I did tai chi this morning (after the druidic work) on the lawn outside. The mosquitoes were pretty ferocious. I think I got five or six bug bites. And I was waving my hands around attacking things in the air and on my skin almost as much as I was moving according to the rules of the form. Not ideal, in any sense.
And I think this is part of the point. When you do a practice for a long time, particularly in the same places as I do, at home indoors, you think, “Wow, I’m awesome at this.” But the truth is, I’m really not. When I do tai chi outside, little bits of grass or twigs can be startling when I step on them. Sloping ground can cause me to lose my balance. I’m no great shakes at this yet, in part because I haven’t experienced the full range of things that can go wrong.
And I think that this is important. When you watch a Jackie Chan movie, he uses the whole set and all its props as a set of tools for combat. The chain and the lumber, the tools on the construction site, the beams already in place in the house or office being built — these aren’t set dressing, they’re environment. They are part and parcel of the experience of being in the world, and reacting to it as the world. And I’m not there yet. I am freaked out by little things like a mosquito biting me. This is not good tai chi; this is not relentless patience. This is learning how to move toward relentless patience.
I keep reminding myself: progress, not perfection.