I thought that I had no inspiration to write about Tai Chi. And actually I don’t have, and I am not going to. I haven’t had any inspiration or ideas for writing about Tai Chi for quite some time, even though I can admit that I have already begun writing drafts for at least 50 new posts. Some of them might be published. Maybe. We’ll have to see about that…

…However, I just read an article about travel, experiences and most of all how to achieve happiness. Actually it was an assignment I had, an assignment to optimise it and publish it for a client (If you didn’t already know, my profession is SEO and digital marketing). I went to check the sources and found some interesting research.

Apparently “trying to be happy” doesn’t work very well. “Trying to be happy” can leave you with a feeling of not being successful in this pursuit and work opposite to what you try to achieve – to become even more unhappy. Buying things and getting money doesn’t last very well either. Many things doesn’t work. Some doesn’t because of so called “negative bias”, and sometimes we have an idea about happiness that doesn’t match reality, or doesn’t meet up with our expectations. So the very pursuit of happiness is a bad idea if you want to sort of reach a state where you are “sort of happy”, or happier, or whatever.

Happiness is a bad idea as a long-term goal because it is a “fluctuating emotion.” Well, according to what psychologist Itai Ivtzan says in an article for Psychology Today it is. Most things we associate with happiness have to do with a short moment of a hedonistic feeling as eating a pizza, again according to Itai. So what should we do to be happy?

Experiences, travelling and so on seem to be better sources to happiness and leave a longer impression. However, people like Richard Davidson, founder and director of the Center For Healthy Minds told Huffington post that rather than speaking about happiness, he preferred to speak about “well-being”. And this is something he means is a more reasonable approach to a long-time goal, which in turn can lead to more happiness.

What I personally finds most interesting is that he speaks a lot about cultivating awareness and also mention “mindfulness” (I think I need to insert here, that I am not a great fan of this term. You should not go around trying to keep your mind “full”, so this name can give some wrong associations. At least from a Tai Chi perspective). If you have read this blog you might have read my post that I believe that cultivating awareness is the real key to success in Tai Chi Chuan. Well, to be more precise, I do speak about “body awareness”, but in a sense, I do believe that it’s the same thing. A greater awareness about your body and more knowledge about yourself leads to greater general awareness. Tai Chi practice is a way, through practical practice, achieve more awareness.

Davidson also mentions “meta-awareness” as a key, and says that “cultivating meta-awareness helps you to deliberately direct and sustain your attention.” This description suits more the type of awareness built through Tai Chi Chuan practice. We don’t only build up awareness about things around us, but it helps us to stay tuned with awareness about our awareness. And this of course is an important aspect of Tai Chi as a martial art. To become better aware of all of the things happening around you in a specific moment, you need to have a method to tune, “direct and sustain your attention.”

Well, exactly how all of this leads to happiness, or to more well-being, is not an exact science, but studies show that a focused mind with heightened awareness in fact does in fact lead to a better overall feeling of well-being, and that a shattered and distracted mind leads to feelings of stress and unhappiness.

I do think that “the power of habit”, and as the rings on the water, I wrote about Tai Chi practice can lead you to a better life has a lot to do with this that awareness should lead to well-being. One thing leads to another, and the things you do have impact on other things in your life. Awareness about yourself and your life, as well as the proposed idea on “meta-awareness”, might be important keys.

I like very much Laozi’s words about that people tend to seek what is far away but forget about what is near. Forgetting about grasping for what you cannot reach and to start looking inwards to yourself, is what many religions and philosophical teachings speak about. It all seems to start and end with yourself, or the “I”.

We all need certain basic things in our lives, a place to live, a daily intake of foods and nourishments etc. But when those basic needs are filled, we all do have a choice to where we aim our energy and what we strive towards in our lives. I am certainly not someone who would advice anyone to give up their dreams and hopes for what they can achieve for the outer world. I am not someone that would propose that all of our happiness is only about “what is close”. But I do believe that we all need to balance ourselves and our lives, by not forgetting about “what is close” and to look inwards to ourselves, and maybe also to keep aiming for what can only be achieved by what is close. And when it comes to all of this, the art of Tai Chi Chuan certainly gives all of us practitioners a powerful tool.

A couple of Laozi (Daodejing) quotes to wrap it all up:

“Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the essence of the Tao.”

“Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength; 
mastering yourself is true power.”