Waking With Joy and Purpose

Steven Barnes
5 min readSep 24, 2022

Just learning to breathe properly will change your life by reducing the amount of stress that morphs into “strain.” Learning to do this once every hour was even better.

I love the fact that for the next year, I have a perfect excuse to dive deeper into my Tai Chi. That means study, physical practice, mental practice. It means breaking each move down into the smallest components, and then building back up again. For decades, I’ve left a nice warm bed (and sometimes a nice hot woman!) to teach a roomful of strangers in a hotel room at 8 or 9 in the morning. And when I was able to communicate with them, when we had honesty in that room, when people were more awake (and I don’t just mean physically) an hour after we started…if I was able to make real CONTACT…it was all worth while.

Once you begin to feel the link between mind and body, that they are literally a “body-mind”, inseparable, everything changes. Feeling the way our physical issues or brilliance diminishes or uplifts our mental states…and the way our mental states lighten or leaden our bodies…the way our tensions are like crimps in the wiring, and that moving with easy and plasticity turns us into something analogous to a room temperature superconductor, our energy flowing smoothly from heel to crown of head…wow. Just wow.

I’ve taught this treasure, these 108 movements of the Wu Style Tai Chi Form, for thirty years, and practiced for forty. And I’m still discovering magic.

This morning, for instance. I went to sleep last night visualizing the moves. Lazily, as if in a dream, moving back and forth between actor and observer, letting my mind wander and observing that wandering with a sense of drowsy humor, and moving my mind back to the track. Sleep came easily.

Then this morning, when I realized I was waking up, I used that hypnogogic state to visualize the form again. Because I use a Morning Ritual every day, when I do the motions I begin to “feel the energy.” I remember WHY I want to get up. Think of the blessings of my son, my daughter, my beautiful wife. My connections to the world. And about half-way through the 108 my body began to move spontaneously, and I rolled up to a seated position. Continued to visualize. And as I moved dream-like through the remaining motions I smiled, thinking of what I have to be proud of. Grateful for. And let that emotion express itself in my breathing, my smile (sometimes the cats will curl up in my lap when I do this. Or Jason will come in the room…

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Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts. www.lifewritingpodcast.com.