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Aug 1, 2014

NHI Believes: Take Ten – The Final Step

…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love


Step 10 of 10: Embracing Tiger

By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell

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Many people are afraid of change. I know I often am. Instead of feeling and naming the emotion of fear, I merge it with the state called worry or anxiety and—wham!—I’m off to the races, going in the wrong direction. Instead of going from head to heart, I run in the opposite direction. It’s no fun, and not a bit productive.

We all have our own examples of how fear can seem such a huge, impenetrable barrier. Fear: some would rather bury it, walk around it, build bridges over it, cover it with medication or a substance, stay busy to not feel it; anything rather than name it, or even embrace it.

Al Huang is a Chinese philosopher, dancer, and Tai Chi master of great note. He is also a friend of National Holistic Institute College of Massage Therapy, having gifted the college with our famous “Whoosh!” ritual. He is also the author of the 1973 classic “Embrace Tiger, Return To Mountain.”Tiger 2

“Embracing Tiger” is another core belief and ritual that we live at NHI. We create space safe enough to embrace what scares us, to be supported in the process, over and over again, until a skill or attitude is mastered—until the “mountain” is reached.

Today I’m going to ask you to be open to the idea of embracing one of your fears. Not to let it go wasted in a maelstrom of anxiety or worry, but to consciously—even gratefully—embrace it. First, we need a safe space. At any NHI campus, safe space is a given. A deliberate, mindfully created given. When we embrace a fear (i.e., of public speaking, of apologizing to someone or speaking up for our self, of touching or being touched), we strip it of some of its power. We become intimate with it, learning to relate to it, rather than run from it. Be gentle and patient with your self: this is a process, not a singular event. You are learning to dissolve it, bit by tiny bit, until one day what previously seemed an impossible obstacle becomes an ally. In its place is the change that you have been longing for.


“Living a balanced life” has become a popular self-help mantra. Thinking that I could somehow control life (or people, places, and things), I nurtured a completely unrealistic vision for my life. I should be able to live in balance, or homeostasis, at all times. I began to imagine that I could walk a tightrope that never swayed, fly through life without ever encountering turbulence.

But reality—that great guru– taught me otherwise. Life is homeodynamic, bumpy and often uncomfortable. I didn’t accept that truth gracefully, but kicking and screaming. I got really good at kicking and screaming until I pushed loved ones away and met reality with a deafening thud. I am still recovering, and I am grateful for the thud.

So far, I have survived. Today, my balance is wobbly and unpredictable. I’m learning to embrace tiger and on especially good days even search it out.

Every time I feel my life sway from balance into chaos, I remember that it is an opportunity to learn; even if I learn nothing more than that I can endure and return to “mountain.”

Every time I feel overwhelmed by what my day has presented to me, I remind myself to have faith in the path that I am on. There is an intelligence to each of our paths or destinies, I have discovered, and I appreciate the strength that I have gained from falling down and getting back up, even when I do it in full view of people I know and love.

Every time I start listening to the voice that tells me I can’t do something, I focus my attention on all of the voices that lift me up and tell me I can. I choose to let the “community of mentors” called NHI and others support me, knowing that we all grow in the process.

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Sometimes the best way to regain our balance isn’t by standing still, but moving forward into the arms of the tiger, discovering that the tiger was really a great big heart awaiting our presence all along.





Learn more about Al Huang and his Living Tao Foundation here!