Monday, January 10, 2011

Eating With The Tai Chi Diagram Part 1

We're pleased to have Miriam Shankman back, sharing with us a wonderful three part series to help in our cultivation of new thoughts and healthy habits for the new year!


By: Miriam Moran Shankman

Consider where you come from

To know where you are it is advisable to consider where you started. Culture plays a major role in one’s life, and food is part of culture. I found I have a mixed bag: I am of Eastern European heritage, but I was born and raised in the Middle East, and I lived my adult life on the US East Coast, studying the Taoists’ and Buddhists’ ways.

You may ask: “For example, what did you eat today?” I shall be honest in answering that, and tell you I had yogurt with fruit and nuts for breakfast. Through the morning, I drank two cups of my favorite green tea, and for lunch I enjoyed two shortbread cookies with three chocolate shells (the little ones that come from Belgium), and an apple. Great work Miriam! Big fat chance that any health conscious magazine editor is going to publish this one! Well, I hope someone will give me points for honesty, and as for that “naughty” lunch, maybe it will make more sense at the end of this page…

Tai Chi philosophy shows me that each one of us can seek and find his or her own balance, his or her own common sense.

Start Where You Are (I learned it the hard way)

No matter how old you are, where you come from, how many degrees you’ve earned or how much money and/or friends you have, you’ve got to start where you are: check it out. Fess up. Write it down. Tuck it under your pillow.

Back to me…I start with some positive tendencies: A total love affair with fresh veggies, fruit, and low fat, white dairy (I give the credit to the place and culture in which I was born and raised, the Middle East). But I also start with a sweet tooth that includes a great love for the delicate and intricate pastries one can find in my Eastern European heritage. And last, I start with a willingness to skip any consumption of animals flesh. I am not sure where that came from. Maybe it is a combination of growing up on a farm, and loving animals. Left to my own “girl on the town” and “let’s have a life full of fun” I would be dinning on great big vegetable salads and stir-fries, and wonderful pastries of all kinds, shapes, textures and colors along with fresh fruit and frozen yogurt…Putting it that way, it sounds wonderful (your cravings maybe different but the principal still apply) and, in any case, it is where I start.

Accept Your Limitations (I learned that the hard way too!)

That last sentence: “It is where I start” needed time to mature and surface, and I needed time to grow out of the above party menu. I like to call myself a recovering vegetarian. Rarely do I crave meat, and my common sense told me: “Great. I can be animal friendly at no cost to me.” Then came Tai Chi…and taught me to listen to and hear my body. Not my mind. Not my stomach. Not my ancestors. Not my girlfriends. This body I live in told me it needs and wants some animal flesh (please remember this does not mean it is necessarily true for you. You will have to conduct your own research on your own body.) It was painful and humbling to accept that my body would compel me to eat animals. I was once told: “You may have to give up exactly the thing you are least willing to give up.”

No Big Changes

Once in a conversation seeking direction from my doctor, she said to me: “No big changes.” There is a world of wisdom in those three words. Stick with small. Keep in mind that sometimes you may have a set back. Use that set back as opportunity to study your habits and patterns. Make a plan for a small change, and gently put it into action. You may discover that what you thought was a set back has actually become a part of your progress. Think of the Tai Chi Diagram. Imagine it. Draw it. Look at it. See your set back in it. Plan tomorrow accordingly.

Tai Chi seeks balance. Life seeks balance. You are seeking balance (I know because you’ve read this far). The culture we live in…not exactly seeking balance. Go within. Ask your body. But please, at first, do not believe everything your body tells you. It takes time to know “who is talking” and “who to listen too.” With time and practice Tai Chi will guide you.

 Make a small Change

In the meantime make a small change. For example: This afternoon I stopped at “Starbucks.” I had it in my mind to order a tall cappuccino. Why did I want a tall cappuccino? 1) To warm up a bit. 2) To have some milk. 3) To get a treat. 4) To get an energy boost. Then I remembered that in the past, most cappuccinos have actually drained my energy and that took reason 4 away. So I made a small change and ordered tall steamed milk! The lady at the counter asked to make sure I knew what I was saying, and looked down to see what child I must have been ordering this for. No child. Just me. Making a small change. The hot milk was real good. (Don’t forget to ask for foam!) 

End of Part 1

Part 2 can be read here
Part 3 can be read here


Miriam Shankman  is a practitioner and instructor of Tai Chi and Chi Kung in the New York, Tri-State area.  If you would like to contact her, you can visit her website at:
or drop her an email at:

Our photo "Big Blessing Bowl" comes from Patty Mara's Sacred Heart Cafe which you can visit on Etsy.

You may also enjoy reading an additional post by Miriam:
"Slow Down, We Move Too Fast:  A Prelude to the Holiday Season"

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1 comment:

  1. Great article. It reminds me that I need to stop just thinking about where to start and actually start starting...somewhere.



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