I make slowness happen. Not anyone else. If I want to move slowly, I have to do it. I have to do it one finger, one hand, one wrist, one arm, one elbow, one bicep, one shoulder, one spine vertebra at a time.
Today, I did that. The results were pretty successful. I was able to achieve the right breath work, and I would say I achieved what I’m thinking of as “first slowness”. Not “second slowness” and not “tortoise”, but the first of the low gears. How?
Part of it may be the day. I got a good night’s sleep last night, and I had a very productive day at work yesterday. As a result, it was easy to spring out of bed and get started. Second, I did druidic practice first, and then washed the last of last night’s dishes. The mental break between one activity, druidry, and the other activity, tai chi, is not merely nice — it may be necessary. I think the two practices are complementary and harmonious — but it’s kind of like playing two chords at the same time. You get a mishmash or a cacophony. By introducing a pause between them, the chord progression has a chance to develop between one and the other.
The other process that came into play was moving only one body part at a time. It separated out the form a little bit more than I’m used to. But I found that it was much easier to pay attention to things like balance and hand position and the focus of weight, because I committed to only one movement at a time. Near the end of the form, this broke down.
Third, I concentrated all of my effort in this regard on achieving slowness within the tai chi form. I didn’t do this with my two qi gong forms. I just let those happen as they did, and I didn’t worry about whether they were perfect or not.
So… success. Not perfect success, by any means, but pretty good. Sometimes frontal assault — simply doing the work by the most direct, brute-force method — works pretty well. But I don’t think this is what my tai chi teacher was after, either. For him, the goal was a kind of effortless glide from one posture to another, without challenge or obstacle. This was not that; it was mechanical and rigid instead of fluid; and it was cold instead of hot; and it was fixed instead of mobile.
And I think the takeaway from this is that ego is not a very good driver of the tai chi form. I started this entry by claiming that *I make slowness*, but while that is technically true, I’m not sure that making slowness alone is “good enough”. The fluidity, the grace, and the power, all come from someplace outside the ego — joined to it, to be sure, but not completely part of it — and trying to make tai chi happen, or to call up the chi so that it flows through the form, by sheer willpower … It doesn’t work that way.