During this morning’s first set of movements in the first qi gong form, there was a sudden, loud pop from my right ankle and calf. The pop was a sound similar to popping a knuckle in the hand when one cracks one’s fingers; but far, far louder. It was so loud that I stopped what I was doing in surprise, wondering if I’d hurt myself — if I was about to fall over in pain.
It was the fourth movement of the first posture — uniting heaven and earth — in Five Golden Coins, and I briefly believed I’d done something drastically wrong.
A brief self-assessment revealed that not only had I not done anything wrong, but that the popped ankle and calf were now right. The place where the body-challenge was, was now in the left leg rather than the right leg. That’s where the stiffness and soreness and mysterious aches were — in the ankle and calf that hadn’t popped yet.
Meanwhile, the right leg had suddenly acquired all sorts of miraculous powers — the Three Nails, the three spots on the foot where the foot should contact the ground or floor, were suddenly in contact with the floor, but in a strangely flexible way. When I did tai chi before this, it often felt as though my foot were gliding above the floor, instead of actually touching it. Suddenly, I had contact with the floor. I wasn’t going to float away, or fall over, or get pushed over. It didn’t matter from that point on if I was twisting or turning or stretching forward or back or squatting — all moves were similarly powerful, and similarly empowering because I had contact with the floor (in one leg, at least!)
How strange that a cracked or popped joint should be the cause of such a renewed sense of power?
It got better. By the time I finished working through the two qi gong forms, and started the tai chi form, it was clear that something was very different. Very different indeed. For weeks I’ve been complaining about speed, and specifically about the problem of slowness. You can actually find it all the way back in the archive to week two of year one. Hmmm.
Not today. No complaints today.
Somehow, the surprise of the ankle pop unlocked the awareness of how to separate the breath cycle from the movement cycle. The breath was doing one thing. The body moved on its own rhythm. The two rhythms were entirely separate one from another — well, not really. That’s the odd thing. They were the same rhythm, but two different cycles or sequences tucked inside a larger rhythm. This rhythm for breath, and that rhythm for movement.
The form wound up taking about 25 minutes. No artificial slowness, no standing in one posture for long periods of time. Just one, long, single, continuous movement of the form, from beginning to end, no breaks or interruptions and certainly no more sense of damaged body parts.
No… it’s almost like something was healed that I didn’t know was damaged.