Painting progress

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Painting progress

Originally uploaded by anselm23

My painting of the Tree of Life wasn’t properly laid out, though it did teach me a number of things about proportion and design. On the other hand, I still need a painting to give to the school’s annual auction. So I finished painting the background black, and then begin working on this painting of a phoenix rising from the ashes into a night sky. It’s not what I planned to paint, but it is a suitable image for the annual school auction: a dormant power suddenly awakened in fire and explosive force. It’s how I feel about the Design Program at IDS, and my colleagues, and our students: that we are launching ourselves in a burst of flame into the world, and claiming a power which is inherent in us, though not always obvious.

Taiji day 32: Lead Left

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At the end of the tai chi form, I tried something I’ve done before but never gotten very far with: doing the taiji form while leading with the left hand. It’s difficult. The muscle memory is all wrong — the right hand usually moves first, delivers many of the punches, the right foot takes most of the steps that matter, and the left side usually provides the shielding, feinting or covering gestures. This can be traced to the historic reality that left-handers are a tiny fraction of the population of the planet. It may have something to do with the fact that the left hand and the left side is attached to the right brain, or with the position of the heart slightly to the left side of the body’s midline — hence making attacks to the left side of the body rather more effective.

Or it could be coincidence.

In any case, I started to do the form left-handed. Instead of opening to the right, I opened to the left. Instead of warding off left and then warding off right, I reversed them. I grabbed the needle on the sea floor with my left hand, while pressing on my wrist with the right hand.

My muscles thought I was going crazy. And yet all sorts of weaknesses appeared. My left leg wasn’t strong enough to hold posture during snake creeps down, and a knee made clear that it wasn’t used to doing kicks this way.

No matter. I didn’t get very far: maybe twelve or fifteen postures in, I lost the read of what came next. Is it Buddha’s teacup or spread hands like fan? My brain remembered what the postures looked like, but couldn’t reverse them to the other side of the body. Brain freeze.

We cover for a lot of things, we silly humans. One part or one side of the body is always stronger than the other. One part of the mind is always stronger than others. But until we actually try something from another point of view, and dedicate ourselves to practicing it, we’re really just half of what we could be,

Try something left-handed today. What’s holding you back?