Chi Running and Chi Walking: Techniques for Positive Change
Creating New Year’s resolutions is one of the most worthwhile of all our holiday rituals. It takes clear intention to create positive change. And it just so happens that the mid-winter months are the best time of year to plant new seeds of what you would like to create in your life. Especially now, after the holidays, is the perfect time to use the long dark nights to tap into a vision for yourself and your life.
Taking time to create a vision is well worth every moment spent. The power behind vision and intention has been documented. Basketball players improve their chances of scoring simply by imagining the ball going into the hoop. Top athletes and performers are as schooled in using the power of intention as they are in their sport or art.
The vision of yourself is best realized when it is felt in your body, as well as seen in your mind. Getting your body involved is a crucial element to both creating and realizing your goals. This is where Chi Running and Chi Walking come in. In order for an intention to be more than just a thought or an idea in your head, you must engage your body in the process of creating and manifesting your goals.
As a writer, I have always had a technique for whenever I have been stuck for a way to express something. It’s quite simple, really. I just drop my awareness down into my gut. I think about what it is that I’m trying to say, and then drop my awareness down into my abdomen and my entire pelvic area. When I do this I feel my energy shift downward, and the solutions that come to me have more substance and clarity than when I simply “think” about what to say. Rather than thinking with my mind, I feel for what I need to say, or how to say it, with my body and my mind. It’s what we suggest you do when you create resolutions for the New Year or your intentions for your daily walk or run.
I came to this technique as a marketing executive in New York more than 20 years ago, long before I started studying T’ai Chi and way before Chi Running and Chi Walking were developed. I used it often. Whenever I faced a tough challenge, I would consciously drop my awareness down into my body, because I learned that that was how I found the best solutions. Gut instinct is a quality that marks a top performer in any field. You can tap into your own gut instinct anytime you want to.
When I started practicing T’ai Chi, I realized and understood what I had been doing and why it had the effect it did. I began to practice the technique more regularly, especially while walking or running. In T’ai Chi, the abdomen, or the area just below your navel and a few inches in toward your spine, is called the dantien and is your center and home to your chi, or life force. I have found, at this point in my life, that almost everything I do feels more grounded and whole, when I drop down into my center and use my mind with my body to navigate day-to-day living. From the depth of my gut, I get a better perspective on my life, or on any given situation, and I'm able to then respond in a way that holds more value for me.
In Chi Walking and Chi Running, all your movement comes from this same place. Your center is the source of your moving energy as well as your creative energy. And when you tap into the energy and wisdom of your body, as well as your mind, life seems to take on a whole new flavor. What may seem very dramatic and overwhelming to the mind, somehow feels more manageable when the body is invited to add its two cents. And, when the mind gets some brilliant idea, your center will give you a feel if it’s really what is best for you at the time.
When you drop your energy down into your lower torso, you are also tapping into the incredible “brain power” of the kidneys. The kidneys are located in the same general area as the dantien. Kidneys work to filter the metabolic waste produced by cells from throughout the body, so they have the best read on how your whole body is doing at any given moment. The point is that your body can often see more clearly than your mind, what you need or are capable of. From my experience, I'd trust the wisdom of my body over my mind any day. When the focus of your mind is teamed with the wisdom of your body, they are a force that can create powerful and positive change in your life. The mind alone is very changeable and easily distracted, but finds a strong anchor from the winds of change in the wisdom of the body.
Tapping into your body can be as simple as feeling your pelvis, feeling your butt on the chair, feeling your feet on the ground. We call it Body Sensing. Most people rarely take the opportunity to do it. But it's a learned skill that needs to be practiced. Just drop your focus into your body and feel your gut response to life. Make it a practice. Try it right now, or anytime during your day. It’s especially helpful to start your day by quieting the mind and listening to the body. Eckharte Tolle says that the body, when listened to in this way, is a portal to your deepest essence. When you have a decision to make ... big or small. Drop your focus into your gut and see what you feel.
Even though I devote my runs and walks to feeling my body, I still get distracted a thousand times. My mind wanders to planning and to everyday issues and concerns, but I keep going back and back again, to focusing on my body, my foot fall, on relaxing, on feeling my center. In Chi Running and Chi Walking, the practice of leveling your pelvis while rotating your lower body from T12/L1, helps you tap directly into this very powerful place of wisdom, creativity and energy.
Creating Positive Intentions
Here is a suggested ritual to create intentions for your best year possible. Do whatever works for you.
- Put aside several hours just for you. Devote that time to creating positive change in your life.
- Devote some of the time for a walk or run to get the energy in your body moving. Prepare carefully and mindfully. Do the loosening exercises. Devote the time spent to listening to your body.
- If there are any big questions you are pondering, think about them, then put those questions in the back of your mind, and refocus on your body.
- While running or walking focus on your body, but note what comes up in your mind, especially if it pertains to your intentions and vision for yourself. Then, keep refocusing on your body.
- When you come back from your exercise, stretch, shower, or do whatever post exercise program you have, but continue to focus on your body.
- Then, get your writing tools (pen and pad or computer) and once again, drop your focus deep into your gut, or just feel your butt on the seat, and ask yourself what are the most important changes you need to make in your life. Ask the question with your mind while also keeping as much attention as possible on your body.
- Write down whatever comes up for you. Make sure you keep dropping your energy into your body.
- Now, take the top three ideas, the ones that feel the most valuable, and visualize yourself with that intention or goal realized. While STILL holding onto the feeling in your body, visualize yourself as you’d like to be: calmer, more grounded, more focused in your life, more energized, or getting more done. You may see yourself fit and agile or turning in your PhD dissertation. Visualize whatever it is that you would like to accomplish, be, feel or do. Visualize it and write it down as if you are living that vision. Imagine exactly what it would feel and look like as you communicate openly and without blame with your spouse, or see yourself doing work that is truly fulfilling, or imagine the great feeling you’ll have at your celebratory dinner after the marathon you will have completed that day. Live it and feel it in your body.
- Take some time to transition out of your visioning time. Try to keep quiet, keep your movements mindful and your mind quiet.
- Bring the awareness of your body into whatever you do next.
- Read and refine your vision and intentions regularly. Make it a regular practice in your life.
The more you listen to your body, the clearer the message will be. Rather than a small quiet voice, it will become a regular presence in your life. As you get good at listening to your body, the communication with this deepest part of you becomes a natural way of being. And the positive change you seek, becomes who you are.