Tai Chi and the Pursuit of Happiness
By Al Simon, Director at Cloudwater.com
In a few of my recent posts, I’ve been talking about the psycho-spiritual aspects of Tai Chi, Qigong, and Chi Development. I’ve discussed how some of the practices of of the Chi Development arts can lead us to greater happiness.
But I need to say a few words about exactly what I mean by “happiness”.
By happiness, we are not talking just about “enjoyment” or “pleasure”. We view enjoyment and pleasure as short-term pursuits with short-term results. Something you do or get that makes you “happy” for a few hours, or a few days, or even a few weeks, we would more likely call enjoyment rather than happiness. In addition, many times enjoyment and pleasure have a more “passive” nature. Generally, we “receive” pleasure, rather than actively pursue it. So by happiness, we have in mind something more long-term and more active.
Let’s define happiness this way: Happiness is an extended pursuit in which we seek to take more and more control of our lives. The goal of this control is to create for ourselves the type of life we wish to live.
Activities that create happiness may not actually produce pleasure in and of themselves; as a matter of fact, they are often difficult and require personal effort. But happiness activities do produce a type of pleasure based on the personal satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment that results from the activity. This satisfaction is directly related to the degree of effort involved (the more effort, the more satisfaction), and the long-term importance of the end result to our lives.
Tai Chi, Qigong, and the Pursuit of “Pleasure”
For many people, Tai Chi and Qigong in general, and Chi Development in particular, are “pleasure pursuits”. Practicing Tai Chi and Qigong makes them feel good almost immediately and gives them short-term enjoyment.
Many people enjoy learning as part of a general curiosity about the world, so the enjoyment we feel from Tai Chi and Qigong may result simply from learning something new. Or the enjoyment may come from the “escapist” nature of removing ourselves from our daily lives (and daily stress) by taking time out to learn and practice. For some people, the enjoyment comes from feeling “special” and distinguishing themselves from others by learning an activity that most people haven’t learned. For others, the enjoyment might come from the social aspects – interacting with new people and making new friends, either in in-person classes or over the web in our online courses.
No matter what the source of their enjoyment in Tai Chi and Qigong, these “pleasure pursuit” students tend to stick with practice as long as it is easy and fun, and tend to avoid whatever they find difficult or challenging in Tai Chi and Qigong.
Chi Development “Tools” for Happiness and Spiritual Growth
It may surprise you to know that I see nothing wrong with pursuing Tai Chi and Qigong merely for pleasure. As I’ve said many times to many students and instructors, Tai Chi and Qigong should always be customized to your personal goals. And if your goal for Tai Chi and Qigong is pleasure – having fun learning something new, an escape from a stressful life, making friends – then that’s what you should pursue. We’ve had hundreds of students, both in our in-person classes and in our online courses pursuing that goal.
But for those of us who are looking for something more, not just the pursuit of pleasure but the pursuit of happiness, Chi Development offers three main “tools” to help in that pursuit. To learn more about these tools, please read our posting on Tai Chi and Qigong – Three Keys to Psycho-Spiritual Chi Development.
As always, you have my best wishes for your Chi Development
Al Simon is a certified master of Tai Chi and Qigong and a two-time inductee to U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
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