Breathing is the first.
After watching my partner grow our daughter from two cells, I am convinced that life begins then, at the joining of two cells (the one—space—to the two—sperm and ovum—to the three—embryo). Yet there is undeniably a shift that happens when the first breath is taken. Perhaps it is simply the first thing that you do on your own. Until that first breath outside the womb, mother and child are one (one and not one). And then the lungs fill with air from the world and mother and child change (not one and one).
Buddhist meditation practices often begin with breathing. Yoga postures use the breath to connect the mind and the body. The foundational practice of many Chinese martial arts, zhan zhuang qigong, is a standing posture and steady, relaxed breathing.
Breathing is the first.
Acupuncture is not a typical career choice. High school seniors don’t go to job fairs and hang out at the Chinese medicine table. So we are often asked:
“How did you get into acupuncture?”
In the beginning, I answered the way I had heard other practitioners answer. Many years later, as I started to understand it better, I saw how wrong this story was. It is the apparent answer. It is the series of events, the things. But in truth, my coming to this work is more like a string being tuned.
Our lives are more separate than ever. We find ourselves in bubbles that are much smaller than we would like. The weaving of tradition and individual created by Tai Chi practice is a balm. It can help us connect to something bigger than ourselves, outside of space and time, while at the same time providing a solitary activity that supports individual physical and mental health.
Stretching is widely accepted as a good thing to do, but the question is whether there is a right way to do it. Do you reach and hold it? Do you bounce? Do you get a trainer to do it for you?
January 1 marks the new year for most of us, but it does not sync with anything in nature. That might be why ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ on January 1 are notoriously impossible to stick with. The Chinese New Year, on the other hand, gives us a brilliant image to help us create change in our lives.
If you live in the concrete jungle, there’s a good chance you feel a separation between your day-to-day life and all the things we call “Nature” or “wilderness”. Humans evolved over millions of years in close relationship with the unforgiving environment, and its influence on us is still very real. And yet, we often live our lives as if we play by a different set of rules than those followed by every other living thing on Earth.