Relax

Here’s some very good advice about playing in tournaments from a non chess source. It’s from Wolfe Lowenthal’s book, There are No Secrets, a collection of personal recollections of the Tai Chi master, Professor Cheng Man-chi’ing.

Once, early in my study, I suffered an emotional blow. After 10 years of slaving away at a typing job and writing unproduced plays, I co-authored a screenplay which began filming in Rome. The company that hired me had produced a dozen successful, low-grade action films and this was their attempt to break out with a “quality” film. Not only did I have one film in production, but I’d already signed to write a second. I was on top of the world.

Sudenly a combination of misadventures occurred; the Arab-Israeli war of ’73, the subsequent oil embargo and stock market convulsion. The film’s financing disintegrated; the company went bankrupt. My film stopped shooting barely three weeks into production.

I crawled back from Rome and collapsed into a chair next to Professor and told him the terribly depressing story. My dreams had died.

“Relax”, he said. “Just relax.”

He said more but it’s lost to memory. I was dumbfounded by his basic advice.

“Relax?” I thought as I walked away. “What garbage. My life’s in shambles and he’s telling me to relax.”

Years have passed. Emotional blows have come and gone and I have begun to understand a key to living in balance; we are responsible for our lives. Not that there’s anything we can do about a stock market collapse. We are “responsible” for our response to the flow of events.

Professor used to say, “As you grow more relaxed, you become less afraid. As you become less afraid you grow more relaxed.” This is the nature of progress.

Any event in the world will produce suffering if one reacts to it fearfully, but if one relaxes and dissolves the fear reactions, one can meet even great catastrophes with equanimity.

Beautiful advice that goes way beyond the chess board in its applicability. But you can use chess as a testing ground for its message.