Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Perfect Show with Paul Channic"- A Tai Chi Master

We have many challenges and obstacles in our life. Sometimes in the mad rush of life we get so addicted to our daily routine that we more often than not don’t stop over to enjoy the little pleasures that life gives us. The guest of this edition of Perfect Show is a person who has been helping people realise their inner potential and live life by utilising the harmonious energy around us. Let me welcome Mr.Paul Channic, a full time T’ai Chi instructor with more than 20 years of experience in T’ai Chi practice. He maintains a close personal relationship with internationally renowned T’ai Chi Master Waysun Liao, attending intensive seminars and practicing with other masters.He has taught T’ai Chi workshops in America and England for many organizations, including Chase Bank, Enchanted Journey and Core Yoga Studio. Over to the Show.


Guest – Paul Channic – PC
Host – Prashant Sree – PS

PS: Master Paul,on behalf of the Perfect Show readers,I welcome you to the Perfect Show.
PC: Thanks Prashant. Its my pleasure to be in the Show.

PS: The primary Perfect question. What are you passionate about in Life?
PC: It seems that I am most passionate about becoming dispassionate. Perhaps another way to express this thought is that I'm most passionate about developing equanimity. Passion is an interesting concept as there is a fine line between passion and obsession. I have found that if I follow where I am naturally led or simply do what feels right to do that there is more than enough energy present to accomplish what’s needed or wanted.

PS: That was a new learning. What have you learnt in your life (other than academics), which you would like to share with others?
PC: As I progress down the road of life, it becomes more evident to me that I do not have as much control over my life as I would like think. Consequently, I can take more and more internal pressure off myself to think I have to "do" something in any given situation. If you think back over your own life, how much control did you have in developing into a fetus from an embryo. How much control, effort or direction did you give to your life to develop into a 9 month old from 6 month old. How much control did you put into how your education started or what became your native language. The point I wish to make is that all this happened under some natural order, intelligence or power that brought us along with it. So, at what point was it we thought we could say “Thank you very much for creating me and getting me this far, but I’ll take over from here.” This, of course, is not a conscious choice, but we tend to live our lives as if we are in control. Control is really an illusion and the more one can recognize that the smoother life can become as we can then flow with it rather than fight it.

PS: I agree that many of the people’s problem is in worrying about things over which they have little control. If you are given a wish to change one thing in world, what would you change?
PC: Our approach to and view of the current economic system. Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost sight of the fact that money was created as a medium of exchange for a product or service. Instead, at least in America, it seems the objective is now to amass as much as possible without regard to the methods used or to consume and spend, spend, spend. This has led to people to spend money lavishly without any regard to possible future effects. The other side of the coin is that there are so many people living from paycheck to paycheck in our country because they consume and consume and have never learned to save. A big reason for this is because they’ve been brainwashed by the people busy amassing the money. Our world is in a very, very serious economic crisis right now and my belief is that comes from each of us losing sight of what money is really for and having the proper relationship with it. I would like people to have an attitude which holds values higher more than money.

PS: Very true Paul. Who would be Favorite Fable/Favorite Mythological Hero and why?
PC: I’ve always been partial to Winnie the Pooh or ‘Pooh Bear’ as he’s fondly called. When A. A. Milne created this character he gave a great gift to the world. Pooh’s attitude is one of simplicity and delight of life that we could all benefit from striving to emulate. As an aside, there is a very good introductory book about Taoism, a Chinese philosophy that forms the basis of T’ai Chi, that used Pooh as the main character. It is titled “The Tao of Pooh” and authored by Benjamin Hoff. I would suggest it if any reader has interest in this subject. It’s companion volume “The Te of Piglet” is also worthwhile.

PS: That’s an unique choice. What would you like to evangelize in your life?
PC: Well, going back to my answer of the first question, I think nothing. Anything that can be evangelized can be misused. Many people have been tortured, killed or had their lives ruined throughout history by people who thought they were evangelizing a good cause. My personal goal would be to express and share what I’ve learned or what is in my heart in the moment as a gentle statement; always recognizing that a personal viewpoint, although perhaps sincerely and deeply held in the present, is always subject to change.

