I took my first T’ai Chi Chih class last night. I thought I would take the time over the next six weeks of the class to post about my experience. The pirate was very active when he was younger and he has since had a hip and knee cap replaced and is less active. He has tried yoga, at the Zen Center, which is where I first saw him, in a vague dream of a memory, and also where my friend Anne met him and then later introduced us. But because of his hip replacement there have been many poses he could not do, which can be rather boring particularly if you are not an advanced practitioner and have no idea what to do in the lulls of practice. Whenever Dick has us do a pose I don’t want to do, I run through my own repertoire of poses and do what I want until he does something I want to do.
Many years ago, my dear friend A. went to China and when she returned she tried to teach me T’ai Chi but it is a pretty complicated thing to learn. Then when my daughter was little I found a video disc of T’ai Chi but it was the worst instructional video ever, it literally did not show you how to do it step by step and it was 15 minutes long. Finally on my T’ai Chi adventure I have an acquaintance who does T’ai Chi as a martial art, he suggested I go to his T’ai Chi studio, but it required a few days a week commitment and was pretty pricey, too much for a single mom supporting another adult/child (new word childult? aduild?). When the pirate mentioned he was going to take this class, I jumped at the chance.
T’ai Chi Chih is a shortened version of the martial art variety and is practiced with non violence in mind. Apparently the full version of T’ai Chi is rather complicated and people tend to get stuck around pose 44 or 57. So this has one pose and twenty moves. The website for the organization is here. T’ai Chi Chih It was a pretty small class, just six of us and we learned five moves. The teacher said that we would begin to notice changes in ourselves that others might not notice but we would. This page is dedicated to recording my experience.
After the class I felt immediately more relaxed and a certain level of calm energy. And I can say I slept very soundly and deeply. I woke up once because the cat woke me and I called to my daughter who had left a light on downstairs, and then slept straight through until her alarm went off at 7:00. The really weird thing is, I woke up feeling well rested. I have written ad nausem about the sleep disorder I have, and honestly some mornings I wake up, even with several hours of sleep feeling pretty crappy and groggy. Admittedly both the dog and I have slept like rocks since we returned from the Adirondacks; all that fresh air and hiking does us both in. I have also noticed the pain in my hip is not as bad as it was, but that was yesterday morning too. What I did notice is a feeling in my abdomen, a tightness? a firmness? a groundedness? And when I rolled over instead of thinking about the day, my breathing immediately went into deep consciousness breathing, like in shavasana or Zen meditation. I can also say that whenever I go to any thing new like this, I honestly worry intensely that some how stalker bitch will somehow magically appear (library, Onondaga Park, Clark Reservation, and my daughter’s therapist are all examples when this happened so it is not a far fetched fear) and lately I have had outer circle events happening (ie not me running into her, but people I know running into her and telling me, or not actually seeing her in public but realizing she was at my school, and driving right behind her as I was leaving) so I have had some issues with a recurrence of anxiety around accidentally running into her yet again. But that anxiety was gone while I was doing the T’ai Chi, and after I noted a sense of relief of the absence of anxiety about that. It was wonderful, because even when I meditate sometimes the whole train wreck portion of my life pops in and disturbs my sense of peace. I know I should just let it go, but many teachers say instead you should embrace it, what I am trying to say badly, is that it was gone without me consciously making it gone.
So in a nutshell, a feeling in my gut that is a feeling of being solid(?), an easy turn to deep breathing and consciousness in an place where I usually daydream, a good night’s sleep, less pain in my hip, and a noticeable reduction in anxiety.
And quality time spent with my pirate.
The truth is I am in pain. I spend the entire afternoon in the doctors office, and I am worried I won’t make it to Tai Chi Chih. But I do make it with time to eat a very late lunch in between. It is relaxing in much the same way as yoga or meditation. But I do not see any real difference in the amount of calm that I get from it rather than from these other meditative forms.
All day today I have been in pain, at times literally hobbling, and at others gasping so that my students look up from their work, quiet and listening until I breathe again, are you okay someone says, yep I say, I am fine. I am cranky as I come up the stairs for bed, I accomplished only about half of what I had intended, only half the laundry folded, cat boxes need scooping still, haven’t taken pictures of the piece I am doing for the big reunion, I am frustrated with a number of things and I am irritated, and tired. I don’t want to do Tai Chi Chih, I just want to lay down and sleep. And I hurt, my breasts hurt, my right side hurts radiating down my leg it is so bad. I just want to curl up with a heating pad and rest my eyes. But I do the movements, I suspect most are wrong, but by the time I finish I at least feel less irritated, less hostile, less frustrated. I wonder about it, thinking it is somehow better than yoga, when I am tired sometimes all I do is lay on the yoga mat. When I sit in meditation I feel cold, or pain, but when I do Tai Chi I don’t feel the same pressure of pain. It feels less passive than sitting, it feels less active than yoga, a kind of rhythmic balance that is less punishing. And anyone who has sat for more than a day knows it is brutal, or has done yoga to extreme knows the punishment of the next day. I don’t know that this won’t happen, but I do feel more relaxed. That cannot be a bad thing.
Now I will curl up with the heating pad.
Week 3: I wake on Wednesday exhausted, I do not get up until one hour before my feet need to be at work, I go without make-up, I do not even comb my hair. And I do not care. On Thursday I wake full before the alarm. I get up nearly two hours before I have to be at work, I feel great all day. Someone says to me, you are a ball of energy today, an unusual state of being for me, usually only seen when my skin is brown and I have been able to sleep in for about two weeks straight. Today I am full of energy again, I feel a certain level of inner strength that I cannot explain. I do not even know what to attribute it to. Can it be the T’ai Chi Chih? I am also taking pro-biotics and have been consistent about it, and drinking kombucha nearly every day this week, and the only other thing is this amazing aloe vera juice drink I ate at a local Thai restaurant on Wednesday evening. Like when my friend’s friend did energy work on me, I feel skeptical. But I continue to do it. I actually like it better than yoga.