Boxing Day. Or for me, perhaps, shadow-boxing day. Except that every day is shadow-boxing day. Today was particularly good. First of all, my mother joined me for Five Golden Coins. it turns out that it’s nice to have a partner to do the work. You egg each other on, encourage one another like honking geese. It’s only happened two or three times in the last two years that I’ve had a tai chi partner — this was delightful. It also, briefly, gave me a taste of what it would mean to be a tai chi teacher.
Eight Pieces of Silk was…different. I’m down in Florida visiting my parents, and I can remember doing tai chi here on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day a year ago. A year ago I was stiff and tight three days after an awful plane ride. This year, I’m strong.
There’s really no other way to describe it. I mean, last year I felt frail and damaged at this time. I was taking it easy because of a bad hip. This year, I’m muscular in places I’ve never been muscular before. I’m physically strong in unexpected ways. I’m more powerfully built, although certainly not thinner, than last year at this time.
Returning to Eight Pieces of Silk, I can recall that last year I was having difficulty sensing which muscle groups were serving to pull my arms and legs this way and that way. I didn’t actually know how my body worked. At this point, I have a much better sense of which muscle groups and which tendons are active and passive in any given piece of a workout. It’s a fire in the arms and legs, or a mood, or a flow of water, or of chi: and I had this insight during the Eight Pieces of Silk, that doing the same boring exercises again and again have empowered me in unusual ways. I could do more, I could do better, always. Yet even this little, has made me more than I was before.
In that context, I flowed through the form in a much more fluid and graceful way than before. And even though it’s sometimes boring, I take delight and pleasure in the work. It turns out that even ordinary actions, repeated with intention and grace and deliberateness, have wide-ranging consequences.