Desert Television

T’ai Chi for Couch Potatos: Getting the T’ai Chi Experience in Front of a Television Screen

Ah, the perfect escape, when you feel relaxed and worry free. Everything is so soft and soothing as you gently forget your problems of the day and just settle into a carefree state of mind. You can simply accept everything that forms on the blank canvas before you and rest.

Another example of the T’ai Chi experience? Well, not really.

In this case, I’m describing what it feels like to watch Bob Ross painting his creations during his television shows The Joy of Painting and Beauty is Everywhere.

The long running Joy of Painting which was shown on PBS from 1983 to 1994 is now available on, while his second series, Beauty is Everywhere filmed in 1991 is now available at (Bob Ross and Chill???)


Ross is a fantastic painter who demonstrated his art weekly for his loyal audience. He was known for his wildly permed hair and Bohemian fashions, but mostly for his upbeat, calm demeanor as he swiftly painted the beautiful landscapes featured on his show. He would shift colors around the canvas, mixing shapes and textures as he happily gave tips and hints to those interested in his craft.

Most people who watched him would never pick up a brush, but instead would watch all the same to experience the joy of this artist at work. He was also known for his light hearted and witty comments  that seemed to come almost from his stream of conscious as he worked.

We don’t make mistakes, we make happy accidents,” he’s known to explain. And another fun little quip while painting, “He’s a crooked little tree, we’ll send him to Washington!

Bob Ross’s approach to painting could have easily come from a talented T’ai Chi instructor. He brought his impressions through the TV screen and into our homes, even into our hearts. Television, unfortunately, rarely has such a positive effect on our spirits, though we’re rarely aware of the influence it can have on us.

Television is a way for people to escape from the problems and responsibilities of our daily lives. We watch Love Stories to feel the drama of others when our lives seem dull. We watch Action Shows for the sense of Adventure that they bring to us. Mysteries add a sense of wonder and suspense. Television (and movies) give us a chance to step outside ourselves for a while, and have the kind of experiences that we’re missing during our regular lives.

But, are those imaginary experiences always good for us?

Vintage Lady by Television
We turn to TV shows looking for escape, without being conscious to what we’re actually experiencing.

Too often the TV shows can lead us to dark places. The sweet drama of a Love Story is turned into the petty conflicts of ‘Reality Show’ conflicts that hold only foul language and nasty behavior. Action Thrillers sacrifice healthy Adventure for cruelty, vengeance, and killing. While Mystery and Suspense is replaced with all types of horror and gore.

Most concerning of all, is that we’re hardly aware that we’ve been led to these dark places by the shows we’ve chosen to watch. We turn to these shows looking for escape, often without being conscious or present to what we’re actually experiencing. In effect, we program negativity into our lives without giving it a second thought.

We fail to realize what we’re really watching because in order to understand the story, our minds have suspended disbelief. To experience a show where Superheroes can fly, you have to turn off your mind’s critical faculties. The same goes for any show where a frog can turn into a prince, a wizard can cast spells, or a nerdy girl  becomes the prom queen through some outrageous sceme. In every case, you allow yourself to be sucked into the story and accept certain fantastic images as true, so that you can intimately experience the show as though it were real in your mind.

The problem isn’t in watching these shows, but in not being aware of how they can affect us when our thoughts go unchecked. Too often we look to violent action, horrific situations, and pornographic ideals when we choose to let our mind escape into a screen.

Retro Television
We don’t have to give up watching television, but we do have to learn to be mindful about what we watch.

We don’t need to give up watching television or plug into Bob Ross every day, but we do have to learn to be mindful about what we choose to experience and why we choose to experience it. Having some ‘down time’ to ease ourselves away from the stress and problems of our day is good and healthy. Even dark shows that that explore the negative energies of life can be helpful if we stay aware of their possible impact on our lives.

T’ai Chi and mindfulness show us that we need to be vigilant against our own thoughts and even more so against the experiences that can come to us from others (or through a screen!)

So, if you really need a little down time, and choose to escape through a screen, let me recommend the quiet reflections of an artist who delights in sharing the wonders of Nature and also the artistic expression of his paintings. Bob Ross.

There you can relax, carefree and content, in the way of Couch Potato T’ai Chi.


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