Heard at Tai Chi practice this morning: relaxed is not weak.
It occurred to me that this is a common misperception, not only in Tai Chi practice but also generally in life.
I occasionally find myself faced with a stressful situation, maybe even a threat, and how do I respond? I stiffen up; my breathing becomes fast and shallow, my muscles tighten up. It is the old build-in fight or flight instinct that kicks in. Yet in Tai Chi, as in life, this is the wrong response, and one that I may need to spend several more years uprooting.
Why? Look at a tree in the storm. Once the wind picks up, the branches that are inflexible will ultimately break. The elastic, more relaxed offshoots will bend and, once the squall passes, resume form.
More than anything, relaxed is a set of mind. If I can maintain it, even at the worst of moments, my response will be both more measured, as well as appropriate for any particular situation. Additionally, we have a perception that being relaxed may project weakness, and thus we tend to bare teeth. Facing an indifferent customer service agent on the phone, for example, we immediately tense up, our voice turns hostile. My experience to date had taught me that if I can relax, imagine the person on the other side of the line as a tired worker who heard just about any possible complaint and then some, conjure a little sympathy and soften up my tone, I get much better results, or at least, stay calm at the end of the call, rather than lose my temper and wreck the rest of my day.
How to move from tense to relaxed? There are shortcuts through drugs but since I am not into that culture, I shall continue to walk the long and winding road of awareness and lots of practice.
Learned from: a comment during Tai Chi practice