Today was a really good tai chi day. I got dressed, first of all, and did the work outside. Second, I did my Druidic practice first — which I find calms my nerves and helps settle me in to the right mindset to do the rest of the form in a slow and measured way. Third, I’m in a good place with my body these days — I happen to be wearing a nice looking tshirt, and well-fitting pants; one the one hand it’s silly to think these things matter, but they do — dressing well for the part of the day when you powered, and feeling good about your appearance as you power up, genuinely makes powering up easier.
Second, I’m at this point in my practice where I know I need to slow it down. I’ve halved the number of repetitions of my qi gong maneuvers specifically in order to make space for the tai chi practice to get longer. But it hasn’t gotten longer. If anything, it’s gotten more rushed.
Therefore, the strategy today was to stop and hold each posture for an In-breath and an out breath or two. There are disadvantages to this practice, as commentators to this blog have noted before. It runs the risk of introducing pauses or interruptions to the flow. Yet it must be admitted that these pauses and interruptions are how we train newcomers to tai chi. And despite not being a newcomer, I must admit that I have not found the way to slow my practice down… so I went back to the beginning today.
It must be admitted that there are advantages to this “break it down into components” process. We might call it calcination or dissolution, in alchemy, because it’s about separating the individual movements into several smaller steps, and slowing those down, rather than trying to slow down the whole form. When pausing, as well, to hold a given position, it’s often the case that the body is in a relatively extreme posture — leg in the air, arm akimbo, foot stretched out in a kick, and so on. It’s a good chance to see how good or bad one’s balance truly is.
In doing this work today, I learned that the first third of my tai chi practice is considerably better than the last half. There’s a bit in there around the middle which is messy, but closer to accurate than not. At the time that I was taking weekly tai chi lessons, I remember thinking, wow, my teacher concentrates a lot on the beginning of the form…I hope we do the end as intensely as this…
So, after months of trying to figure out what I need to work on, it turns out that applying alchemical process to the work I’m doing in tai chi actually helped: I need to break down the whole form into components and practice those. And I need to practice the ending parts as intensively as the front bits.
Ok, back to work.