Despite all the Palace of Memory work, I don’t think of myself as having a great memory. Today, as I was doing Eight Pieces of Silk (for the third time ever), I was trying to look at my diagrams and notes, and do two of the Pieces before returning to my notes. Rather than do one move, return to the notes, do the next move and return to the notes, I was trying to work on each individual move, as well as the flow between them.
Taiji (or any martial system, or any spiritual system) is not just about going through the motions. It’s a whole body-mind-spirit workout. Begin as you intend to go on. I don’t intend to break stride every couple of minutes to consult a book; I eventually want to get through all eight pieces of silk without any break between them. I want to achieve basic flow as early as I can, so that my workout is not interrupted. I want the body-mind workout, too, and not just the physical motions — the memory, the place-based awareness, and the “flow” from one move to another.
So here I am learning a new form, and I’m trying to remember from my notes two positions in a row. It’s hard. I’m messing up. Today, I broke only between 2 and 3, 4 and 5, and 6 and 7.
Well, that was my intention, anyway. it was more like, I broke after 1, and after 2, and after 4, and then I reversed 7 and 6, and then I checked the notes again, and then I did 5, and then I did 8, and then I realized I’d done 5 wrong, and tried doing it again, and then I realized what time it was and I needed to get moving with the rest of my morning routine.
I’m not perfect.
Look, it’s all new to you. It’s new to me. You’ll get the hang of it. I’ll get the hang of it, too. But work on getting the flow between your forms right, even from the beginning, and gradually the movements themselves won’t seem quite so difficult or challenging. The real challenge — to body and mind and spirit alike — is in the spaces between the forms, not in the formal motions themselves. That’s where the real workout lies.