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  • Writer's picturePaul White

Tai Chi for Veterans

"In letting go, I was able to recognize the transition to the point of being cognizant of feelings that were too subtle or quiet for me to be aware of. It is there, but I realized that I didn’t quiet my mind enough to feel it before that moment. I got into a place where I could magnify it if I quieted my mind. It is like massaging your sensitivity so later on, I was more sensitive, and it is faster now and I can control it with greater ease. It quieted my mind so that it wasn’t so cluttered with all of the anxiety from stress and holding onto past traumas, and all of the sudden things made more sense and I started figuring out patterns and things. I found that problems just started being easy to solve."

That is when I truly began to understand what it meant to listen to my mind and body through Tai Chi amidst the park trees. See, I began playing with energy in the manner described 13 years ago, but it took a few years of exploration to find just the right teacher. Master Li was the one who could most effectively translate the play of energy or Qi (pronounced 'chee') for me. The funny thing is that his English was limited. He communicated with me mostly through those graceful movements and a few words here and there. The way he would move was inspiring.

The movement called "White Crane Spreads Wings" was the one that allowed me to release and open up to the experience of holding on to my military past. There was something special about slowly moving one hand into the air while the other floated gently to my one toe alighted quietly before my body and all my weight was held on/filling up the rear leg. In sync with my breath, the movements alternated from one side of my body to the next while I saw myself as a crane on the bank of a beautiful river. Energy flowed throughout my body releasing the emotional and physical pain stored within. Pain that began all those years ago in the military.

I could not have even imagined how the experience of syncing my body, mind, and breath would influence my life before the moment I stepped into the park with Master Li to practice Tai Chi and Qigong. I later learned it is more appropriate to call it 'playing' Tai Chi and that shift in perspective was precisely what needed to happen for my mind to grasp the experience.

When I recounted the experience to a veteran friend of mine, he asked that I teach him. "Maybe I can get rid of some of this anger that happens to me. I know my wife and kids would rather I was not so chaotic and triggering. It sure would make my life easier if I could predict the anger triggers I have had." He shared that he felt "It's like I am always enveloped by a thin veneer of anger and anxiety. And I have been sitting with it for so long...I am tired of this."

He continued to learn from me for a while, even though we moved to different cities. Eventually, he found another teacher in his new city with whom he formed a strong connection. He told me, "I think I found my Master Li." I laughed and assured him that he certainly had. Since that time with my friend and battle buddy, I have taken on a number of new veterans to share the flow of Tai Chi with.

I allow "my" veterans to suggest playlists during play that inspire a more modern feel yet invite a deep sense of relaxation. I do not ask nor require them to memorize any movements, but to simply follow me and allow a sense of peace into their body. Nothing more is asked but for them to be in the moment as much as they can, smile, laugh and enjoy a brief glimpse of they "spread their own crane wings" releasing and opening up to the possibilities of the present.

For more information, please reach out to me for an introductory Tai Chi lesson. you are also invited to explore the links below to find out more. Now, let's get you squared away! I look forward to hearing from you, soldier.

Additional resources:

Vets find this ancient discipline to be relaxing therapy.

The Official Certification for the Community Care Network - TaijiFit Certification is the recognized form for the Tai Chi for Veterans Program. It is a healing routine that can be experienced and taught by all ages. 

"Improving the Health of Veterans Through Moving Meditation Practices"

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