I rarely perform tai chi in my own driveway. I live in the downtown area of a small city, and I’m aware of the potential for far too many eyes gazing out at me from the shuttered blinds all around me. More than fourteen apartments, and more than twenty-five individuals, have windows that look onto the courtyard between our buildings. It feels unnerving to do tai chi or other work there, and so today was the first time I did so.
I can’t say that it was a great practice. It was all right, but not fantastic. The first time in a new place, though, is never particularly easy. Something always goes not according to plan: today it was spins. I’m not good at performing tai chi on an asphalt surface, and the surface I picked turned out to be not particularly level. A number of broken bits of asphalt also seemed to find their way under sensitive spots on my toes. The turn that I executed put an unusual pressure on my inside right calf, actually, and it hurts a little bit even now.
On the other hand, I feel like I’ve broken through a barrier. I’ve found that performing tai chi in a public place is an invitation to risk. When I started, I found that young people (that I knew) took it as an invitation to engage in playful challenge, and try to knock me over. This was when I worked at at a residential school. I took to practicing indoors because I didn’t want to be challenged in that way, and because I was unwilling to engage in that sort of play with them. When I did get sucked into that sort of game, it usually ended badly for somebody.
So all in all, today feels like a big step forward for me, and a statement that I’m prepared to carry my practice forward into a new arena. I’m not eager to do tai chi outside my apartment again tomorrow, but maybe I will. Starting is sometimes the hardest part of beginning in a new place; and it often gets easier after that.