This morning, I went out in dress shoes (the only ones that I had with me), and did the three forms on a grassy hill. The slope of the hill underfoot was subtle. On some moves it really helped me perform the one-foot-balanced positions. On the spins and kicks, it was tricky to know where I was going to end up. On the later parts of the moves, I found that the stretched poses were tricky — poses that were easy when I was facing uphill became highly challenging when facing downhill. Moving from one posture to another when I was facing sideways to the hill was easy; but difficult when changing directions from downhill to uphill.
As bipeds, we tend to be in dynamic balance all the time. Even when we’re at rest, most of our weight tends to be on one foot rather than the other. We think of ourselves in one place, but in a sense, we’re really not. Because of our two-footedness, we’re really in two places rather than one. Today, I felt that deeply — one foot was on one part of sloping ground, and the other foot was on a different part of the slope; and as a result I was not level to myself. In this way I had the world’s lack of level places revealed to me, and felt amazed in the discovery that my feet could be on two different planes in the same tai chi routines.
It’s really humbling to discover that you think you’re making great progress in tai chi, only to discover that the slightest change in your environment can trip you up, no problem.