PS: Very wise thought. What is your charm, which you feel attracts people to you.
PC: You would probably be best served asking them! However, my guess is that whenever I meet someone, whether a new T’ai Chi student or a clerk in a store, my intention is always twofold. The first is to be fully present with them and recognize them as a person. In other words I try to allow space for a true human connection to occur. Secondly, I try as best as possible to be as honest as I can with them. By that I mean not only to share the truth as I see it but also to be personally congruent. And perhaps another trait I’ve developed through the years is that I don’t take myself too seriously anymore. I’ve learned to laugh at myself.

PS: Laughing at oneself is one of the best qualities to have. Your Thumb Rule for Life?
PC: I’ve got two. Rule number one is, “Show up fully clothed.” Rule number two is, “Do what’s in front of your nose.”

The first one reminds me of what was mentioned earlier about not having as much control as we think we have. Many times in life we have to deal with unpleasant situations that we don’t know how to handle or are afraid of what the outcome may be. This rule says that the most important thing is to deal, attend to the situation, even if you are scared to death.

Rule number two suggests that we don’t have to look elsewhere for happiness. Many times in life we think the ‘grass is greener’ elsewhere. The more we can attend to the here and now, what is present right in front of our noses, the better chance we give for happiness to unfold in our lives. There is no need to look elsewhere. Another way to express this idea that I use sometimes is ‘Bloom where you’re planted’.

The secret of success is to be in harmony with existence, to be always calm to let each wave of life wash us a little farther up the shore.
- Cyril Connolly

PS: Interesting principles. Iam sure it would do people a lot of good. Who have been your Role Models in Life and the reasons for the same.
PC: When I first got into the business world in my teens I had the good fortune to meet and work for an insurance executive named Jerome Urbik. Mr. Urbik, ‘Jerry’, is a man of great integrity, has exemplary business sense and ability and possesses a true compassion for people, their suffering and our shared human condition. A combination of traits that is quite rare in our world today. Before he got into the insurance field he attended seminary and was preparing to be ordained as a priest. Not feeling he could serve that calling in the manner he felt it should, he went into the business world. Nonetheless, he carried the principles of his Catholic faith with him and never ceased applying them in his sphere of influence. I have had one more significant mentor that shall be addressed in the following question.

PS:Can you tell us something about Tai Chi and your association with it. What got you interested in pursuing Tai Chi as your career?
PC: As usual, as it seems to be with many of the important events of my life, I got involved with T’ai Chi quite by accident or, shall we say, coincidental circumstances. In the late 80’s I became intrigued by the Enneagram Personality Theory. Research into that led me to a group called the Arica School. I found a local chapter, liked and respected the people involved, and did some study with them. They had some T’ai Chi classes as part of their offerings. I had never heard of T’ai Chi before but I read a book or two, found the concepts and ideas of the Art to be quite appealing, and began learning with them.

Well, after a few months of study I (again, either by accident or coincidental circumstance) just happened to catch on our local public television station a documentary by Bill Moyers entitled ‘Healing and the Mind’. They were airing the first chapter of the series and it was called ‘The Mystery of Chi’. It was filmed entirely in China and dealt with Traditional Chinese Medicine and alternative healing philosophies. Anyway, on this show they had three separate vignettes with T’ai Chi Masters. What I saw them demonstrating was quite remarkable. They were using ‘Chi’, or life energy to move people around with seemingly no effort. In watching this I said to myself, “Paul, this T’ai Chi that they are showing is such a higher level than what you’ve been exposed to that it is obviously either one big con job or else something so dramatic is going on here that if you are going to continue your T’ai Chi studies you must do so with someone who can demonstrate these things as well.”

Again, by accident or coincidental circumstance, within the next two weeks I happened to be traveling on a train into downtown Chicago. As we were traveling, and somewhat lost in a reverie of thought, I nonetheless caught sight of a sign on building within view of the tracks that simply said “T’ai Chi”, with a phone number underneath. I wrote down the number, called the next day and, most serendipitously, the owner of the establishment himself, Master Waysun Liao, answered the phone. We had a most pleasant phone conversation and we set up a time for a personal meeting.

He welcomed me most warmly during that first visit and proceeded to explain to me the real essence of T’ai Chi. Towards the end of our visit I asked him if it would be rude or impolite to perhaps ask for a demonstration. He said, “No, no, I will show you”. And he certainly did. Rather than go into the details of what happened suffice it to say not only did he demonstrate what I had seen on that documentary, but a whole lot more. I knew in an instant that I had met my teacher.

