Tai Chi In Your Life
Review by Michael A. DeMarco, M.A.
Journal of Asian Martial Arts (2011), Volume 20 Number 2, pages 116-117.
Many authors and speakers have tried to explain how to apply taiji principles in our personal lives: relax, become one with the world, become energized, become healthy and happy. Most fail to deliver what they promise because, to start, they do not have a deep enough understanding of taiji, or they cannot successfully link taiji principles to real life in any tangible way. When I first saw Napier's new book title, I had to guess it was another attempt to mesmerize potential customers with flowery words, only to prove superficial and inadequate to the task.
The cover of Tai Chi in Your Life has a professional look. A closer look shows it to be self-published, which raises a red flag of caution that it is most likely filed with grammatical errors, typos, poor graphical design, and difficult reading. There are many reasons to publish with a quality publishing house, including the benefits of professional editing and design. However, Napier's book design is fine, although the type used in the text is unusually large. I soon realized the type's size was probably a deliberate choice made in consideration for elderly taiji practitioners who appreciate not needing to strain their eyes.
What does the text offer? There is an introduction that clearly and concisely explains Napier's motives for writing the book, what each chapter discusses, and how best to use it and benefit from its reading. The following eight chapters each focus on "a principle that is core to proficiency in Tai Chi and also core to living an integrated life" (p. xxi). The principles are as follows: relaxation, intention, awareness, continuity, focus, linking to your center, acceptance/yielding, and detaching the ego.
Each chapter dealing with these principles is organized in a simple four-part format:
1) relating the principle to martial effectiveness,
2) relating the principle to daily life,
3) sample exercises to cultivate the principle, and
4) a summary of the chapter.
The value to readers is that the eight principles discussed
are clearly of utmost importance to living well, with purpose, responsibility, and joy.
These same principles that are put to use to inspire a richly integrated lifestyle are
also keys to progressive improvement in playing taiji.
What a simple book!
Napier's work provides very practical information for both taiji practice and everyday life.
He does so in a way that is easy reading and inspiring.
In order to improve in taiji practice, one needs to embody the principles outlined in the
book's chapters. Since a human being is a duality of body and mind, it's apparent that
these principles penetrate one's lifestyle.
Many taiji practitioners talk about principles, but the quality of their taiji practice
stagnates. Talk is not enough. We must embody the essence of the principles. Napier's
book will get practitioners out of the rut.
Tai Chi In Your Life encourages us to cultivate the eight principles in all aspects of our
life. A final chapter, "Extra: Ninth Principle-Taking It to the World," opens up
the possibilities of including more principles to improve taiji practice and living in
Napier expects us to not only read, but to think deeply about the
principles and creatively utilize them inside and outside of our taiji practice.
The eight principles are reflected in Napier's writing style. The book is a relaxing, easy read. It is full of intention and awareness. Chapters flow into a continuous whole, with a focus on each vital element that links us with the world. He accepts human nature and yields to its most conducive course of self-development. In the end, it is up to us to cultivate ourselves or not. We can progress, without tension, if we don't let ourselves get in the way.
Note: boldface selectively added for emphasis.