Tag Archives: T’ai Chi benefits

Emptiness: reconnecting with the inner you

Fabulous discussion at last night’s class around the impact of “emptiness” on T’ai Chi practice. I’m touched that students shared so much of themselves on this – so a warm “thank you” to all.

Emptiness is uplifting: reaching the inner you

Emptiness is uplifting: reaching the inner you


I wanted to distil a few key points – there are some quite profound lessons in life to be drawn from looking at emptiness and T’ai Chi practice. (I’m always drawing lessons from T’ai Chi!)

The concept of emptiness and inner stillness has its roots in Chinese philosophy. I’d like to refer to Buddhism and Taoism, which both have close links with T’ai Chi. Lau Tzu (possibly an older contemporary of Confucius) also talked about emptying your mind of all things in the old T’ai Chi classic The Tao te Ching. I need just to say that there are many idiosyncracies of the Buddhist and Taoist views of emptiness, which go way beyond this post(!) – but I have pulled out a few points which resonate with T’ai Chi practice.


Meditative aspects of T'ai Chi encourage a state of "emptiness"

Meditative aspects of T’ai Chi encourage a state of “emptiness”

T’ai Chi, meditation & emptiness

T’ai Chi is a meditative exercise and it’s the meditative state of mind which “emptiness” brings. Emptiness is a state of mind in T’ai Chi. Last night we each shared some examples of how we can use this relaxed state of mind in our everyday lives – when tricky situations arise which we find stressful, it is possible to condition ourselves to respond to a trigger – and tap into this “empty” state of mind – even without the movements. It’s like finding from within a cosy, safe place where there are no worries. We are protected from outside negative forces.

Enjoying the absence of wanting etc.

Within this space we’re calling emptiness, we feel without attachment, without desire, without dissatisfaction, greed, stress, anxiety or frustration… even if this is just for a short period.  T’ai Chi practice is a great opportunity just to let go.  With some time away from this collection of “wants” – through “emptiness” in T’ai Chi practice, we can gain a certain clarity of thought.


T'ai Chi symbol

T’ai Chi symbol

T’ai Chi symbol: what’s it telling us about our practice?

The T’ai chi symbol represents the constant flux of change. From this you can infer that everything is impermanent, and the argument, when played out in full, goes that problems come and go; feelings come and go; perceptions come and go. It becomes futile to worry about something which will change. One example from a student last night was that often she will be worrying about something – and without action (i.e. emptiness) – it somehow rights itself on its own. Inaction isn’t always a good idea – but it does have its place in our toolbox of “alternative perspectives.”

So the T’ai Chi symbol with its continuous curved lines, shows constant change. For T’ai Chi practitioners, we should note that the T’ai Chi Form (sequence of slow, graceful movements which lasts around 20 minutes from start to finish) needs to be practised as one continuous movement. We should think about there being no beginning and no end to the moves; one posture flows directly into the next, just like the curved lines in the symbol. More advanced students will start to “remember” the sequence by their continual flow of weight – something of a “Eureka” moment when you can predict what comes next just by the fact that, for instance, you have your weight fully in the right leg.

Enjoying emptiness in practice

Emptiness in T’ai Chi provides a quiet stillness. For me, I’m not taking this as an exercise to fully “check in” with how I’m feeling – I don’t converse in that way – it’s more of an awareness. In T’ai Chi we are encouraged to empty our minds of all thoughts; if a thought does crop up, we are to acknowledge it, and dismiss it… for the present moment at least.

After the end of the walking exercise in class, I will always invite students to “rest into the stillness” – that’s your stillness, whatever it means to you.

Last night students kindly shared with the group what they felt stillness meant to them in practice.  Here are the many benefits it brings:

  • A general awareness of our bodies & breathing
  • A calming influence (both in practice and as a “space” we can learn to tap into without even requiring the movements)
  • A state of mind where nothing matters (for that moment; we are in constant flux, remember)
  • A place to reconnect with yourself
  • Tuning into a general sense of who we are, and our interface with the world
  • An awareness of our inner strength & resources
  • A place in which to build confidence
  • An understanding of what we offer to the world

For me, the idea of connecting not only with myself; but also viewing my T’ai Chi practice as my interface with the world was an important one.  Not everyone felt the same about this, although one student came up with exactly the same example of this as me: there is a movement in which we collect energy in our palms and then turn the palms to release the energy. At this precise point, we both have the feeling of sharing what we have to offer with the room (in my student’s case) – and with the world in my case.

I use T’ai Chi’s principles to help tackle life’s little obstacles. Understanding this place we’re calling “emptiness” somehow strengthens those skills.

Ironically for me, it’s through this meditative movement that I am able finally to learn how to stop!


Retreat Day: Let your inner self blossom

Retreat Day: Let your inner self blossom

Retreat Days: reconnect to the inner you & feel nourished with time just to “be”

Retreat Days cater well for those just wanting to “stop” for a while – to empty your mind and tap into the inner you. It’s a great opportunity to have a proper break away from whatever is keeping you on the move all the time – away from your busyness.

