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Managing Polarities with Tai Chi and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 2015

by Judy Stone-Goldman on January 26, 2015

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I began this post last week. At the time, I was in a rather gray place (note the photo I selected). I wrote: “I am in the post-New Year’s, post-move, mid-head-cold malaise. I am merging with a gray, dispirited world.” I was going to write about writing as my cure, and perhaps finding something worthy in those gray places.

Then I abandoned the post — after all, part of the problem with those gray spaces is that it’s hard to create, to move forward. I spent a few days slogging along and writing morosely in my journal, and then suddenly — without warning or clear antecedent — I opened up to my inner blue skies.

blue sky

when a sky is nothing but blue

I feel enthusiastic, energized, lucky (about nothing in particular), and grateful (for everything).

We can’t help but have a value judgment: blue skies are better than gray; bright, positive moods are better than dark, dreary ones; and energy is better than lethargy. I would not deny that I feel much better in my present state and am eager to nurture and reinforce my mood. At the same time, I want to honor the other side of the emotional coin. It’s not that unhappiness or malaise offer me what I want (or is it possible that sometimes they do?) but that honoring one’s genuine self means leaving room for both the dark and light spaces.

In this still-young 2015, I am moving into two areas of continued study: tai chi and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). Perhaps it is no accident that I have written this post while taking steps in both these ventures.

Tai chi sees polarities as inherent in the world. It aims to bring the opposite forces of the universe — yin and yang — into harmony. Our capacity to move through these forces, rather than getting stuck or being overcome by an opponent, determines our grounding, strength, and health.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is part of the latest “wave” of psychology, following earlier behavioral and cognitive models. Its goal is to bring mindfulness to negative emotions and situations. Improved feelings and new patterns of behavior emerge from awareness, acceptance, and commitment to change. As with tai chi, ACT requires a willingness to be open to what is dark or distressing, what throws us off balance, what threatens our health and spirit. Both require focused attention, study, and commitment.

I did not plan ahead for 2015 to be a combination of these activities, but I find myself already within their sphere. They bring my body and mind together and offer a new personal-professional balance. They invite me to be present for my whole self, whatever the color of my inner world.

What color is your inner world today?

Questions for Reflection: How do you respond to your range of emotions and experiences? How do you relate to the concept of opposing forces and how you might live with them? What polarities do you see in your life?

Writing Prompts: “If I were more accepting of all my feelings, I probably would ______ (then keep writing); “In reading this post, I related most to the idea of ______” (then keep writing); “I would like to explore ______ as a way to create a more secure inner balance (then keep writing).



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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Liz Gow January 28, 2015 at 5:05 pm

Dear Judy
As usual a very poignant blog. I have been learning and teaching ACT at night school. I love, love your partnering of Tai Chi and ACT. Thank you very much for such a rich blog and a reminder of what real life looks and feels like. Thank you so much.


Judy Stone-Goldman
January 29, 2015 at 9:33 am

Liz, How wonderful to hear your voice on my page! I remember you mentioning ACT, and I’m not surprised you are “right there” in being involved. I’ve done one very limited intro course and am going to a more in-depth training in March. Hope to connect more with you on this. Hope things are splendid for you. I miss being with you on Thursdays.


William Charlebois February 7, 2015 at 12:46 pm

I’m realizing that the gray days keep me dwelling on the “what if it had been this way” instead of “let’s do this now.” That does nothing except zap any positive energy. I love watching Tai Chi. It just popped into my head that there are probably videos on You Tube that teach it. I’m always feeling bad because everything takes money, but I’m forgetting the resources available on You Tube for free. I’ll have to look around there! 🙂


Judy Stone-Goldman
February 7, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Bill, You are so right — there are many, many videos on YouTube! For one of my classes, we were directed to videos so we could learn and practice from them. You can look up “Tai Chi 24 form Yang style” and get lots of returns. The 24 forms are the simplest forms, drawn from a much larger set. I think starting with the 24 forms is a great way to go. I’m now in a class where we are doing 42 forms, and I’m going to enroll in a class doing the long form (something like 108 or 72, depending on how you count!!!) I have a link to a video that is a beautiful demonstration of the 24 forms. It’s not specifically a training video, but looking at it is very inspiring. I will email it to you. Just watching tai chi can be calming!


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