This morning I woke just a bit before 5am. I found a quiet part of the house, and did tai chi for a half-hour. But my practice was different than it has been.
I was happy.
It occurred to me over the weekend that tai chi has not made me happy in a while. I’ve seen it as work, as a daily challenge or obstacle, something to do and get over with so that I can get on with my day.
The last four days, I’ve been ‘living the tai chi way’. It changed how I ate, how I worked out, how I communicated with people, how I did my form (usually in a short form just as I woke up; then in a longer form later in the day, after breakfast; and then qi gong in static or dynamic forms several times during the day). I felt better, I stood better, I thought better, and I acted better. I was taking a tour through the mindset and action-poise of my best self, the version of me that I could be.
And people noticed. People followed me to chi classes. They attended. Instructors noticed. Even when I was struggling with yoga poses (because sometimes it’s the process of getting to the posture that matters, as in tai chi; and sometimes it’s the posture, as in yoga… and doing both is necessary). All of the classes at this place are ranked I, II, or III … or *. The I classes are for complete beginners; the II classes are for people practicing once a week; the III is for people practicing daily; and the * is for anyone at all. All of the chi work classes are marked *… but for most people there, I think I was the first person anyone had seen who was a III in qi gong, who wasn’t an instructor there. There are a lot of yoga practitioners in these classes, I’s and II’s and III’s, and they’re amazing. But most of the other guests hadn’t ever seen a daily qi gong practitioner who wasn’t someone teaching them. And I think they were a little amazed.
Even as I became amazed.
Because I was getting reconnected to my source identity. I mean, this is the place where I started tai chi. This is the place where my experience with tai chi began. I learned my form later, but this is the place where I learned that tai chi could be my thing. And it mattered.
So let me recount my practice today, my first on my own away from this retreat. My breathwork was excellent, with a great combination of natural breath and reverse-breath (where one breathes in with a tight abdomen, and breathes out with an expanded abdomen). My footwork was a little on the poor side —too many times, I had my feet in line with one another front-to-back; I need to work on widening my stance. My core work was ok; I need to spend a little more time working on my right side, and it would be good to learn more of the left-side versions of my postures. My upper body work was great: I was able to move my body as if through water during the whole form, rather than just beginning to end. Did I get in some work connected to the six rotations of the spine? Yes, I think I managed that, though not to the extent that yoga manages it. Good internal energy, some internal heat, some sweat? Yes to that, too. My timing was about right; the form took me twenty-one minutes from beginning to end. I followed with four of Doctor Yang’s poses: two static ones, the wu chi posture and the san ti posture; and two dynamic ones, the grand opening and washing organs. I did those for about three minutes each, and my whole practice took me about half an hour. And I concluded with the belly rubs and the kidney rubs that are called “closing the doors of the temple.”
But most of all, I was happy. This wasn’t work, this is was fun. This was joy. This was awakening the body to the splendors of the day. And while it’s taken me a long, looping round to get here to this viewpoint in this time and place… this is what awakened me to tai chi in the first place, the idea that the movements of qi gong connect us to the reality of all that is.
Today, most of all, I feel connected.