World Tai Chi & Qigong Day will expand across hundreds of cities in over 65 nations and all 50 US states soon. It may offer something that can profoundly benefit our national and global economy. How?

The Chinese character for “crisis” is made up of two other characters, “danger,” and “opportunity.”

If we let it, this economic crisis can enable a paradigm shift that will not only create a much more balanced and sane world, but also ensure a sustainable and enjoyable planet for our children and grandchildren’s children.

Unknown to most of us, our planet has been severely “out of balance” for a long long time. Traditional Chinese Medicine has for millennia extolled the need for balance to ensure health, individual health, community health, and global health.

What do I mean “out of balance”? You may ask. My wife is from Hong Kong, while I grew up in a fairly affluent time in Western Kansas. We weren’t rich or even upper middle class, but even in our blue collar world we had plenty, never went hungry, and took long road trips on cheap fuel whenever my father had time off.

What I didn’t know, was that on the other side of the planet, a young girl I would one day marry was experiencing a world where resources were very precious. My parents understood that, from their experiences in the Great Depression. However, I thought their views were out dated, and when I eventually met and married my wife, Angela Wong, I thought her views were not relevant to our modern world either.

Angela, like my parents, extolled me not to “waste.” Not to waste energy, fuel, paper towels, anything. She taught me that everything we consume is a precious commodity. I laughed at her for decades.

I am no longer laughing. I am changed. Since the initial stunning collapse of much of our economy a few months ago, I now tear a tiny corner off of a paper towel to wipe up a paper towel. I have a Prius hybrid, and I play the game of seeing just how much road miles I can squeeze out of every gallon of gas. I’ve double paned our windows, and insulated our house, and bought energy saving appliances, and light bulbs. I no longer leave a door open when the heater or air conditioner are on, and have learned to live warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter.

I am not miserable, or living less really, I’m just challenged to be efficient. I am growing from this experience. I am evolving into a new person, a better conscious person. This crisis has been an opportunity, which I was propelled to by a danger of economic stress.

From talking to friends, I believe there are millions, perhaps tens of millions of Americans doing the same thing now. So, when I make one paper towel do what ten paper towels did before, I “became aware,” I know that tens of millions of paper towels are being saved across our nation. Tens of millions of gallons of gas are being conserved.

For decades half of the planet has been living at or near starvation wages. Why? When the wealth of some nations pulls resources out of poor nations like a sucking magnet, there are none left for locals. When I was young, my father worked with a Mexican man who’d come from a part of Mexico that had grown water melons to export to America. All his life in Mexico he’d never tasted water melon, until his arrival in America as a young adult.

As fuel becomes expensive, long range exports become less attractive. Local lands in poor nations can possibly be more geared toward local populations nourishment, as we in developed wealthy nations again become accustomed to seasonal diets on locally produced produce.

However, the fuel crisis can also spur a massive investment privately and publicly toward green, cheap renewable solar-wind type energies. This technology can then be exported to the world, to a China hungry for energy, for example.

Our environment is in dire straights. Few people deny this any longer. A tipping point approaches, and if we do not radically move from fossil fuels (oil/coal) to renewables (wind, tide, solar), we may damage our ecosystem beyond the point of repair. Anyone who is conscious know the weather has changed from when we were children. A point may come where that change escalates painfully worldwide.

This time of economic “crisis” is dangerous, but sewn within it may be the opportunity to catapult the global economy to cheap renewable energy. Because in the end it will be much cheaper, not only in the energy production, but the maintenance of the system, and the lack of environmental disasters and clean ups that other energy involves.

Health care is another area that is set to experience a paradigm shift. Current trends project that in coming years the United States annual health costs will exceed $4 trillion per year. This is unsustainable, and will bankrupt our nation, if left unchanged.

However, it is changing us. We all have experienced outrageous insurance costs, and had to fight to get medical bills covered even if we are insured. We’ve seen health professionals set us on very expensive, and not always effective treatment protocols for our long term health.

At the same time emerging research, and our personal experiences, are enlightening us about complimentary and alternative health solutions that can address many of the most common, and socially most expensive health challenges.

Research has shown that Tai Chi, Yoga, and Meditation can lower high blood pressure, help with chronic pain and mobility problems, decrease depression, anxiety, ADHD, and mood disorder conditions. Type 2 Diabetes can be treated with Tai Chi and heart disease as well, according to emerging research. A UCLA controlled study found that Tai Chi increased participants resistance to viral infection by 50%, and in another study found Tai Chi improved sleep quality in 65% of participants. How much money is spent inoculating people, or treating flu victims? How much business productivity is lost due to colds and flu that could have been avoided by inexpensive mind/body training? How much is spent on drugs for anxiety, depression, and sleep loss?

When spending $10 or $20 a week learning Tai Chi or Yoga can save us thousands or tens of thousands in future health costs, and our wallets grow increasingly thin . . . the options become ever more appealing.

