TAI CHI: Learn to pay attention to the world around you

In my Tai Chi classes we learn how to pay attention to what we are doing, for it is fundamental to being able to relax, stay balanced and move well.

Sometimes the first and most important step in learning to pay attention is simply experiencing just how difficult it is to do so. Unfortunately most people give up at this point but it is worth considering the implications of spending most of our time being unaware of what is happening both in and around us.

To learn anything or develop any skill you have to able to pay attention. For me it is the single most useful attribute that anyone could develop to improve all aspects of their life. Paying attention means to intentionally focus on what is happening in the present moment (both internally and externally) at any given time. It is the art of noticing things without the distraction of thinking and judgement; the art of empirical observation. Paying attention is very simple. It is so simple in fact that it is usually overlooked by almost all of us but actually it underpins everything that we do. To begin with it can be a bit of a tricky skill to develop for it is easy to assume that you are paying attention when in fact your mind is wandering. By training little and often even small improvement can foster great benefits.

In terms of how we move and use our bodies it is our ability to pay attention that governs the quality of our actions. A good boxer in a bout, for example, focuses purely on what is happening; he pays attention. He watches and senses his opponent for any precursors to attack or discrepancies in his defence. He is completely in his body, engulfed by accurate real time sense perception. If his mind is dominated by thought then his performance is seriously impeded and a punch on the nose is the result; a sharp reminder not to be distracted by thoughts.

A good example of not paying attention is when a person drives their car on a familiar route and then can’t recall anything about their journey upon arrival; they daydreamed all the way there. It’s when you’re not paying attention that you can get into trouble!

You can vastly improve how you use your body and therefore your health and fitness by paying attention to your body. Most people have very low levels of body awareness and because this is very common in our society it goes largely unnoticed. If I go running, for example, without paying attention to how move then I can seriously hamper the quality of my movement because I ignore the vital feedback that my senses constantly deliver. This results in inefficient movement and usually injury at some point along the way. Funnily enough, when I see dogs out for a run they always look so happy; they just love the experience, but when a human is exercising it is rarely with a smile on their face!

:: www.sussextaichi.co.uk