Sandy was a couple years older, and my brother was oh so much wiser. He taught me “rock-paper-scissors” on the back seat of our Ford while our parents chatted in front. My five-year old mind had difficulty understanding how something as mighty as rock could be conquered by a delicate piece of paper. Yet, it was. Sandy explained that simple ideas were sometimes hard to grasp.

I witnessed the concept in action one afternoon at the high school where I teach. Two boys were about to square off at the far side of a long hall and I moved quickly to intercede. Someone beat me to the fight. A young man with Down syndrome with a smile and a heart overflowing with kindness stood bravely between the pugilists telling them “fighting is not friendly.” Their anger melted away as he hugged one after the other.

A few years ago after an evening workshop with Master Yang Yang, he and I chatted briefly about the value of softness. He invited me to wrestle with him and I learned what is meant by the invisibility of those who are accomplished in the internal arts. My hands felt only fabric as I sought to find Master Yang. He softened and became paper to my rock.

Research on the relationship between stress and illness is abundant.  The National Institutes of Health consider the relationship to be complex.  Their research indicates that coping style, personality and social support, as well as genetic factors impact how a person responds to stressful situations.

One of the values of practicing the internal arts; tai chi, yoga, qigong and other forms, is the development and bringing out of a softer side to one’s personality.  Being in a class of like-minded people provides the social support needed.  One student, a computer software designer, as he was cheerfully walking home after a recent class remarked “I always leave feeling much lighter than when I arrived.”

Paul Rischard        January 15, 2017