Tai Chi Y2D331: Closing in on 2 years

I’ve got 34-ish days before I’ve completed two years of daily tai chi.  It’s a little bit more than a month (especially this month), which is a pretty startling and exciting thing.  I’m trying not to get too worked up about it.

Today’s tai chi was pretty typical.  I wasn’t unbalanced, like Friday, and I did my best to stick to basics. I didn’t do the breathwork part as easily as I did a week or so ago, but it wasn’t bad.  At the same time, I didn’t have that bullet-time awareness that can come when you’re really paying attention.

Which means that, all in all, it was a pretty typical day for tai chi.  No extreme discoveries made, no extreme work done.  Neither a rat-bag-poor sketch of the two qi gong  forms, nor a full-on masterpiece.  Neither a challenging day that upset all conventions, nor a day that was too easy to be believed.  It’s the via media, the middle way of the work: keep working the forms, keep working through the movements, keep trying to do them well… but don’t expect every day to be a blow-out, and don’t phone in the work every day.  You’re going to have both up-days and down-days. You’re going to have a lot of days in the middle.

But my “middling days” now are much better than they were a year ago.  The extreme ends of the scale become more serious, the longer in time I go without a break — a sketchy day doesn’t feel like tai chi at all now, it’s more like waving my arms about while I do some funky dance steps in the kitchen. But likewise, an over-the-top day winds up conveying radical and deep insight into the work.  The middle of the scale, where I’m strongest and most capable, has shifted from, “wow, that wasn’t very long but I’m breathing hard” to “that was about the right length of time, but I should work on my foot placement a little, and maybe focus on breathing more.”

Which is to say, that it’s no longer about getting the muscles and bones and ligaments to be in the right place and doing the right thing, and not exhausting myself in the process.  It’s about increasing attention, and deepening the comprehension of the practice.  These things can be done, and should be.  But they’re a far cry from what I used to do.  Which means, I’ve moved my middle.

Where has your middle moved?

3 comments

  1. Maybe its time to teach Tai Chi as a way to deepen your own observation of your own practice by needing to answer student’s questions?

    Your plan to revisit your previous journal entries sounds like a good idea. We homeopaths keep a journal of the even smallest things that occur throughout the day as we participate in a “proving” (a part of the homeopathic remedy making process where a group of homeopaths take a new remedy and watch what symptoms it produces, to know and record what it will cure.) The journal is only mildly interesting until the end of the proving time when you can see the progression and the themes that have arisen. And it’s even more interesting and educational when you then compare your experience and your journal with that of the others involved (the proving “extraction”.) But I can’t imagine how you’d get that done with your Tai Chi practice, unless you were to begin to teach?

    I’d be pestering you to teach were I anywhere near you. Fortunately, for you, I am ever so far away 😉

  2. I am so impressed with you ability to be so diligent for two whole years! Something in my personality hates regularity and small incremental steps, yet I believe that’s what’s necessary for the kind of progress that you write about. For me, that’s the battleground most of the time; so I am doubly impressed and interested in your posts.

    Many of my teachers have recommended keeping a practice journal for various reasons. I know what I get out of reading your writings, but I’d like to request a post topic (or a comment topic): Now that you have so many posts behind you that you can reflect over a fairly long span of time, I would like to know what you get out of writing your posts?

    • In truth, I don’t get as much as I probably should. As year three begins, assuming I continue, I’ll be going back to read what happened on that day in years one and two, and connecting it to the present… in this way I’ll read my archive and reflect on what was happening.

      But right now, I often feel as if I’m writing for the sake of writing, rather than in order to derive meaning from it. Sort of a bizarre way of looking at it, maybe, but I don’t feel it’s serving me very well, and part of me wants to stop writing about tai chi. Other parts of me want to keep going — but feel like I need some new chops or new katas or new skills to build up so that I have something to write about. In truth, there’s so little change from day to day any more, that it feels like a bit of a cop-out to write every day.

      At the same time, though, writing every day is part of what makes my experience. So it’s an essential component, and to drop it is to drop the whole practice, in a way.

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