Tai Chi Y3D273: Slowing down

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Yes, I go through this every few months or every few weeks. I discover that I’m moving too fast, and make a deliberate effort to slow down.  Today, that yielded an immediate reward, in the form of a deep breath cycle generated in my belly.  As my belly went in and out, I sucked in breath and poured it out again, and that lit a fire inside of me.

Good. I’ll need that sustenance for today.

Tai Chi Y3D272: Oh Right… This was the mistake.

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I was looking for the poem that came next after False Close from yesterday’s artwork, and found this mess today from Day 147: Oh, I’d forgotten this mess. The finished poem from False Close wound up looking something like this:

From this braced posture, the right hand retreats, (swings high)
but right elbow remains just in its place
The left hand rises too, moves also, and it entreats (cuts by)
the opponent as it travels side-swipes through space
until fingertips graze the bent right arm.
Thus a right angle is ordered — and stands
between the forearms on the right and left:
This is a posture of defensive hands,
for the arms can shift with movement so deft
to deflect the strike.  Once the hands are firm,
weight can shift away from the front right foot;
the left leg can carry the weight a term —
but neither leg should move from where it’s put
Sweep both hands down and sideways to the left,
to guard the flank that in this move’s bereft.

What a mess.  This poem doesn’t match with the drawings I’ve done at all.  The drawings don’t make sense with the actions.  You can’t interpret one from the other. I don’t know how to do the next drawing.

Excuses.  Yeah, that’s easy.

But doing the work is hard sometimes.  And there’s backtracking to do, and reorganizing the material, and re-thinkiing it. That’s what this blog is for. Right? Right? That’s why you’re coming here — to read about the challenges and difficulties of the daily work… and this is one of those places where I made a hash of things in poetry, and I’m going to have to fix it one of these days.

Retreat to Mountain Even in the drawing, I can see that it’s wrong. The last image, the guy is hunched over at the neck, not with a straight spine. Duh. But it’s a detail that’s hard to get right.  And, one has to know that the previous drawing involves standing with fire at one’s back, and now water and earth, and now earth, and now earth and air, are at one’s back.

Truth be told, I’d never considered this deeply how the directions interplayed with tai chi before. It’s clear that it matters which direction one faces in practice. I always begin in the east, but I’ve seen practitioners label the directions 1-2-3-4 in videos before.  This is somewhat different.  There’s a notional east, of course, which is different from true east, which is different from “the direction from which I’m attacked.” The movements must be suited to the moment at hand.

My tai chi practice has been speeding up of late. I made a deliberate effort to slow down today, but I’m also looking forward to taking some time over the upcoming vacation to really slow it back down again. The Yule/Christmas season always seems to sneak up on me and zoom past in a rush, and it’s been working its way into my form-work. Time to push back against that tendency and slow down.

Tai Chi Y3D271: Finishing a Page

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Finished Page I finished this page that it feels like I’ve been working on for weeks, this morning. I’m not happy with it.  I think that the tendency to underrate, even under-value, one’s own work in the arts, is a common problem. Nonetheless, much of this work feels like a waste of time. Could anyone actually learn tai chi from these diagrams and these poems. Today’s two new moves are Push (which I  called Retreat to the Mountain Camp for a Rematch, and I don’t know why, or which move this actually is), and False Closewhich were the subject of my sonnets back on days 144 and 145 of this year.

When I combine them into a single poem of two verses, does it make sense in the context of the drawings? I don’t know.  I find that I can’t read them, or look at the pictures, with much in the way of objectivity.  Do they fit?

Push/Retreat to the Mountain Camp

When the strike is delivered to the throat,
Step back with the left foot, withdraw the hands,
And cross your wrists to block. Don’t act by rote,
but mind your foe’s fists! Your safety demands
that your hands sweep down your front and your groin,
as your mass rests in your right leg alone.
Uncross your arms: and be sure they adjoin
empty spaces, and not your center zone.
Step with your left foot, but push with your right!
and plant your hands on your foe as seems best,
for though you should be reluctant to fight,
it’s good that any attack is addressed.
Push body forward, transferring through hand
Springing force coil’d where right foot touches land.

