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.