I must have just emerged from the Dark Ages because I did not know what chi is. It was explained to me as the energy of life that flows through all natural things. A mental image comes to mind of Yoda saying to Luke, “May the Force be with you.” The author of Star Wars was obviously a Taoist.
I just started taking t’ai chi at the Y a couple of weeks ago. I am a retired educator and academic dean. I have taught Shakespeare and Chaucer. I have taught the intricacies of grammar. But I can’t seem to get the basics of t’ai chi. At first, I took it because I was curious. As I read more about it, I learned that research has shown many health benefits, including improving balance, flexibility, muscle strength, sleep quality and cardiovascular fitness in older adults. One of the best benefits is that I am making friends there.
However, last week the instructor, in the middle of the class, asked me to sit down and watch. Yes, sit on the floor, in the corner, big “L” plastered on my forehead (okay, maybe the L is an exaggeration), and watch t’ai chi being performed correctly. When the session was over, she asked me to go online and print out the 24 forms and watch some YouTube videos and study and practice before our next class or I’m history (okay, I added the history part).
I did as I was instructed, pouring over articles online, putting holds on every t’ai chi video I could find in the Virginia Beach library system, and watching several UTube demonstrations. Have you ever tried to follow that woman in the pink pajamas through all those t’ai chi movements? Way too fast. I want one movement at a time presented over and over and over until I learn it before moving on to the next. My knees shook as I walked into the Y this morning.
Today’s class actually went a little better. Our instructor, a lovely, soft-voiced, gentle-spirited Asian woman, admonished us to keep focused and concentrate on the present, to stop having our minds jump from one thing to another. “Quiet your monkey minds,” she said. That phrase is now my mantra. I now know why I have this desperate desire to learn t’ai chi. I want to start each day with a mind free of anxiety and stress, free of thoughts of the past and concerns for the future. I want to learn to be present in the present. I want to quiet my monkey mind. I want to breathe in peace and stillness, fill myself up with enough chi to carry me through the day. I hear you, Yoda.