Brain work

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Train your brain

Your brain directs the body. The stronger your brain, the better it works. Success in tai chi requires a strong, pliable, flexible, adaptive brain.

Brain gym

People make an effort to go
running or to the gym. How much time and money do they commit to their brain? Vanity is skin deep. Your brain is with you for life.

The root of ignorance itself is our mindís habitual tendency to distraction.

 (Sogyal Rinpoche)

More than just memory

Medical studies often focus on what tai chi can do for memory and attention. But there is so much more to it... Brain work in the syllabus includes:

  1. Meditation
    - being in the 'here and now'
    - attention on what is happening
    - cultivate tranquillity, stillness and silence
    - not getting sucked into exoticism
    - distinguishing between brain, mind, thoughts, emotions and reality
    - concentration, focus and presence

  2. Awareness
    - your body, your thoughts, your emotions, pain
    - people around you
    - what is actually taking place
    - cultivating a heightened level of awareness
    - relationships, choice, perspective

  3. Clarity
    - seeing without bias, memories, expectations or opinion
    - seeing what is actually taking place
    - speaking truthfully, precisely and clearly
    - the problem with media, mobile phones, internet, TV, gossip, news, politics and 'received' knowledge

  4. Composure
    - taking responsibility for your emotions
    - facing your demons
    - remaining calm
    - coping under pressure
    - anxiety and anticipation

  5. Metacognition
    - thinking about thinking
    - observing how you think, what you think, why you think it
    - understanding consciousness, creativity, insight and learning
    - dig a lot deeper than you thought possible or necessary
    - Zen koan, the limitations of contemporary education
    - cultivating exponential development
    - spontaneity and change

  6. Constructive reading
    - reading non-fiction books
    - exercise your mind by reading unfamiliar concepts, principles and ideas
    - change attitudes, improve sensitivity, encourage insight and deepen understanding
    - spirituality, personal development, deliberate living

  7. Memory
    - expectations, performance, recall, learning
    - the role of repetition and practice
    - habits and familiarity, pros and cons of 'the known'
    - contemplation


  8. Rest
    - the necessity of peace, quiet and space
    - the benefits of stopping
    - nutrition, diet, hydration
    - the dangers of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol

Use it or lose it

According to the book The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, the human brain is quite literally akin to a muscle.
The more frequently and consistently your brain works on a given area of skill, the greater its capacity to perform the skill with ease.
If you want your brain to be robust, fast, adaptive, flexible and strong you need to challenge it in a variety of ways.

The range of awareness and efficiency of the Taoist adept is unnoticeable, imperceptible to others,
because their critical moments take place before ordinary intelligence has mapped out a description of the situation.

By seeing opportunities before they are visible to others and being quick to act,
the uncanny warrior can take situations by the throat before matters get out of hand.

Conserving one's own energy while inducing others to dissipate theirs is another function of the inscrutability so highly prized by the Taoist warrior.

He stresses change and surprise, employing endless variations of tactics,
using opponent's psychological conditions to manoeuvre them into vulnerable positions.

One of the purposes of Taoist literature is to help to develop this special sensitivity and responsiveness to handle living situations.

The art of not-doing which includes the unobtrusiveness, unknowability, and ungraspability at the core of esoteric Asian martial arts
- belongs to the branch of Taoism known as The Science of the Essence.

(Thomas Cleary)

Force versus intelligence

A common learning myth is that in order to succeed you should try harder. This is not good advice. If something does not work, pushing harder is futile.
It is better and more intelligent to approach the problem differently.

Your brain, your problem

Your tai chi teacher can only do so much. After all, they only see you briefly each week and have very little capacity to change your life. It is up to you to take the initiative.

Work on yourself...

If your brain matters to you, start looking after it. There is growing evidence to suggest that a well exercised brain will last far longer than a neglected one.
Consider the 3 approaches to finding answers:

  1. Ask somebody to tell you

  2. Find out for yourself

  3. Figure it out for yourself

What sort of person are you? Options 2 & 3 show initiative and personal responsibility.

Don't leave it too late

People are quite reluctant to take responsibility for their own health. By the time they realise that there is a problem the damage is done. Prevention is smarter than damage control...
Don't let a lifestyle issue become a medical problem.

News is irrelevant. In the past twelve months you have probably consumed about 10,000 news snippets - perhaps as many as 30 per day. Be very honest: name one of them, just one, that helped you make a better decision - for your life, your career or your business - compared with not having this piece of news. No one I have asked has been able to name more than two useful news stories - out of 10,000. A miserable result.

(Rolf Dobelli)

Page created 1 April 1996
Last updated 16 June 2023