Now that the weather has improved practising Tai Chi outside has become even more enjoyable. Most early mornings you can find me training for a few hours on our patio or in lush West Dean Gardens next to our house. Two weeks ago, just as the weather made a turn for the better, we resumed our Saturday morning Tai Chi in the park class in the ever more beautiful Bishop’s Palace Gardens next to Chichester Cathedral. We meet every Saturday at 8:30am unless the weather is really bad (horizontal rain for example). Everyone is welcome to join us regardless of ability/experience.
It is easy to spend too much of our lives inside away from nature. Even when we get around to doing some exercise many of us jump in the car and drive miles to an air-conditioned health-club with no natural light only to straddle a strange machine for half an hour without really paying attention to what we are doing and then drive home. I used to do it myself, many years ago. Now I prefer more integrative and natural training. Different things suit different people at different times I suppose. However, next time you are outside (but could be anywhere really) why don’t you try these three simple exercises to train mind and body?
First of all, as you are walking, gardening or whatever just focus upon what sounds you can hear. Casually observe the volume, character and direction of the myriad noises. Perhaps you might notice many different layers of sound. Explore and observe how well you can simply pay attention to what sounds there are without drifting off or thinking about something else. This is easier said than done. Most people, if not all, find it very difficult to pay attention for long or even at all without incessant thoughts taking over. When you do drift off into thinking about something else see if you can become aware of it and reorient your focus to the task in hand. Consider the exercise to be a simple experiment in how you perceive things rather than a test.
The second exercise is similar to the first. Now we will pay attention to what our bodies are doing. Let us assume that we are walking; what physical sensations can you observe? Can you feel the texture of the ground beneath your feet, perhaps you can sense how an unlevel surface undulates and your balance constantly adjusts to accommodate it? What about the rest of your body; how does it feel, how does it move? Which parts have little or no sensation? Which parts move and what is the quality of the movemnt like? Once again it is difficult to be aware of what we are doing and what is happening around us if our minds are churning non-stop.
The third exercise is simple: see if you can do the first and second exercises simultaneously! Through practice we can strengthen our perception and our minds will become oriented more towards the present moment. For improving our health this is invaluable. Try it out and see how you get on.
Sam teaches Chen Tai Chi full time across West Sussex.