Tai Chi Y2D180: Half a year on…

When doing an exact count against 365 days, a half-year is 182.5 days.  Which means that sometime Wednesday will mark one year and six months of daily tai chi, with a (mostly daily) companion written piece to go along with it.

Almost through half-a-year of year two.  It feels good. It’s done nothing to change my weight, of course.  It’s done something to change my patience, my focus, and my drive.  It’s made me more flexible and more mobile.  It’s given me more limberness and more stretch.  And it’s helped me become more calm.

Today’s practice had to wait until almost the end of the day.  There wasn’t the space where I was to do the forms this morning, and the middle part of the day sort of ran away from me.  So it wasn’t until the end of the day that I had both time and space to perform the work.  Doing it in the afternoon or early evening was a completely different experience.  I kind of liked it.  I’ve always been afraid of doing it too late in the day, because there’s always a chance that I won’t get to it, and I’ll miss the day completely.  But today went well, and I had a good practice.

There’s a curious thing about leaving it until almost the end of the day, though.  There’s a lot more of the snap, crackle and pop!  in my joints and ligaments at the end of the day than at the beginning.  Everything stretches more.  I’ve said before, You can’t be an adept in the evening if you’ve only practiced in the morning.  

And there’s a parallel rule to this which  is also true:
Seemed like a deep insight...

So, I’m thinking about moving one of my qi gong practices from morning to evening at the stat of the second half of the year.  It’s clear that doing the work at the end of the day opens up parts of the body and mind that are somewhat shut off at the end of the day no matter how much work I do at the start.

Mostly unrelated to this, I attended a workshop last week where I began the process of learning the breath-work and mouth positions necessary to harmonic-overtone singing (Tuvan throat-singing, it’s sometimes called).  I’ve been singing in the car on the way to and from work, and here and there elsewhere.  It’s pretty odd-sounding, and for the first five minutes or so, I’m mildly interested. Then after about ten minutes I think, “how long is this concert, anyway? Another hour and a half of this?” Followed about ten minutes later by “Wow! This is Awesome!”

And I think this is also the arc that I’ve experienced around many of my interests and learning processes.  The first few steps along the curve of learning are always deeply interesting as I approach competence and confidence.  Then, a level of apathy sets in as I discover that getting a whole lot better at something requires considerably more investment of time, energy, attention and care.  There’s a long period where I’m not sure what I’m going to get out of the experience.  And then, after this long period of attention and investment in spite of boredom, there’s a breakthrough where I achieve a greater level of competence and confidence in the work than I’d previously had.

And I feel like this long stretch of tedium is where I am currently in my tai chi cycle.  I’m aware of having insights into getting better, but not really clear on why I want to be better than I currently am.  I’m collecting and collating data on how to get a lot better, but not yet invested in actually doing that work beyond my usual daily procedures.  I know what to do, but I’m not really sure if I’m going to do it.

Of course, if I continue to do tai chi daily, at some point the work will get done.  That’s sort of the point.  Over the long haul, a guy who practices every day will gradually change habits enough and change patterns enough that the work will have that effect on him.  At least, that’s what I think today as I continue to do the work.

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  1. Dear Christina,

    I do want to work on my diet. At the moment, I’m working with “Celtic Golden Dawn” by John Michael Greer, which has a lengthy bit on the four body types — choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and sanguine. I think I’m mostly melancholic with some phlegmatic characteristics.

    As far as mentally and emotionally, I think that I’ve become more even-tempered as a result of the tai chi, but I’ve also been doing druidic and Hermetic work more or less in parallel with this work. So there’s some difficulty in separating out the changes from tai chi as differentiated from other magical efforts. Mentally, I’m also much more flexible — but I’m also running the Design Lab at school, which also increases mental flexibility.

    As far as finding a throat-singing program… it turns out that a parent in my school is a member of such a choir. He heard me singing the other week in the hallway, and thought to invite me to the group. In one of those weird change-ups, it turns out that the director of this group started the group in the basement of the church I helped manage in college — and I let him into the building for the first time with my keyholder powers. How weird is that?

  2. This is a really interesting post. And I would love to hear more about the singing. I hope you will include some of it in your blog. There was an instance, oh maybe 20-30 years ago, when the Catholic church was “reforming” that I have read a couple of times: In one monastery the monks sang Gregorian Chant at all of the offices of the day. But because of the reformation, that was discontinued. All of a sudden many of the monks, many of whom were elderly, many began to suffer from chronic illnesses. The doctor’s (very smart doctor… just sayin) his advice was to reestablish the singing. They did and most of the chronic illnesses went away. I have always thought that a very interesting story and I will be interested to see what you observe from your own singing practice.

    Also the change of some of your practice from morning to evening should prove interesting.

    You say your weight has not changed but you feel more limber. I have a couple of questions: Has you body composition changed, do you think? More muscle? Different posture? etc. And do you feel more “well’ on a physical or other level? Would you say you feel younger in any way?

    Thanks for taking the time to tell us all about your practice.

    • Thanks for the questions, Christina! I’ve heard the monastic singing story, and I believe it. I find this is one of the things I miss most about my community life in Christianity, actually: choir practice. I don’t miss the Sunday mornings or the sermons that bear no resemblance to the gospel as I understand it. But I do miss the music.

      I do feel more limber, and I feel more muscular, and I stand differently. And I feel younger, and people keep underestimating my age — by more, the longer I do tai chi. When I started, a year and a half ago, people estimated that I was 42 or so. Now they estimate that I’m in my mid-30s. So it’s taken off a good 5 years or so, in a very short time — despite the fact that I’m still around 300 pounds.

    • I suspected what your answer would be about your wellness, physically. (BTW, if you decide to work with your diet to affect your body composition, if you like, contact me privately and I will let you know what my research and practices there have taught me over the last few years.)

      Mentally and even emotionally, do you feel more flexible now 1.5 years on? Or other changes you can discern?

      RE singing, you might enjoy this NPR segment.

      Can you tell a little bit about how you EVER found a training program for “harmonic-overtone singing” (Tibetan Monastics as well as Tuvans practice this, BTW, but you probably know that.)

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