I am a teacher, researcher and writer and have been so for over twenty-five years during which time I have worked in a number of schools and universities in both England and Australia.
I have long enjoyed physical activity like running, cycling and swimming which I find beneficial from both a physical health point of view and in terms of mental wellbeing. However as I get older – I am 57 now- I am aware that there are limits to how much of these things one can do without injury. In addition, although I like exercise, I am a touch uncoordinated and awkward in my body. My initial motivation for joining a Tai Chi class then was to find a gentler form of physical activity and one in which I might find a better sense of balance with my body. I have also been involved in meditation (in the style of Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Naht Hanh) for many years which is relevant to my involvement in Tai Chi since I approach it with a sense that Tai Chi has a dimension of what we might call ‘meditation in motion’.
I have been attending Tai Chi for over 18 months now and I have learned the basic 108 moves but I know that there is a way to go before I approach the level of grace achieved by Master Ric and the senior students. That said, I do feel that I have gained more surety and confidence in my movements as the months have passed by and I have a confidence that I will continue to grow in that way.
However, perhaps the biggest challenge in Tai Chi for me- and the also the greatest reward – has been mental, that is, in terms of thinking, attitudes and personal qualities.
Tai Chi does not come naturally to me, I have to work at it and much of this effort and my frequent mistakes took place under the eyes of others so that at first I felt under scrutiny as if I had farted at the Queens dinner table. And however much people might say that everyone makes mistakes, or there no mistakes in Tai Chi, it is all a learning process and so forth, that ain’t how it felt. My head can fill with thoughts while I am doing Tai Chi which is a distraction and so I have had to learn to overcome the desire to run away and hide.
I have had to stick with it and trust I would get there (wherever there is, because there is no ‘there’ to get to) in the end. I think then that as much as I have gained an improvement in physical balance – which I have – I have also gained a certain resilience and inner strength of character through perseverance in which, as long as I try my best, then I accept that whatever I do in Tai Chi is OK. And indeed, there are times when I feel relaxed and at ease as if I was in a state of meditation and at least in my mind I can float like a butterfly.