One of the most fundamental concepts of taichi is that movement must originate from the core of your body, an area called dan tian. This is located approximately an inch or two below your navel. For example, when you throw a punch, effort and force does not start at your fist. Rather, the energy brews in your stomach, rises up the side of your body, flows into your arms and is finally concentrated into your fist.
As below, so above. Because the external mirrors the internal, this concept can be applied to how we make changes in life. With taichi, we can alter our technique by widening our stance, taking longer or shorter steps, or relying on our kicks more than our punches. But always, the one thing that remains constant is that, no matter how we move, the movement starts from dan tian. Likewise, when we want to make a change to our lives, whether it is to develop a new skill or habit, we must start by knowing who we are.
Before we start a new project, we must stop and consider where we currently are. This includes a genuine understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. It requires an honest self-evaluation so that we can create achievable goals. This can be quite difficult as it will force us to acknowledge things we don’t like about ourselves. But keep in mind that these are probably the very things we want to change and the only way we can transform and rise above these things is to face it.
If we fail this initial step of self-evaluation, we will not change. Certain behaviours may be altered, but the core of the issue will never be addressed. It’s like building endless detours instead of fixing the road we should be taking to reach our destination.
In addition to recognizing our own strengths and weaknesses, knowing ourselves also requires an understanding of our own likes and dislikes. Before committing to a change, we must be certain of what and who we’re changing for. Is the change a desire to improve ourselves or to impress others? Are we excited to be different or afraid to stay the same?
Personally, I find that the best changes comes from a positive desire. However, there will be times when it arises from necessity. Knowing the difference will help us plan.
Lastly, knowing who we are is equivalent to knowing where our center of gravity is. Only when this is known can we balance ourselves. Without a center to return to, we merely go from one extreme to another.
Before movement, there is stillness. Before change, there is constancy.