The Most Important Chi Skill
In our books we write about the Chi Skills: Focusing the Mind, Body Sensing, Breathing, Relaxing, Non-identification. Which one is most important? It depends, of course, of what you most need, but we think it is Non-identification – learning to observe yourself, (and the world around you for that matter) without judgement, without bias, and with a great deal of kindness and compassion.
Basically, it is learning to be as kind to yourself as you would to a small child who is learning something new.
Now that our daughter is a teenager, it is certainly more difficult to allow her to make mistakes the same way we did when she was a tiny child, learning to walk, or putting a puzzle together or drawing with a fat crayon. But in reality, she is still learning new things about herself and about life and if we can see that, in her, and especially in ourselves when we are learning something new, we are creating the space for real growth and change to occur. We’re allowing room for experience to be the teacher.
Non-identification is a lot about dropping the ego and letting ourselves fall deeply into the moment, the immediate experience, with a curious mind and a patient attitude. The critic recedes and the wonder of the moment opens us up to the potential and the possibility of what might happen.
When you’re practicing ChiRunning®, or learning to walk in a new way with ChiWalking®, you will, like most adults, have a tendency to want to do it “right” right away. You’ll feel awkward and perhaps even retreat into old habits because the new habits are so different.
The reason Danny’s classes are so popular is because he brings in the lightness of humor and beckons you to an open minded experience where pelvic rotation is not as impossible as it sounds and where relaxation happens naturally because you are laughing and having fun. When it comes to running, Danny is the least judgmental person I know- though, I'm not sure that's true when it comes to my cooking, but no one is perfect.
The Principle of Non-identification
The principle of Non-identification, inherent in T’ai Chi and ChiRunning and ChiWalking, is crucial for taking the injury out of your fitness program. Non-identification means you take your personal preferences out of the planning process and substitute them with your real needs. The Rolling Stones put it very well when they sang, "You can't always get what you want…but if you try sometime, you just might find…you get what you need."
When it comes to your health and fitness, let yourself be guided less by what you want, and more by what you need. What you want might be unrealistic, idealistic, or even harmful. But what your body needs is really important.
If you have a history of heart disease in your family, you need to do whatever it takes to break that legacy or you could be checking out early. That means you need to watch your diet, you need to exercise your heart and you need to be vigilant in order to escape the heritage that has been passed on to you.
You might want to run for 6 miles 6 days a week, but if you have an injury, you might need to be running less while you learn the running technique that will eliminate the cause of the pain.
Separating your wants from your needs is a big job, but well worth the effort. When it comes to practicing non-identification, you have to do what your body tells you is best for you–not what your mind thinks is best for you. And in the process, be compassionate, even to the parts of you that are not so kind!