Taiji Day 359: Up to the Usual Stuff

Yeah, so … I got up at 5:30 this morning, half-an-hour later than my usual weekday rising time, to do tai chi. I’m going into school today to paint my largest canvas ever.  It will be 10 feet high by 28 feet long, and it’s the curtain backdrop for “Annie” that I designed, a sort of cartoon New York City skyline with a low-hanging moon beside the Chrysler Building.  I’m excited and scared at the same time; I’ve never done anything this big before, and it’s intimidating and awesome at the same time.  We’ll be using a projector to lay out the basic lines in pencil, and then we’ll paint in black, white and gray.  Should be fun.

And it’s six days before the ending of this year of tai chi, and it’s just like it was an ordinary day.  You’re doing other stuff — for you, maybe it’s putting in a little time at the spinning wheel or the weaving bench, or at your painter’s easel.  For me, it’s a backdrop cloth. For someone else, it’s their basement herbalism bench or the computer.  For still others, it’s prayer time at their home altar for a sick loved one.  Life goes on, you know.  Just because you work a deep practice into your daily commitment, it doesn’t change the fact that life goes on.  Yesterday I was highly conscious of the power of Saturn — in traditional astrology, the force of death and endings, of boundaries and limitations, of edges and curtain calls.  Today, I’m feeling creative — awakened to the power of the new Sun, and getting excited for the approach of the Equinox.

And yet I did the same thing yesterday as I did today; and I’m planning to do the same thing tomorrow that I did today: two qi gong forms, and a tai chi form. There’s local differences in what I do: today, for example, I didn’t quite get both hands with the tips of my toes as I did a windmill kick, and my hip is bothering me.  But the scratches on my back and the aches from my little fall on Friday have subsided, and I think my form was much more smooth and less jerky than it was the last two days. The individual expressions of the broad framework of the form were within certain tolerances of “normal”, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

Normal.  What a weird word.

I read an article this week that talked about this economist-anthropologist, who’s been going around the world playing the various socio-economic games that have been developed to try to show what human behavior really “is”, and what he’s found is that the information acquired from these studies so far has proved only that the majority of people who’ve played these games in controlled environments are WEIRD — Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic — and that there’s a much broader range of cultural experiences beyond the realms of possibilities admitted to by the typical anthropology departments and their fieldwork apprentices.  There’s a world of possibilities out there: even school doesn’t have to look like what we think it does (and that’s terrifying to a lot of folks in my line of work, but I’m not sure I agree with their fears any more).

So the notion that it all has to be one thing, in tai chi or anything else, is kind of an odd idea.  The idea that the elbow has to be here and not there, the foot has to reach this spot and go no farther, the hand is at this angle and not at this one nor at that one.  Well.  It’s kind of bizarre, isn’t it?  To make those kinds of insistences?  And yet, there’s truth to be found that one stance “correctly” performed is easier to maintain, and is more effective, than almost-the-same pose that’s just slightly out of alignment, or that cigarettes are a cause of lung cancer, or that sugar is toxic.

I found this with toe touches just a few days ago — it’s easier to perform toe touches when you’re using your belly muscles and you get more of a workout.  But you have to be performing them regularly to see that and feel that, or you have to have some tai chi master or really enlightened gym teacher shouting “don’t bounce. Use your stomach muscles to pull your hands toward the floor, touch the floor, and then use your back muscles to right yourself again!”   (But gym teachers don’t say that. They say, “Don’t bounce” as if that were normal).

I guess what I’m trying to say is a Tony Brown kind of thing: you’re a nerve ending out at the very tip of God’s finger, and your life is a means of transmitting the idea of one set of experiences of the universe back to the Heart. When you revisit that idea (as he did).  A daily practice is a great way of getting over your fear of doing it wrong. There will be better days, and worse days, days when you think, “wow, that was crap, does that even count?” and days when you think “wow, that was amazing, I’m becoming a god [famous last words].”

The practice is just going to become that thing you do.  It’s going to become normal.

What did you do today? The usual.  The life-transforming, self-awakening, self-actualizing, beautiful, tedious, boring glorious stuff I always do.

What about you?

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    • Well, as you know, when we revisit themes again and again… We find new things each time. It’s how a tradition grows and deepens.

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