I have been attending the Tai Chi classes for the last year and a half (minus the summer months) and to be honest have struggled more than a little right from the beginning. When I first started I found that I had the hardest time with relaxing and slowing things down. To first off transition from move to move without clenching a fist or having my body at attention seemed impossible. It didn’t seem to matter how many times I would say ‘relax, relax, relax…’, my body would not listen. Add to that the concept of slowing down. Life is hectic and I do have a hard time slowing down at the best of times, always thinking about how much ‘stuff’ there is to get done. Even when I feel that I am going extremely slowly, I have found myself way a head of the rest of the class. My favorite form is 18 temple motions; I love the slow movement that allows me to use my breath and to feel the 6 harmonies. So I have had a hard time understanding just why I am struggling with the slow, relax movement of Tai Chi.
The past couple of months I have had a few revelations. I have caught myself feeling what I believe I am supposed to. I have had moments of actually feeling myself slowing down and complete relaxation. So what has changed? It has been a slow process for me but I have figured out that it lies in the proper time and place. I have discovered that a chaotic environment does not work for me at this point. This goes beyond just the place I choose to practice and includes the state I come into that place. Running into the kwoon 5-10min before a class starts or trying to squeeze a repetition in between projects, is not ideal for me. What works better is to come in a little earlier, strolling in with an attitude and feeling of calmness. Second I find slow, soothing music to help me get ‘in the mood’. I have found if I focus on the music my body movements slow down and my shoulders drop. The moment I tune out the music my mind may wander, my shoulders go back up to my ears and speed increases. Thirdly I have found lighting to change how tense my body feels. Florescent or artificial lighting is not really my friend. If light is in the cards, the feel of natural sunshine on my face is of more benefit to me. I have also played with near to or complete darkness. Maybe it’s the lack of light that stimulates my body that it’s almost bed time and time to wind down, but it does seem to help me relax and slow my movements.
So although it has taken me much more time than some, I am slowly feeling progress in my Tai Chi, which I am finding exciting and in turn is making me want to practice more. I would like to send a huge thanks to Sifu Dennis and Sifu Vantuil who have been incredibly patient with me and my questions and who I am sure have had to stifle wincing when watching me on a regular basis. I am definitely a work in progress.