I’ve asserted in the past that three breaths are essential to a good practice. Take three deep breaths before starting any iteration of the form, and the quality of the working will improve. It seems undeniable, really: if you take the time to ground and center, to establish yourself in the moment, you should feel chi coursing through you during your practice — because you took the time to connect to the energy current.
That hasn’t been the case lately. And I’ve been wondering why. Some of it is seasonal. It’s not much fun doing tai chi in the dark and the cold. But some of it is that this is somewhere around day 1300 of daily practice, and I’m bored. Boredom is useful. It’s when we’re bored that new insights emerge, as Christina has pointed out in comments to me more than once. Boredom leads to surprise as Topher has revealed, too. And finding ways to vary the daily practice enough without losing th fitness on the way, that’s critical too, as Robert has pointed out.
When I was in grad school for theological studies, some of my classmates took classes to get ready for priesthood, and they took an actual class called Priestcraft: how to hold a baby during a baptism, how to celebrate Eucharist, how to perform burial rites, how to do a wedding with the rings and the draping of hands, and so on.
It occurred to me that what I need is chi-craft: practice in movement as though I felt the presence of chi, even when I don’t. On the one hand this feels fake. Chi-sense is important. On the other hand, I move differently when I’m full of chi, and aware of it. I move better and more effectively. There’s a clarity and economy of action, a slowness, which comes from chi-filled motion, that doesn’t come from every practice.
Bob, a guy I knew who was very evangelical, told me that Priestcraft class was like that. There was stuff to be done, so he couldn’t be filled with the Holy Sprit or it wouldn’t get done. Or he could remember what the Holy Spirit felt like, and do what needed doing, and save the actual Holy Spirit encounter for later — when he wasn’t trying to get communion to two hundred fifty people.
And I wonder if this will be a bridge or an obstacle for me: can I call on memory and imagination to call up the chi-sense experience during my practice, in order to get a better quality practice, even hours I don’t feel chi in that moment? I tried it today, and it appears to work. Calling the memory of chi into my limbs seems to make my oractice work as if I were genuinely feeling chi at that moment. Yet it’s also one step removed, tsp bears thinking on, and some limited practice, followed by reflection and consideration.