A twenty year study by Kaiser Permenente found that between 70 to 85% of all illness sending patients to their doctors were caused by stress, not aggravated by stress, but CAUSED by stress. As our corporations learn that by including mind/body health into corporate wellness can save each company tens of thousands of saved health insurance and lost productivity dollars, things shift.

When our education system begins to teach mind/body health tools to our 90 million students, we will begin to see trillions in future annual health spending saved. This is a wonderful opportunity, propelled forward by an economic crisis.

Without the economic crisis, we would likely have staggered along relying on drug and surgery as our first line of health defense, rather than as a last line of defense, opting first for natural mind/body training that can actually heal these problems rather than just reducing symptoms.

This time of crisis is actually an age of opportunity. The question is, will we take this opportunity to change, or will we grit our teeth and grip onto old arcane ways of living, that are constipating the birth of a new way, a new world?

The ancient Chinese Yin Yang symbol, if you look within the white dots and black dots, hold smaller yin yangs, and so on and so on. This symbolized that our bodies function can be seen in the collaboration of cells in the body, and our society’s function or health is reflected in the body’s health and function. What does this mean to our modern society?

In Tai Chi or Qigong practice, we learn that the tension in our mind, heart, and body restricts blood flow, energy flow, immune cells distribution, nutrient distribution, etc. So, when we “tighten up” around old thoughts, fears, hatreds, prejudices, patterns, all our bodies vital flowing functions tighten up and restrict the ability of all our systems to maximize health.

A Tai Chi or Qigong practitioner breathes deeply, and envisions “letting go” of “old rigidities” we’ve collected so that we can open, and flow into a newer healthier, more expansive paradigm of health. By “loosening up” our mental, emotional, and physical being, we can allow it to re-form into the most optimum state to maximize our health.

Our local, national, and global society is being challenged right now to re-form into a newer evolving self image that will nurture our people, our planet, and our emerging reforming economy. If we tighten up around old patterns, fears, prejudices, etc. like our body’s tend to do, we will constipate our ability to open to the flow leading us to the most optimum future possible.

As hundreds of millions worldwide open to mind/body techniques to maximize their health, and minimize their health costs, they will experience a “side-effect.” Not the negative kind of side effect we see in drug ads on TV, but another side effect pregnant with possibility.

As these hundreds of millions of people “loosen” their grip on the old rigid thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, their communities and nations too will loosen their grip on old wasteful economic policies. The nutrients of raw materials on an over populated planet, will begin to flow to technologies and production that will maximize effect, while minimizing cost.

New industries will bloom that will take free sunshine and free wind, and power cars and industry with it and increasingly lower costs. Labor may find gainful employment in fields that nurture health and wellbeing in society, rather than unabashed consumerism for the sake of consumerism and profit. We may find that these new industries not only do not damage our societies or eco-systems, but rather nurture it on many levels.

For example, Tai Chi, Qigong, and Meditation teachers are a labor intensive industry that spreads out wealth across communities worldwide, rather than focusing profits in the hands of tiny pharmaceutical distributions points. The result will be more vibrant, healthier, more creative populations who ripple out economic innovation and benefit throughout their communities in a very de-centralized way.

This will benefit the ecosystem. Why? A Kansas City Star article a few years back pointed out that the largest polluter of the Missouri River was pharmaceuticals, not from industry, but from human waste run off. As people turn to mind/body health solutions, they will not only spread wealth across the economy, but reduce pollution problems.

Mind/body tools also reduce violent and aberrant behaviors in practitioners according to studies, and in fact the calming effect they promote seems to spread out through larger populations around them, as was demonstrated in a large Transcendental Meditation study in Washington DC in the early 1990s. In this study an influx of TM Meditators actually lowered the violent crime rate of the entire city.
Given that the United States now imprisons more people than any nation on the planet, spending untold hundreds of billions annually on police, courts, and penal systems, such a side effect of mind/body training of our people, can dramatically save on these costs as well.

Our economic crisis does present a danger if we lock up our mind, heart, and body around old patterns. However, as the Chinese symbol tells us, it also offers us great opportunity to move into a new paradigm of humanity that will nurture us all and our precious planet for generations to come. We know that bad patterns are passed down through family’s, so as economic concerns drive our people to mind/body healing solutions, these too will influence future generations, unfolding multi-faceted benefits we cannot even imagine.

It is time to breathe, to loosen, to change and flow into a new future of limitless possibility.

Author's Bio: 

Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, and author of the #1 best selling Tai Chi book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to T’ai Chi & Qigong.” Bill has been a Tai Chi source for The Wall Street Journal, The South China Morning Post, BBC Radio, The New York Times, and media worldwide. He is the 2009 Inductee into the Internal Arts Hall of Fame; recipient of the Lou Gehrig’s Hero Award; the recipient of the Extraordinary Service in the Field of Qigong Award from the National Qigong Association; and the Media Excellence Award recipient from the World Congress on Qigong. Bill can be reached at