Tai Chi for Every Day Life
When was the last time you truly ate something? Not just tasted it, but enjoyed it and understood what was happening inside your body? Hectic, rapidly changing lifestyles don't leave much room for the natural, instinctive way of eating. If you're eating unconsciously, join tai chi instructors Betty Sun and Joi Eden for lessons in how to enjoy a truly balanced dining experience.
The tai chi approach to cuisine doesn't mean you have to change what you eat, but that may happen as you improve your relationship with your food. These principles address all kinds of diets with flexible concepts for treating the whole person on every level. You are an intricate union of body, mind and spirit. If one of these essential elements is unbalanced, all of them are unbalanced. The principles of tai chi cuisine can bring you harmonious insight into your tastes, food, eating habits, surroundings and life.
Whether you are familiar with the practice of tai chi or not, you need not wait for isolated moments to achieve the benefits of this beautiful art. You can have them at any time. Your personal, daily life is your vehicle for growth. Everything is as close as your breath and your thought. Everything you need is right in front of you; you simply need to be aware and receptive.
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The centuries-old art and science is also a health maintenance system that fosters strength, stamina and energy ñ chi ñ for health, exercise, relaxation, meditation and higher consciousness. Chi, or qi, is the natural dynamic bioenergy, the proper flow of which ensures the integration of body, mind and spirit.
Every tai chi movement is based on yin and yang, a union of complementary opposites that forms a harmonious whole. Each side contains the seed and essence of the other in an ongoing process of give and take, expansion and contraction, creation and transformation. Tai chi motions are circular, slow, fluid and relaxed.
The tai chi concept of health is based on the balance and harmony of yin and yang, too. The interaction of these energies keeps all things in the universe in a state of moving equilibrium. Everything changes except the fundamental governing laws of life.
Bodily functions, mental processes, emotional and spiritual energy are all in process. The yin and yang aspects within the body constantly interact, and all healthy activities arise from the maintenance of this dynamic balance.
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This simple, yet effective meditation practice will enable you to be aware as you eat. You'll enjoy your daily meals more and come away feeling satisfied and fulfilled. Try this exercise alone and with a group, where you can share your experiences.
You can do this as often as you wish; but for best results, make time for it at least once a week. Your innate wisdom will continue to process these principles, allowing you to eat with more satisfaction and consciousness each day.
Begin by selecting three foods you enjoy ‚ simple items that require no preparation and that can be eaten with your hands. Choose foods with various tastes and textures, such as cookies, carrots and cheese. Make yourself comfortable in a peaceful environment. Give yourself permission to fully let go.
Sit straight and relaxed, with your selection of foods on a table in front of you. You can close your eyes. Breathe naturally. Now take a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. Again. Once more. Imagine tension slipping from your neck and shoulders, down your arms and out your fingertips.
1. Tai Chi Tip
Be aware of the moment
Imagine the foods you selected. If distracting thoughts come into your mind, that's OK. Just come back to the moment and imagine your food’s appearance, taste and smell. Imagine touching it and what it would sound like as you chew. Simply be attentive to the moment. In both eating and tai chi, it is essential to remain aware of the moment.
Now open your eyes. Look at your food choices. Look carefully and closely. Note what appeals to you about their appearance. Notice any thoughts or feelings associated with each food item. Decide which food you want to eat first and look at it closely.
Note any thoughts or feelings about selecting it first. Prepare yourself to be receptive to this food. Reach for it slowly, deliberately. Be aware of the sensation of moving. Touch your food. Pay attention to the physical sensation. Put your mind at your fingertips.
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2. Tai Chi Tip
Receive the food
Bring the food to your mouth and pause for a moment. Notice its smell. Perhaps you notice a temperature change near your lips. Open your mouth slowly and take a bite. Chew slowly. Can you hear the sounds of chewing? Feel the texture and consistency in your mouth? Be aware of the first sensation of taste and all the levels of taste that follow. Be aware as it begins to lose taste. Do you want to take another bite before you swallow this one?
When you’ve chewed thoroughly, swallow. Follow your food’s movement until you sense it reaching your stomach and beginning to become part of you. Be aware of your body as it receives your food. It might help to close your eyes. What are the sensations of your body? Has your posture changed?
Do different thoughts, images or memories arise? Or are you in the moment? If you become distracted, it’s perfectly all right. Just notice it and come back to relax the tension. Use your breath and your food as reminders to bring you back to this moment, always being kind and patient with yourself.
Open your eyes and think about reaching for the same food item. Name the food in your mind. Slowly reach for it, being aware of the movements of each part of your body. Repeat what you’ve just done. Plunge into the taste and feeling of it. Connect to what it gives you, experiencing it on every level. When you’ve chewed thoroughly, swallow, and follow it as it travels to your stomach.
3. Tai Chi Tip
Select a second food and note its appearance. Slowly reach for it, remaining aware of your body’s movements. Touch the food. Bring it to your lips. Smell it. Do you have an impulse to put it into your mouth? Pause.
Take a bite, holding it in your mouth before you chew. Now chew and listen to the sounds. Feel the food. Become absorbed in the texture and the taste. Notice your breathing and posture. Notice what your hands are doing. Chew thoroughly and then swallow. Imagine the food nourishing you completely.
Look at your third food choice and note its appearance. Be aware of thoughts, feelings and sensations associated with this food item. Think about reaching for it. Slowly reach for it. Notice body sensations and thoughts as you do so. Touch it. Place your mind at your fingertips. Bring the food to your lips. Smell it. Then slowly take a bite, noticing all sensations as you chew.
Are there different thoughts or feelings as you form a relationship with these foods? Are you aware of the moment-to-moment changes as you eat? Sit with all the sensations for a moment and consider how you and the food become one, creating and recreating who you are. Let your body absorb the chi. Thoughts of all types may arise.
Would you eat differently the next time? Make different choices? Can you feel the effects of your food in any particular place? Are there thoughts and emotions associated with eating this food? Will this change with your next practice?
When practice is complete, arise slowly and take your awareness with you to your next activity, fully alive and present to it.