Yeah, so, seven days — a week — into my third year of tai chi, and I’m still at it. I almost gave up yesterday. I said to someone earlier this week that you never really know how the Dweller on the Threshold is going to get you until he does. Sometimes it’s illness; sometimes it’s thinking you’ve got an illness; sometimes it’s laziness or tiredness or what have you. I almost got gotten yesterday, but I dragged myself out of my chair at 5:30 or so yesterday afternoon, and did the work. Some days, like yesterday, I just want to give in, and stop, and see what happens. Then the thought passes, and I keep going.
Today I did tai chi without a specific focus on cloud hands. It’s been on my mind the last week, and I’m getting a handle on why I feel like I always rush through it. It’s a very ephemeral movement, appropriate to its name. The movement begins with the weight on the right foot, the body tilted to the right in a plane with the left foot, and the right hand up with the elbow bent, with the left hand pointed down with the arm straight but the wrist crooked. And then… through this weird spiral thing, the positions reverse. The left arm is pointing up and the elbow is bent, the right arm is pointing down with a straight elbow and a crooked wrist, and the weight is on the left foot; the left knee is bent and the right leg is straight. There’s no there, there. There’s virtually nothing to hold onto as an opponent which isn’t in motion, and the result appears to be that it’s difficult for me to slow down and figure out why I always rush through it. Its ephemeral nature is the thing that’s bothering me about it— how do I hold it long enough to fix it, and then let it go?
Maybe I let it go.
When I first started tai chi three years ago, Day 7 was the day I first started wrestling with the challenges of internal and external awareness. The body may be in the right position but the breathwork is wrong; the breathwork may be right but the body is wrong. Maybe it’s neither. Maybe, instead of the body being in exactly the right position, there’s more of a “field of play”, a region where it’s right-ish instead of exactly right. Maybe the breathwork is right-ish most of the time, instead of mostly-wrong, most of the time. Day 7 in Year two was all about reminding myself that when one goes to church on sundays, sometimes one goes for weeks or months without deep spiritual insight, because every day can’t be Easter or Christmas.
So. Cloud Hands isn’t perfect. It never will be. And it’s OK to let go of the idea that I can practice and dissect it to perfection, for now. At some point in the future it will bother me, and I can take it up again. But I’m more likely to find its true rhythm and perfect-ish-ness by continuing with the practice, day in in and day out, until something shifts and its very ephemeralness becomes more concrete. In the meantime, my real focus needs to be on doing the work every day. The tai chi itself will teach me what I must know, and usually at the point when I must know it.