Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tai Chi and Me: A Moving Meditation of Frustration

I hate tai chi, and by hate, I mean I would really like to kick it's slow moving supreme ultimate ass (that's what tai chi means supreme ultimate, sheesh). But since tai chi is a martial art, I know the Queenpin would go down quick so I perservere. And by perservere I mean have tantums and walk out of class. If you aren't sure what tai chi is just think old people, in the park, lined up in formation, moving slow.

Got it?

Let me explain this whole tai chi connection. I am entering my third year of acupuncture school and in acupuncture school tai chi is a course, a graded course, a course with exams where you have to perform your form infront of your class and teacher. When I'm in school we go two nights a week for a grueling hour and a half of torturous tai chi. Tai chi is one of the oldest form of martial arts. It heals the body and the mind. Saying I hate it is really disrespectful and childish. It's like saying I hate Mother Teresa because she asks me to be compassionate. However, tai chi brings out the worst in me.

I was looking up information on tai chi yesterday and came across this quote on Wikipedia:
An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person may find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use tai chi as a martial art. 

That really pissed me off, and made me laugh too. I sent it to my teacher, maybe he would excuse me from class for my uncomfortableness and unhealthiness. No such luck. He just laughed and said it was an excuse. Jeez, he never gives me a break. I'm lucky I don't have one of those cane toting traditional teachers or I would be black and blue from the beatings. My teacher is very patient with me, but doesn't let me quit. 

Can you believe I am talking about that slow moving martial art form? Go watch the video again. Does it look that hard? But it is hard for me. Really hard. Until I read the quote above I blamed it on the way that I feel about my body. She and I get in a fight sometimes. But when I read that quote about "unhealthy or uncomfortable" it really sat with me and made me look at my life. 

Tai Chi is meditative movement. It is about getting grounded and slowing down. It is about letting go and just being.  Can you imagine Don Corleone doing Tai Chi? Hmmmm maybe. He was a quiet and relflective, but how introspective was he? How deep into his soul could he dive when he was a murderer and a Kingpin? I used to meditate, I used to do yoga, but once I got out of the habit I have not been able to get back into either one. 

I am unhealthy. I don't stop to make myself healthy meals, I drink a pot of coffee of day, I smoke a pack of cigarrettes a day, I don't exercise. I think my difficulty with tai chi is my unhealthiness, tied to my uncomfortability with my body. This week after acupuncture school I left thinking I needed to get my shit together. Who wants to go to a smoking acupuncturist, shaking with caffeine overload, jiggling with underused muscles, struggling to take care of herself? 

In my class there are many people that offer help. They tell me that if I fight with tai chi, I will never win. It is about letting go, breathing deep, and being. So I make a joke, because I'm embarrassed by my difficulty and my awkwardness and I try again. Sink low, shift forward, breath...ugh, now what do I do? Shit I forgot. Stamp foot, grind teeth, walk out of class...Walk back in, breath deep, try to not explode into smoker's cough, sink low, shift forward, hands up...pause because I have no idea what I'm doing. Sigh. It's gonna be a long year of tai chi, and an even longer year of me trying to figure out how to take care of myself. 


  1. You know what, though? I always appreciated having you in class because your struggle was genuine, and you weren't afraid of showing that you were struggling. There are many people who do the form thinking that they have their shit altogether because it's perfect, but they have never had to really think about what they're doing. Your form is all the more beautiful because it's organic and you're having to work for it. And WHEN you accomplish it -- because you WILL accomplish it -- you will be so much more satisfied than the others to whom it came too easy.

  2. Thank you so much, Mel. It continues to kick my butt, but I'm working on it!

  3. Hi all...

    Tai chi is a mind-body art used for its therapeutic physical and emotional effects. It has been studied in fibromyalgia and may theoretically be useful in prostatitis. Thanks a lot for sharing with us...