Soft Power: The Tao of Running
Soft Power is a skill. It's the ability to respond to any given set of circumstances in a way that creates the simplest, the most economical, and yet ironically, the most productive outcome. It is the ability to body sense, intuitively understand and respond naturally and appropriately to any situation with which you are presented. This is one of the underlying principles upon which T'ai Chi is based; it's a principle born out of the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism.
Stephen Prothero writes in his book, God is Not One that the practice of Taoism is, “reducing one’s actions to a minimum, acting as nature does – spontaneously and effortlessly and out of the core of one’s Being… It is not contrived action. One acts in spirit of noninterference, to submit with equanimity to what is rather than resisting it in the name of what ought to be.” This means getting ourselves out of the way and moving with Nature instead of thinking we know a better way… in essence, creating the conditions for energy to flow.
ChiRunning is an immersion into, and an exploration of, soft power. When running up a hill, you sense that a shorter stride is needed to keep your exertion level from spiking. This response falls in line with “reducing one's actions to a minimum” and “submitting to what is.” When you're feeling fatigue in your stride you can sense where you're not relaxing enough, or where you're overworking. And, when you make the right adjustments, energy can replace fatigue.
This simple way of thinking and acting is not only a recipe for becoming a better runner… but a becoming more aware, present and responsive in other areas of life. As you become familiar with working this way in your body, you begin to see how these principles can apply to everything you do. ChiRunning plants the seed of ChiLiving.
Soft power makes the best use of available energy. When your partner is talking about something that's effecting them, simply being present and listening is the first thing that needs to happen. If responding, making suggestions or reacting in defensiveness is your typical, automatic response, that might be energy wasted. If your partner feels listened to, that may be enough for him or her to meet you in resolving the issue.
By learning to live this way you bring the path of learning to a full circle. T'ai Chi was born from Taoism, a philosophy based on the movement of energy. ChiRunning was born from T'ai Chi, a martial art based on creating the conditions for energy to flow. ChiLiving is eventually born from ChiRunning. It's the art of responding appropriately in the moment, without doing any more or less than is needed. And that is at the heart of living in the Tao.