Excerpted from "The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai-chi & Qigong," with permission of the author and Macmillan Reference.

T'ai-chi is a very popular form of Qigong, or, more precisely, Moving Qigong. Although originally a martial art, T'ai-chi has evolved into a highly effective biofeedback and classical conditioning mind-body technique that helps the practitioner clarify mind and heart, and therefore one's life.

T'ai-chi can be a key to discovering personal empowerment. As we find that we can take control over our body's circulation, our blood pressure, and our stress responses, we are empowered. This empowerment begins to resonate out to every aspect of our lives, work, relationships, and society.

As we feel empowered, and T'ai-chi works its clarifying magic, we find learning easier and more exciting. We become drawn to learning as the world becomes fresher and more magical because of our new sense of well-being. T'ai-chi cultivates and supports our childlikeness, our curiosity, and our zest for life.

T'ai-chi also teaches us how precious and miraculous life can be. When we treasure each moment of our lives, we are much less likely to engage in acts that endanger our health or our freedom. When we feel at peace within ourselves, we are much less likely to hurt others. Much violence is the act of someone in personal pain who externalizes that pain on others. T'ai-chi can help heal that pain, thereby reducing much violence.

T'ai-chi and Unemployment
Since people who grew up in high-stress households have higher unemployment rates, T'ai-chi may help both parents and children change that pattern. Secondly, since many people are increasingly required by the modern economy to change careers several times, T'ai-chi's promotion of letting go of the past and relaxing into change can be helpful to adults in today's job market.

Children's Stress Can Reduce Their Employability

England's Royal Academy of Pediatrics College released a study that concluded that "stressful" households caused problems for children that could last a lifetime. One thing they discovered was that children from such households endured higher unemployment levels than kids from more peaceful households. We know that stress limits our creativity and can affect our self-esteem. T'ai-chi's ability to provide children with a tool to find a calm place within, even when home is "less than calm," can be of powerful help to them.

T'ai-chi Is Relaxing Into the Future

In today's modern workforce, it is estimated that most of us will change not jobs but careers over five times in our lifetime. For people who find change difficult, this can be excruciatingly stressful and even life threatening over time. In a world of constant and relentless change, T'ai-chi's ability to help us mentally, emotionally, and physically let go can be a great help.

By being able to let go of past employment and being open to new information and self-definitions, we can be ready to flow into our next occupation. This flowing can happen, not only less stressfully, but with an adventurous anticipation, just like when we were kids. This is what T'ai-chi can help us do as individuals and as a society.

When you catch yourself considering worst-case scenarios while engaged in a task or project, take a deep breath and let your entire body release thoughts, tensions, and fears. Then make a list or flow chart of what is required for success. This will let you realistically decide whether to proceed rather than resist change because of irrational fears. T'ai-chi promotes a sense of "being in the moment," of dealing with the tasks at hand, and of letting go of fear-based projections of the future.

T'ai-chi and the Health Care Crisis

Approximately 80% of illnesses that send us to the doctor are due to stress. The six leading causes of death are stress related. Our health care crisis is literally due to stress. Stress can be managed, and there is perhaps no more effective stress management tool than daily T'ai-chi and Qigong meditations.

Hospitals and insurance carriers are beginning to incorporate T'ai-chi and other Qigong into what they offer clients. Physicians, from neurologists, to cardiac and hypertension specialists, to mental health providers, are prescribing T'ai-chi for a host of physical, emotional, and mental conditions. Medical-school nursing programs are also introducing T'ai-chi to their students as part of their training. Other schools are considering offering it to all medical students.

T'ai-chi begins to show us that we have a health care crisis simply because we choose to have a health care crisis. Each of us has it within our own power to dramatically lower our dependence on general health care, pharmacology, and surgery. The fastest-growing investment industry in the U.S. today is pharmaceuticals. The top three such pharmaceuticals are ulcer and high-blood-pressure drugs, and mood-altering medications. T'ai-chi and Qigong can have significantly positive effects on all these conditions in some cases.

T'ai-chi and Qigong are not at odds with modern Western health care. They can be partners with it. You don't decide between medication or surgery and T'ai-chi. If you need medication or surgery, then use it. However, medication and surgery should not be our first line of defense.

If we practice T'ai-chi, we may never develop the need for certain medications or for much heart surgery. Again, stress is the reason most of the physical conditions requiring medication or surgery develop in the first place. If we daily water our "T'ai-chi Tree's" roots with the soothing balm of life energy, we will be less likely to ever need that medication or surgery, saving ourselves pain and money, while saving our society a great financial burden.

We cannot afford to ignore our body's signals and our health until we are in a crisis situation and then expect society to lavish money upon us for expensive surgery or medication. This isn't just about Medicare alone: All our health insurance premiums are skyrocketing because of a national need to become mindful of our health and ability to heal. T'ai-chi can save us all big money and help us feel good while doing it.

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