During the last movement of the second qi gong form, one is constantly rising onto the balls of the feet — lifting one’s heels away from the ground.  I do sixteen repetitions of this action, but during the eleventh, I hit one of those places where I wasn’t quite balanced, and I wasn’t quite off-balance. So I did what any good cartoon character would do — I windmilled and flapped my arms like crazy, trying for all the world to appear like Wile E. Coyote as he hangs in the air, two full seconds after he’s gone off the cliff.

It doesn’t work.

I didn’t fall or hurt myself.  But I needed to re-plant my feet, and get settled, and sink back into horse stance.  Only then could I begin again.

So go ahead. Windmill like mad when it happens that you lose your balance.  Do what you see all the other kids do when they lose their balance. Just remember that they’re cartoons, and windmilling sometimes works in their universe.  Of course, we have different physics than they do.  So you can windmill like mad.  Just remember, you don’t want to do that in a fight.

In truth, though, losing one’s balance and trying to hold back from falling is insanity.  I mean, we know it doesn’t work for Coyote.  He keeps falling off the butte, onto his butt, again and again and again.  We know it’s a mistake to try to avoid falling, and yet we keep trying.  It’s not even as though the fall is going to hurt very much — all it takes to stop the fall is stepping forward a little, and accepting the new, balanced position.

So why do I windmill?  Why do I avoid accepting the necessary change in stance?  Why fight it? Why not just accept it, and accept that the dynamics of the body are likely to keep me balanced in any case, just as the mind — with its remarkable resiliency — will resist change right up until the moment it occurs, and then shift 100% of resources to dealing with the change’s aftermath once the change has taken place?

Sooner or later, I have to let go of the effort to not fall, and just fall.  And it’s at that point that I can move past the failure and get back on track.