Kind to body, mind & spirit – the Retreat Day allows you to “zone out” for a while; breathe deeply; stretch; relax & rejuvenate.

Places still available for the Retreat Day, featuring T’ai Chi, Yoga & Pilates:

  • Saturday 22 June 2013
  • Full day of relaxation & gentle exercises
  • Including meditation, breathing, stretching
  • Health & wellbeing talks
  • Nutritious two-course light lunch
  • Relaxing holistic massage/ beauty treatment
  • www.thetaichiroom.co.uk/Retreat_Days.aspx
  • Or call me on 01993 822725
  • Works well with a few close friends (the day is programmed so you will see each other!)
  • Takes place at Middle Aston House, Bicester, Oxfordshire (accommodation available)

Now I have some questions for you. Please share:

1. What’s keeping you busy just now?

2. How do you nurture your inner self?

3. What are your techniques for achieving some stillness in your daily/weekly routine?

4. How do you find clarity of mind – when you really need to take a step back and “see the wood for the trees”…?

Looking forward to hearing your strategies…

Warm wishes,

Helen, T’ai Chi Instructor and Organiser of Retreat Days, featuring T’ai Chi, Yoga & Pilates.



Simplicity, a spring clean & a shredder!

I’m slowly progressing to a simpler way of life. A life with less complexity… at least I have a drive for a less complex existence. It makes me feel free! It makes me happier. It lets me see the wood for the trees.  In a work sense it undoubtedly makes me more efficient – when you simplify projects, tasks & process, you identify proper purpose and you can then get back on track pretty quickly.  What’s not to like?

Here are a few examples of how striving for a simpler existence has cropped up in my life within the last month:

  1. I have recently finished a large chunk of work – I called it a “sustained peak” (it lasted a while!) When I surfaced the other side I was overwhelmed by all the tasks I had dropped (quite rightly I had prioritised and these seemingly lowly tasks simply didn’t make the “cut”!) Too conscientious for my own good, I had planned to just “dig a little bit deeper” and trawl through it all; but the task was so immense I simply couldn’t tackle it that way. Without giving it too much thought at the time, I simply created a 2013 archive folder in email and moved entire inboxes into their new home.  I have visited a couple of times – but how liberating to just start again!  I also unsubscribed to all emails relating to shopping (did you know most sites actually email you daily? Exactly how often did I think I would need to be buying snow outfits?!!)
  2. I felt so good simplifying my Outlook on life, if you’ll excuse the pun – that I gave my documents the same treatment. Wow, on a roll…!
  3. Next – old (paper) work projects – ALL of them – had to warrant their very existence. That’s where the shredder came in. Actually this is still an ongoing process – the more I do, the more I realise – I just don’t need all the clutter!
  4. Taking “simplicity” in its wider sense – I was planning a day out with grandparents today - we had a couple of ideas and then found ourselves adding to it – “while we’re in the area” – in fact “over-designing” our trip. My children are fortunate enough to get lots of days out – for them it would be much more beneficial to slow down, do less rushing around and spend time just chatting to their grandparents – much simpler! And a much more enriching experience!
  5. I have recently joined Lucy Eckley (marketing extrordinaire) in her Marketing MeetUps. It’s a small group of local sole owners who choose a marketing project they have been meaning to get around to implementing but for whatever reason haven’t yet started.  It’s amazing what some external accountability and a monthly deadline can do for you, ha ha! I’m so grateful to Lucy and fellow punter, Jo – for both giving me the prompt to get on and start this blog (“Thank you”!) I want to relate that to my thoughts on simplicity – there have only been a couple of MeetUps so far and I thought I knew the exact steps I wanted to deliver; however, when I pared back – simplified & clarified – I drew some quite surprising conclusions!

So, here’s my challenge to you this week -

Try and simplify everything for a week – see how much time and effort it saves you.  Also see what you missed in terms of your “old ways” (I’ll bet it’s not much!)

 1392434_99783354 water drop

Here’s what I’ve found since making moves to simplify:

  • I ate better
  • Some tasks didn’t actually need doing (result!)
  • A colleague complimented my clear approach to an email she had been struggling to draft to clients – she actually recognised that her “overload” at the time was clouding her ability to communicate in simple terms (“I’d like to be more like you” was her response – what a compliment!)
  • I started again on some tasks – and did a much better job
  • I have recognised that under (immense) pressure I default to relying on process – quite natural and definitely adviseable to use a “checklist” approach when under pressure – but sometimes a step back, simplifying the task – can get you there quicker.
  • Some things don’t need doing straight away (my priorities may differ from those around me)
  • Saying “no” really isn’t that bad
  • Simplifying things somehow makes me more confident; my capacity for doing “just the right things” has grown

…And just like T’ai Chi’s principles around perspective, confidence & living life in the moment - life’s little concerns just got smaller… and the detail of the simple things just got more important. Simplifying things has left me feeling re-aligned. I have more time for people; I am more connected.  Life’s a whole heap more fulfilling!

