Tai Chi Y2D190: Out of the Dojo and into the Lab

Yesterday I won my Toastmasters club’s fall speech contest for humorous speeches for a speech entitled, “What’s funny, anyway?”  I wouldn’t call it a rousing success; more like a good beginning.

Today I got up, and I did tai chi very slowly.  Very slowly.  A lot of breathwork on each posture, a lot of care with my feet and with overall technique.  And afterwards, I did my druidic practice, and sat in meditation for a while.  All of the posts recently, starting with Gordon, continuing with mine and then Jason’s with organizational charts of magic and where various techniques fit, have been deeply interesting to me, and I realized I needed to up my meditational practice.

And then a part of my practice — writing about it — didn’t happen.  I got to work, after seeing an amazing view of the valley where my school is located; and then my day started in earnest.

The printer works again
Printing out a mini- step-pyramid

So here I am, later in the day, doing the writing part.

And yet, the chance to really explain how my practice went today has passed.  I’ve forgotten most of what transpired.  I know that it took longer than it usually does, and that I was slightly sweaty and a little energized by it, and that I had good flow, and that my breathwork was good.  Yet I don’t remember what I did wrong.  And that means that it was a feel-good sort of day, but it wasn’t a “stop and critique your practice” sort of day.  Which feels different and ok in some ways, because I really feel like the last year and a half has shown me how to critique my practice, and how to grow it, without having every day be a deliberate and careful critique of the work.

Because of course these things never go as planned.

Most of the morning, I’ve been arguing with the 3D printer at school — Moira is her name — trying to get her to print something other than the standard sample models like the whistle and the Celtic knot.  I have half a dozen models left over from student work last spring, and so far — so far — only this miniature step-pyramid prints.  The other children’s designs haven’t printed.  And the reason for this is…. I don’t know.

I’ve got some ideas, of course.  Two of the times she’s gone off course, there’s been a herd of kids coming by the room out in the hall.  So maybe it’s vibration caused by a stampede of humans.  One of the belts that control the build platform came loose a little while ago, and I tightened it up. Maybe it’s a mechanical problem.  Little burrs keep appearing in the individual layers of the Z-axis (top to bottom), so maybe it’s that the print head is dragging through the model, and as it does so it’s pulling some bits out of alignment in the X-axis and Y-axis.  Or maybe it’s that the platform which supports the extruder-head isn’t completely level (just finished adjusting that using little hex-bolts, and what a joy that was…).

Foggy valley
the commute is beautiful

How did I adjust my tai chi practice over a year and a half?  Day by day, week by week, month by month, until I had a pretty good idea not only of what was wrong — but also what was right, and what needed fixing right away, and what was allowed to wait.  I learned how to teach myself to be my own instructor.

And now, I have to apply that same set of concepts to the Design Lab, because every day, I have to do something for which I’m not initially suited or trained.  I’m not an engineer, or a software coder, or a designer by training. But I am a pretty competent designer now, and I’m learning to be a fairly competent instructor in design.

But I wasn’t trained to be a tai chi practitioner, either.  Or a magician.  Or a druid.  I trained myself to be those things.  I have to lead my own way forward into places and assuming roles which I never thought I’d take on — engineer, designer, technician, computer programmer, trouble-shooter, scientist, technologist, mathematician.  We’ve come a long way from philosophy, baby.

And I think that’s sort of the point.  My daily practice today doesn’t matter much.  What’s important is that the daily practice has trained me to be more skillful at approaching the world as it is, and trained me to approach the challenges of my day-to-day life in new ways.  Watching myself carefully through tai chi, has given me the patience to understand what to do and how to do it, when the 3D printer misfires, and does this weird thing, printing layers out of whack with one another:

Whistle misprint
our athletic department’s waiting for this…

Well. I get a chance to do things correctly only by engaging in observation, patience, courage, and derring-do.

These things don’t fix themselves.  We fix them.  It is by our actions in the world that the world is re-enchanted, or remade, or redesigned, so that it is filled with objects of greater beauty and elegance.  We are the systems which are corrected first, and then, once we understand how to manage ourselves, that we learn to make changes in the world around us.

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