?!
I decide to create a mindfulness routine, incorporating relaxing spa music and lighting my favourite Jasmine and Chai candle. My thoughts are given permission to swirl around me as I focus on being present in the moment. But, my head refuses to clear; I’m left wondering how mindfulness actually works and if other holistic practices might aid me better.
Searching leads me to encounter the lovely Terry Greenwell, a teacher of Tai Chi and Chi Gong. These are ancient Chinese esoteric disciplines that teach body awareness and quietening of the mind. This is done through slow and gentle movement and breath control. Terry kindly agrees to answer some questions I have on these practices to help educate me better.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being present in the present, enjoying the moment without too many distractive thoughts. We, many of us are time travellers in our thoughts. We think back, projecting forward to the point where what is actually happening now and here becomes secondary. It is good to try to quieten the inner voice and to soak up the current moment in time. We do it when somewhere new, a sunset on holiday, an exotic location but when surrounded by the mundane everyday surroundings we often forget. It is about seeing the beauty in what is around you, even the mundane and ordinary, to be thankful of your existence.
What are Tai chi and Chi gong?
Tai chi is a Chinese martial art around 250 years old that uses movements as martial arts defences. We learn them in a very slow rhythmic fashion so that their continued practice becomes embedded in the body. Tai Chi can also be taught as a purely esoteric discipline to aid calm thinking, balance, coordination and grace of movement. Consider it a moving meditation. For those that find seated/ static meditation almost impossible, Tai Chi makes it easier as it is impossible to let the mind wander when practising as it requires absolute focus to master. Tai Chi is a form of Chi Gong. Chi Gong is the practic howe of slow movement linked to breath control that works with so called Chi ( energy, prana etc) to increase energy and vitality and to move with intention and prescience.
How did these disciplines evolve?
How do these practices compliment each other?
Chi Gong is non martial on the whole. Tai Chi is a form of martial arts that uses chi Gong practices. They flower from the same plant. Chi Gong translates as daily practice. Chi Gong is a solitary practice, Tai Chi is about working with others.
There are three pillars of tai chi: developing an awareness of personal energy, cultivate that energy, and finally directing and expressing the energy. Chi Gong is about the first two pillars. Tai chi adds a third.
How can a mindfulness routine be implemented into a busy, stressful life?
Mindfulness requires that you spend just a few moments each day focusing on yourself, the body, and the breath to calm down and take in what is around you; to stop the chattering monkey of our internal voice. It is place of return that you visit for a short while to ground you and to bring a sense of calmness so you can deal with your daily stresses more effectively.