What do you think? I would love to hear from you

Warm wishes,


How would you define wellbeing?

What does “wellbeing” mean to you?

What exactly are we looking to achieve when we say we’d like to feel an improved sense of wellbeing?

The new economics foundation (nef) has developed “five key ways to wellbeing” at

The question of how to define wellbeing has really sparked me. In answering this seemingly superficial question, I have unearthed something of a “window” into all the things which are important to me and my values; what my real drivers are; and from all of this I can map a clearer direction. (Note how I have left actions out at this stage – there’s a reason for that, which I’ll come to later.)

To me, wellbeing is…
1. being “at peace” with myself
2. being “in harmony” with all those around me – family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, community
3. feeling free from overload & clutter
4. being in good health & pain free
5. feeling physically fit, active, exhilarated & loving life
6. feeling close to nature
7. feeling properly connected to those closest to me
8. engaging my “community spirit”
9. feeling able to be “me”
10. feeling able to stop and just “be”
11. feeling equipped and confident so that I can cope with life’s little knocks
12. feeling a wide sense of justice

As someone who has worked from home for the past seven years, it’s no surprise then that getting up at 6.30am on the bank holiday to help out at the Scout Group car boot sale actually gave me such a boost! It was the social interaction/ community spirit “tick” which gave me such a buzz. I already know that when I’m feeling overloaded at work and taking too much time away from the family, one of the simplest “fixes” for me to feel that reconnection, is to have a game of badminton in the garden with my nine-year old boy. Sometimes it’s the simplest things…

T'ai Chi: boosts your wellbeing

T’ai Chi: boosts your wellbeing

Practising T’ai Chi pretty much covers all of my twelve points above. I don’t know how much impact it has on the 12th; but T’ai Chi at least gives me an incredible clarity of thought and a balanced perspective as a darned good starting point for tackling the big things like issues of injustice!

I wanted to share with you how T’ai Chi boosts my wellbeing:
1. At the end of my T’ai Chi practice, I am at my happiest; I feel relaxed and peaceful (I always have the best sleep at the end of my day of teaching)
2. If anything has riled me earlier in the day, after practice it no longer seems important; I can readily shrug it off
3. After practice, I feel strong in myself; I have reconnected within and feel confident in myself
4. I have had a very welcome break from all matters concerning overload & clutter and it feels amazing!
5. I believe that the exercise; breathing and energy flow help to keep my body healthy – the stress-busting, meditative elements undoubtedly help sustain good mental health and practising throughout my three pregnancies helped me to retain a good residual fitness
6. I feel calm, yet very alert after practice; upbeat but relaxed
7. T’ai Chi’s wider principles very much incorporate nature (As Legend would have it – Chinese Taoist priest Chang San-feng witnessed a fight between a crane and a snake and was struck by their movements; how the snake avoided the crane by its flowing, yielding, adapting movements; the crane used too much energy with its linear, aggressive attacks. This is the reason Chang San-feng developed movements to mimic nature and many of the T’ai Chi postures reflect the attributes of different animals.)
8. Some of T’ai Chi’s specific movements build confidence, increase self esteem, deflect inbound negative experiences (“Monkey Steps” are a favourite amongst those of my students who going through particularly difficult /aggressive situations at work. In this movement, students move backwards very slowly and in a controlled fashion “ward off” any external aggressions. Powerful stuff!)
9. Practising T’ai Chi helps to “open your heart” to those around you – forgiveness & compassion are both so beneficial to your inner wellbeing.
10. T’ai Chi’s principles teach the ability to slow down – and to believe that it’s ok not to always put in 120%… not to always run around at a hundred miles an hour
11. On a physical level – T’ai Chi builds strength, flexibility, mobility & balance; and improves posture, breathing, digestion & circulation
12. T’ai Chi is teaching me balance in all things

For this post you might notice that I haven’t provided my list of things you could do to improve your wellbeing – I have perhaps alluded to my T’ai Chi practice, and larking around in the garden with my children – but there’s a good reason for my not providing a lengthy list at this stage. For now, I really wanted to CHALLENGE you to open up to what YOU see is important for your wellbeing. I’ve got so much out of writing this post today, I would love for you to share with me -

What defines wellbeing for you?

And how do you go about nurturing your wellbeing?

Do you:
a) Not give this much attention really (you’re too busy)?
b) Know what you really like to do – but aren’t quite getting around to it?
c) Have a list (either consciously or unconsciously) of things you do to give your wellbeing a boost (shopping trip, night out, weekend away, buy some flowers, book a retreat?)
d) Ever look at those things you might do for a “lift” – and evaluate them?
e) Find that you reach for the “right” fix, or sometimes for an “empty fix”?

I would love to hear from you…

Warm wishes,