I became a student of tai chi this summer.
I went to a class near my home, invited by a woman in my Zumba class who heard me express interest. I sensed that tai chi would be good for me: gentle, calming, a counterpoint to the sometimes frantic energy in my exercise world.
My main goal in the first class was to hide in a back row and follow along as inconspicuously as I could. I did not achieve my goal.
Newcomers were put in the middle of multiple rows, surrounded by more experienced participants. We were told this was to ensure we would “always have someone to watch,” but I experienced it more as “someone always watching me.” I attempted to imitate the sequence of movements with about as much success as a babbling baby imitates speech. I may have copied a fragment here and there, but mostly I flailed about, reorienting my body at intervals so as to face in the same direction as others (who had moved about so incomprehensibly, I had no idea how they ended up at any one point).
This was 24 Forms Tai Chi Yang Style, and the only thing I understood was that I could not even see what was going on.
My eyes took in images, but my brain could make no sense of them. The movements passed before I could analyze them, and my body received inadequate instructional messages — too little, too late. A few unique movements caught my attention, perhaps because of an unusual hand posture or lifted leg, but they were quickly gone, and I retained only a vague notion of what I had seen.
I left the class intrigued, excited, embarrassed, willing, curious, compelled, humbled, and relieved to be done. I knew I would return. I also knew I would learn a good deal more than movement sequences.
The first lesson I took home from tai chi was this: I can flail about foolishly, visible to those around me, and still have the dignity of motivation and determination.
I’ll be writing more about tai chi, and I invite you to join me in reflecting on — and loving — scary, humbling experiences!
Questions for Reflection: How has intuition brought you to new opportunities? What experience have you had feeling lost, confused, or foolish when trying something new? What would you like to learn if you were feeling brave?
Writing Prompts: “My first thought upon reading this blog is ______” (then keep writing); “When I feel confused and foolish, I tend to ______” (then keep writing); “This post reminds me of the time I tried ______” (then keep writing); “It would be scary, but I’d really like to learn ______” (then keep writing).