False Close

Withdraw the left foot and pull back both hands.
For now, keep your weight latent on the right.
Hands protect the face; beware shifting sands
underfoot, for now. Keep open a slight
distance between arms and line of the chest.
Fill this ‘balloon’ with chi for your defense.
Yet remember that left foot! Stand light, lest
you brace too heavily: be as a fence,
able to let the windy words blow by,
but strong and sure to keep the bulls away.
Yet stand softly, for your hands must deny
any strike that comes. For now, this is play —
imagine the foe coming from behind,
step back left and twist: defeat what you find.

This is the problem with the “work in the middle”.  One might as well call it the “work in the muddle.”  When one is in the middle of a piece of work, such as the making of the drawings or the making of the poems… or better/worse yet, the integration of the two — it’s hard to sort out one’s emotional response from the actual “making” of the thing, or the “making of the happening” of the thing.  Layers of importance get confused with one another.

The great artists of the past have opined that in these circumstances, one should just keep going. It’s better to judge a body of work at the end, than it is to judge it when it’s only halfway done.

Tai Chi Y3D270: Late night, early morning

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I was coming home last night about 9:30 am when I hit some terrible traffic. There’d been an accident. A car flipped over, caused tremendous challenges, and a six-hour back-up on the highway.  I had left on an hour’s drive home at 9:30… and actually got home and climbed into bed at midnight.

To call this morning a rocky start is an understatement. Despite tai chi, I am not my best self today, nor operating at full capacity.  I dislike driving, even when I’m moving; to manage a stick-shift car in heavy stop-and-go traffic is exhausting.

My heart and prayers go out to the driver and two passengers of the car, and to the others injured, and to those of us inconvenienced in great or small ways.  It’s sad when these things happen, and dismaying.  But life also goes on, and we have work to do.  Back to the labor.

Poem: The bear

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I was a bear, about to go into hibernation, last night in EarthSpirit’s open Yule celebration this year.  The little kids tucked me in and gave me a teddy bear to go to sleep with, and put me under blankets.  I got to snore my way through the ritual, to add verisimilitude to my performance.  My lady says that I didn’t do the “grumpy when we wake, quite hungry” lines; but I think I did…  anyway.  A lot of fun, and several people insisted it was very cute.  Composed this poem to get in the right headspace to be a slumbering bear, and to recite at my appearance.

I ate a couple of rabbits last week,
then some sticks, some grasses and leaves today.
My cave is ready with the bedding I like:
Pretty soon I’ll sleep the whole winter away.
Down in the darkness and down in the cold,
covered with leaves and nested in the earth.
If you find me asleep, don’t be too bold:
let me keep sleeping, until my rebirth,
for we’re known to be grumpy when we wake,
quite hungry, too, after a three-month nap.
When spring arrives, there will be much at stake
at second thaw, when icicles drip.
I’ll rise and squint at the returning Sun,
and growl. Meantime, I’ll sleep ’til winter’s done.

This is now the second or third time that I’ve done a bear transformation like this.  It’s sort of fun, but a bit of typecasting.

Tai Chi Y3D269: Early in the Morning

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I don’t know what to say about today’s practice. That’s been happening a lot lately.  I whacked my knee on a dining room chair while doing the half-spin. I thought it was further behind me, but it wasn’t.  Oops.  It doesn’t hurt too badly.

It’s kind of amazing how few injuries I’ve had while doing tai chi, actually.  I’ve not pulled any major muscle groups, nor dislocated an arm, nor broken my foot or toes or fingers.  I’ve learned to stretch and bend my body in various ways without injury over the last two and three-quarter years, but I’ve not really injured myself.

Have I? Does anyone else remember if I’ve done damage to myself from this practice?  I don’t think so.

Tai Chi Y3D268: Fewer than 100 Days

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There are fewer than 100 days left in my tai chi practice for this year. That’s something less than 20 days in December, and then January, February and part of March.  Yeah, yeah. It’s the same every year.  But it doesn’t mean that I don’t get worked up about the end of the year approaching.  Under 100 days is a reasonable number, other than “halfway” or “two-thirds” or “just 364 days to go!”

The last one is especially galling. Even with 1000 days behind me, knowing that at some point there may be a “Y4D1″ in the title of a blog post on this website, is a little daunting.

Today’s tai chi was nothing special: done in the kitchen at a little past 6:00 am. Then the busy-ness of the day took over, and it’s been a bit of a roller coaster since then.  I’m only getting to the writing-down of the day, now.

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