My friend Phoenix has lost almost ninety pounds in the last year through a combination of belly dancing, daily exercise, and changing her food habits. In part, it was her efforts and dedication that persuaded me to begin this year of tai chi. A shout-out to her for her dedication and intention. Her year has been over for awhile, but I was reminded of her efforts just this morning.
In the ancient Egyptian calendar, there were three hundred sixty days initially,and theyear was understood as a circle. However, as record-keeping and astronomy improved, Egyptian priests were forced to conclude that the year was actually 365.25 days long, and consequently they added a mini-month of days which they dedicated to Thoth, the ibis-headed god of writing and of scribes, of calculations and geometry. Eventually conflated with the Graeco-Roman god Hermes-Mercury, Thoth alone knew why the year was longer than the number of degrees in a circle.
Today, in this sense, I’ve come full circle. I’ve ticked off days like degrees, doing one day of tai chi at a time, sometimes doing one posture at a time, sometimes hurting and sometime easy, sometimes hard and sometimes soft, sometimes fast and sometimes slow. A little of this, a little of that. No one day has been exactly like another, although they all fall within a cloud-shaped space-time model we call “normal for the first year.”
I can’t say it was a smooth practice. I had to stop for a little while between the second qi gong form and the tai chi form. There’s a muscle tension I’ve not been able to dislodge on my own, and I need to see a massage therapist or chiropractor to shift it. It’s not persistent, which makes me think it’s gone away… Until it returns, not stronger or tighter or lighter or easier. Always the same sense of a twinge at the same intensity. The shape of things to come as I grow older, I suspect, too: odd twinges and pains as things tighten and harden in my body, and I seize up. Maybe the world was faster once, and where earth used to orbit in 360 days, now it takes another five days to travel the same distance.
There wasn’t anything bad about today’s practice, but nothing stands out as spectacular. I did the Press Hands to Heaven with particular forcefulness, and (given that I face a mirror), I liked the muscles standing out in my arms. I wasn’t in horse stance all the way through all three forms, but my knees were bent most of the time.
Imperfections exist. They’re normal. They’re to be expected. We’re human.