A couple of years ago, I logged on to my tai chi lesson in a less than healthy state of mind. I was experiencing some real anxiety over an issue (sorry, no idea now what it was,) and told my coach as much when he asked what I wanted to work on that day.
He perched on his stool and started to talk. And ask questions. I stood and listened, and answered him. A moment later the hour was up and I realized I was perfectly relaxed and balanced. Here’s how that happened….
Del’s first question of a lesson is always, “Well, Jet, what do you want to work on today?” And that’s what he asked, which generated my response of stress, fear, anxiety, inability to settle, tight muscles, and so on.
He never asked me why, or what I thought was evoking those feelings. To him, that’s immaterial, which is very helpful to me. He asked me if any of those feelings could possibly be True, which of course we both know they couldn’t.
I’m sure we talked about lots of things, but the interesting part is what happened to me during that lesson.
As I listened to him, my feet came together. I straightened up. I relaxed my muscles. I unlocked my knees. I placed my hands over my dan tien (my center, or that place just below your belly button). And I breathed.
The anatomy of breathing is not how I always imagined it. As you inhale, your diaphragm actually goes down, not up, to make room for your lungs to expand, which pushes your rib cage out. Has nothing to do with your shoulders. And when you exhale, your diaphragm pushes your lungs up to empty the air out, and your rib cage compresses.
As I listened, I FELT the expansion of my rib cage and my lungs as I inhaled, and I FELT the compression of my rib cage and my lungs as I exhaled. But only as a feeling, I didn’t actively push it. Just felt it.
And as I stood, listening to his voice, occasionally answering a question or making a comment, my muscles unknotted and relaxed.
As my muscles unknotted, so did my thoughts, and I was able to recognize that I was the one getting myself in a stew. And breathing, and standing in Wu Chi, just BREATHING, started the unknotting process.
So, my simple act for relieving stress is to stand (or sit – you can do this anywhere) straight but relaxed, in Wu Chi, and breathe. I’ve actually taken to doing that daily for five minutes, as a way of catching the stress and throwing it out before it catches me.
Give it a try!