Go on as you intend to continue. I heard this phrase somewhere (Google suggests it’s a mix-up of a quotation from the great 19th century English preacher Charles H. Spurgeon), and it’s on my mind today. In theory, I’m going to be doing this tai chi thing for a long time, and I should figure out some way of talking about it other than saying, “I did my tai chi today. It was mostly good. Yeah. On to the next thing.”
I did my tai chi today. It was mostly good. I unbalanced quite a bit during the Grab Needle at Sea Bottom, and I thought, “oops, I’m going to fall over.” Can I say, I love having those sonnets to reference now, when I mention a specific place in the tai chi form? I love being able to send you, readers, to a literary reference point that maybe helps you understand what I’m talking about, a little.
But I want to talk about something else today.
Last night I went to a party. It was pretty awesome, really: good live music, great costumes, wonderful people. I made this bear mask, using the design from Wintercroft on card-stock, and then doing Zentangle patterns over and around it. I was recognized almost as soon as I arrived, but nonetheless labeled “Spirit Bear”, which is as good a designation as any (photograph taken at a friend’s house before the party, not at the party).
But, I found myself deeply disconnected from the party experience. I wasn’t having a bad time; I just wasn’t having a great time either. It was as though, having done this hard work of creating the mask, that I was done with the experience of halloween and dress-up and party. Weird.
There’s this nagging sense, when you’re a martial arts practitioner, that you have to go out and knock some sense into the heads of some bad guys, or at least knock heads together. That the practice is somehow a dress rehearsal for a more serious show-down.
Yes, I suppose in one sense that’s true. But in another, very real way, the practice is the real work. The daily commitment to practice, to train, has larger effects and more lasting reach that knowing “I’m ready for a fight.” Making the mask didn’t prepare me for the very different work of being at a party wearing it; training in tai chi will not make me ready for a fight.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s life. A practice — this tai chi practice, or any other practice — is just that: a deliberate effort to do something again and again. But it’s woven into the fabric of everything else we do, whether artistic or abstract, repetitive or unique. Don’t be so attached to one practice, or to a group of them, that you forget to live. I probably could have had a much better time at the party last night, had I recognized the needed shift from “I’m making this costume” to “I’m hear to dance and have a good time.” No practice in the world can prepare you for the challenge, if you don’t recognize the challenge you’re actually facing in the moment.