Ai Chi involves carefully chosen words that have to be discovered to be fully appreciated. These words are never fully explained in training sessions, aside from the story of the name “Ai Chi” itself. We are told that “Ai” is the name of Ai Chi founder Jun Konno’s daughter, and means “love” in both Japanese and Chinese. “Chi” refers the balance and interplay of opposite forces~ the yin and yang of Taoism. It is a warm and comforting practice rather than a martial art like its land-based counterpart, Tai Chi Chuan, which literally translates as “Supreme Ultimate Boxing.”
As the year began, the names of two Ai Chi steps came to mind, contemplating and reflecting. I found myself contemplating the idea of New Year’s resolutions, I explored the idea that resolutions involve reflecting on and analyzing past unmet goals and anticipating future hopes and dreams. This employs “discrepancy-based thinking,” assessing past performance against a particular standard. As a physical therapist, assessing and goal setting is very natural for me. Therapists approach the patients they treat in a deliberate way~ gathering data through interview and examination, comparing data to an expected standard, setting goals, making a plan to achieve those goals, and implementing the plan. When applying this approach to New Year’s resolutions, the focus is on doing~ on what was done in the past or is hoped to be done in the future. Focus on what was done in the past or should be done in the future can produce high levels of guilt and stress. While this all sounds very negative, the practice of setting personal goals doesn’t need to be a stressful experience.
A few years ago a friend invited me to a New Year’s “vision board party,” where we all picked pictures that representing our hopes and dreams for the coming year and glued them on poster boards. The resulting displays were beautiful, and included everything from depictions of family gatherings to objects we would love to have and the way we would like to feel. Creating these boards and looking at them from time to time is a powerful visualization exercise that activates parts of your brain associated with action and doing. I enjoy making things and I loved sharing a group activity with a delightful group of women~ a gift in the moment. And I was surprised at how many pictures I had glued on my board became a reality in the course of a year, perhaps through the magical encouragement of visualization..
Mindful practices focus on being and experiencing in the present. Ai Chi steers us toward accepting and allowing, with no pressure of accomplishment. “However it turns out is how it was meant to be.” Rather than looking to the past or future, Ai Chi encourages us to be in the moment~ to experience what psychologist Zindel Segal calls the “full, multi-dimensional splendor” of the present. The importance lies in experiencing the journey rather than arriving at the final destination.
Setting goals and accomplishing them are important for creating a fulfilling life, but it is equally important to intersperse periods of just being and appreciating. Perhaps a decision to remember to enjoy the present is the best resolution of all.