I had some errors in today’s tai chi. The continued tiredness in the mornings is continuing, and I found I made some significant missteps in the work today. Right after the second playing pipah, there’s a pause and then grab the needle at the sea-bottom, but today I did that after the first instance of playing pipah. It’s a small differences but that causes a kiss later in near the end, I was almost a yard west of my starting position at the closing position at the end of the form. In other words, errors accumulate.
4 December 2013
3 December 2013
And today was one of those days. I didn’t sleep well last night — woke about 1:30 am, and then again at 3:00, and woke with a headache this morning. The tai chi has actually dispelled most of the headache, and the rest of it is waning rapidly. But the day, as they say, “did not begin well.” Yesterday I was exhausted and ready to sleep about 9:00 pm… but then to not sleep well was difficult.
So it goes. I got up, and I did tai chi anyway. And I felt better for doing it. Not great. Not 100% But better.
Sometimes this is all you can expect out of a routine practice — that when you’re feeling bad, it will make you feel better. Not all the way healthy, but better. And sometimes that has to be enough.
2 December 2013
Today is my first day back in school after a week away for Thanksgiving. I must admit, I did tai chi faster than I should have, about 8 minutes. Good enough, I guess, for today.
After so long doing tai chi in the same room, I’m starting to discover the specific kinks and challenges of this particular room. During one of the movements today, the ball of my foot was on a floorboard that felt ‘soft’. There’s no other way to put it. In fact, there’s a bit of springiness to that particular board at that particular place. I was about to do a spin, though, so I couldn’t be standing there. My body made a minute adjustment of the placement of the big toe and the ball of the foot, almost without me thinking about it consciously, and I spun on the hard board next to it. Excellent.
I’m deciding that on winter break, I’m going to learn to do “Standing Bear” qi gong from youtube videos. Probably not the best way to learn, but I think that should be one of my goals this holiday season. That or a staff form, and staff forms are notoriously hard to learn from video. It would be better to have an instructor.
1 December 2013
Tai chi, the principal form itself, took ten minutes exactly today. This was with all kinds of breathing and pauses, at least from my perspective. Maybe time slowed down in my office, where I do tai chi, but not in the kitchen, where the clock is. Hmm.
One of the things I was experimenting with today was isolations. Basically, I was tensioning various parts of the body during the movements, in order to strengthen the muscles and focus the attention. I learned how to do this, in part, from playing around with “button and zipper” that Alicia taught me. In button and zipper, one ‘buttons’ or pulls in the muscles of the abdominals between the belly button and the groin; and then one zips up the muscles from the sternum to the belly button. The result is a gradual tightening and strengthening of the abdominal wall, and a powerful strengthener of the work overall — one learns to breathe with the diaphragm as a result, instead of the abdomen wall.
Today I was doing arm isolations: tensing first the bicep, then the tricep, then the deltoid, then some of the other muscles I don’t know names for, in an effort to hold a posture steady.
Hold your arm out in front of you with your elbow locked-ish, and the palm pointing outward, the fingers pointing upward. When you sight down your arm with an eye, notice a spot just above your middle finger. Now, tense your bicep. Do your fingers change position relative to the spot you’re looking at? Now tense your tricep. Do your fingers move? No? You’re probably lying — those big muscle groups can’t help but move the fingers a little bit here and there. The question is, how much? And how much is relevant? How much is noteworthy? How much is an improvement over yesterday?
None of this really matters. If I keep doing tai chi for another ten thousand days (which would be remarkable, because that would be something like 28 years, and I’d be 71 years old!), my body will naturally adjust to what’s best for me and best for health. Over time, that’s what this work will do for me. I think. Maybe.
But the question remains — how to slow down and improve my work now? And the answer seems to be, play. Play the game. It’s supposed to take 14 minutes and you’re at 10 minutes? You need to add another four minutes. Maybe eight, to be on the safe side — because time does funny things in tai chi. It doesn’t flow easily, and it tends to wobble. And so isolations, and long deep breathing while practicing them, are a way of stretching time. They didn’t work today. Maybe tomorrow.
We’ll have to wait and see.
A shout-out to the person who visited yesterday and read nearly the entire poetic catalog. Apparently someone was deeply invested in working their way through a bunch of material all at once. I hope you enjoyed it, and you weren’t just a robot. Not a single comment? Pity.
30 November 2013
The last four or five days I’ve really been nailing my tai chi practice. I never do tai chi for very long, really, even when you add in the two qi gong forms. But the last four or five days, I’ve been able to make myself sweat every time. This is good. Sweat indicates the movement of chi, or qi, and indicates that the energy centers of the body are active. And so they are.
How did I get here? Well, I note that today is Day 260 of year two, so 260 + 366 = 626… or 106 days until the end of year two.
Somewhere in all that time, I learned the form. I learned to do the form daily. And I learned to do the form with increasing grace and dedication and pressure. In essence, I learned to move in such a way that my body’s personal tensions and tensegrity generated a workout. And now that workout is starting to pay off. I think. Maybe.
I think the interesting thing is, that I don’t know. I have a theory. The theory may be correct, or it may not. The work yields data, and that data may confirm or deny the theory. But I don’t know.
Tomorrow, we’ll see if things continue as they have been, or if they take a new turn. We’ll see tomorrow.
29 November 2013
It’s hard to avoid overeating at Thanksgiving. As Art Buchwald wrote, it’s the one day a year that the Americans eat better than the French. My Mother the Artist loves Thanksgiving, because as she says, “the menu is completely decided in advance, and it’s all delicious; you don’t have to buy presents for anyone; it’s perfectly acceptable to eat with the company you want…” she has a litany, or polite rant, but those are the core elements of it. And I recognize that my family is better behaved than most, and that we’re better adjusted than many.
I still overate yesterday. And yet I’m not uncomfortably full today. And as I did tai chi (14 minutes today for the form, woohoo!) I discovered quite wonderful things. First, it’s easy to touch my toes again, Second, the definite effort to turn from the waist and not with the thighs and knees is paying off: my abdominals are getting stronger, and flatter, I wore a tank top (it was clean) to do the work in, and lo— I’m starting to develop arms.
There’s a sense that my body is developing some definition and direction from this daily work. It’s not as fast or as testosterone fueled as a daily gym workout, but neither is it clumsy or random. And I’ve suffered zero injuries in one and a half years, I also haven’t really been sick. At all.
As I sit here, breathing and writing, I’m aware of the steady rise and fall of my belly as I breathe. I’m brewing from the right places, and switch nice slow, long breaths. Elegant.
28 November 2013
There is a parking lot next to my house that is always empty. There are never any cars parked in it. Today, there is a lone loud man loudly talking in the middle of the lot, apparently to no one. It’s a very earnest, loud conversation, and he’s got a lot on his mind. He doesn’t appear crazy, and he appears to be getting stuff done.
Yesterday I noted that it was the Golden Pheasants and following that seemed to be e place where I regularly speed up, before slowing down as I come out of Fair Lady Works Shuttles. I made a deliberate effort to slow down for this section, resting for a four-count on each of the Golden Pheasants themselves, before going into, and pausing, on each of the kicks. The same four-count on bounce the baby, and again on cloud hands and the spiral single whip.. At the end, I double-checked my time for all of that care and attention to slowing down. I’d been so careful to note my starting time for the form; this should be quite revealing, I thought.
12 minutes. Which means I sped up somewhere else, and finished in almost exactly the same amount of time as I did yesterday. Argh.
Better luck next time.