Since that day, T’ai Chi has always been a part of my life. The relationship with Master Liao still continues as one of Master/Student but it has evolved into a friendship as well. He serves a a guide for me, more by who he is and what he does, than by anything he might of written. Speaking of which, he has published three books, all available on Amazon. The one I’d recommend for beginners is “Chi, How to Feel Your Life Energy”.

Tai Chi is more that physical movements. It is best termed ‘moving meditation’ in which mind, body and life energy or ‘Chi’ are all integrated and nurtured. It is a mental, physical and spiritual discipline for people of all ages. It’s principles, such as ‘no conflict’, ‘harmony’, ‘not too much or not too little’ and ‘relax’ can serve us well in all aspects of life.

It has been almost 5 years now that I’ve been teaching T’ai Chi full time here on the South Side of Chicago and attempting to pass on, as well as continue to grow in, those principles. I have been blessed by the people who have come into my life who also want to receive what T’ai Chi has to offer. One of the things I like most about T’ai Chi is that it is something that one can actually improve at as one gets older. I look forward to sharing the benefits T’ai chi with anyone who is interested for the rest of my days on this earth.

PS: That’s such a noble thought. You have had situations in which it has guided you in your life. To what extent do you think going with the flow can be adopted in real life. Does completely surrendering oneself to higher power for guidance is justifiable ?
PC: What I’m suggesting is that it is always advisable to remember that there is a higher power, energy, life force (call it what you will) that is really providing the power or energy for what is happening. It is when we lose sight of this that we can begin to get into trouble. Once we acknowledge and accept this then it is much easier to use that power, work with it, so that we can get where we wish to go a little easier, without as much effort or struggle, as we might have before.

It is a little bit like having a sailboat. You can have wonderful new sail, all the latest GPS navigation gear, and a desire to make a trip somewhere. Without wind, however, things are a little difficult. The wind is the source of power for that sailboat. The wise captain is aware of that and uses that wind power for his own advantage. Some very skilled sailors can even make progress traveling into the wind.

So, the idea is not to give up, surrender to a higher power and do nothing, But rather to acknowledge that power and work with it to get where it is you wish to go.

PS: You have mentioned that practising Tai Chi will make life easier for us. Could you please quote some instances in which Tai Chi can be applied and its subsequent benefit.
PC: On more than one occasion I’ve had students mention that they were getting ready for some medical test, such as an MRI or in the Dentist’s chair awaiting some not so pleasant procedure. Through practicing some Tai Chi breathing techniques they have found that the procedure has gone much more quickly and painlessly than anticipated.

I’ve also had several students report that after several months of Tai Chi studies their Doctor lowered their blood pressure medication because it wasn’t needed to the extent it was.

Whether or not life is easy or hard for us is always a subjective experience, though, and not really quantifiable by scientific means. I’ve had many people mention to me that they just feel better, calmer, in situations that before would have caused internal turmoil. This ranges from things like attending certain family gatherings, dealing with obnoxious people or getting stopped for a traffic ticket.

PS: It is clear that you pursue learning all along your life. Could you share on a personal basis how to keep the flame of learning burning and not allow the darkness of complacency and over-confidence set in our life ?
PC: We have a phrase in Tai Chi called ‘Beginner’s Mind’. In Beginner’s Mind there exist many possibilities and avenues for growth. The ‘expert’s mind’ tends to be more rigid and narrow. We strive to stay in Beginners Mind.

If I continue to associate and practice with my teacher and others in my field more advanced than me, this increases my humility and gives me greater chance of staying in Beginner’s Mind.

If I continue to work with newcomers and see their frustrations in trying to learn than this helps me remember and feel gratitude for the gifts that I have and helps me stay in Beginner’s Mind.

If I continue to realize that any opinion I hold or anything I attempt to teach is just one particular perspective among many that could be valid than I become a little less self-righteous and it helps me stay in Beginner’s Mind.

When I realize that Life will continue to go on really quite well without me, and I’m really not as important as I’d like to think I am, that helps me stay in Beginner’s Mind.

PS: That was very useful Paul. I assume we have come to the end of the Show. The learning which you have shared with me have been quite unique and profound. It has been a great pleasure to have you in the Show. I thank you once again for being a part of the Show and I wish you all the best in all your future ventures. 
PC: Thanks Prashant. It was wonderful to know you and be a part of the Show. I wish you all success and the best in your life. God Bless.

Note If anyone would wish to contact Paul or learn more of T’ai Chi he runs a small blog at .

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