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How My First Tai Chi Class Led To My First Tai Chi Lesson

by Judy Stone-Goldman on September 4, 2014

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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).


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Liz Gow September 4, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Oh Judy, loved your blog. I had the giggles and such an awe for your courage. I loved this so much “I can flail about foolishly, visible to those around me, and still have the dignity of motivation and determination.” The times we stop ourselves being a beginner and yet when we continue look at what can be achieved. Thanks for the inspiration. x

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
September 5, 2014 at 6:19 am

Dear Liz, I believe we both could use plenty of opportunities to “flail about foolishly” – and I said that fondly! There’s something so liberating about allowing that complete beginner state. I’m not sure what makes us believe we shouldn’t or can’t allow that state, but it’s a true gift. Here’s to more joyous flailing!

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Kathy Gabriel September 5, 2014 at 5:08 am

Judy … glad you made it through to the end of the class. Tai Chi is also on my list, though I am familiar with some basics. Don’t over-think it, just do it … soon you’ll be flowing into forms! 🙂

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
September 5, 2014 at 6:21 am

Thanks, Kathy. I can say with great satisfaction that I am now able to make it through the forms, though I’m not sure I’m flowing yet! I’m looking forward to continuing to write about tai chi, but it’s definitely not a thinker’s realm. That’s the beauty — movement, breath, internal alignment, and not a lot of mental chatter!

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Carla September 10, 2014 at 12:34 pm

I saw this post last week, but waited until I could read it on the big screen…not the tiny phone screen. It was as if you’d dropped an “awareness memory” (if there is such a thing) out of that beautiful sky (photo). I am rarely/never drawn to physical activities, though I admire and watch (TV) athletes consistently. I admire my healthier friends who exercise consistently – and inconsistently. However, every time I have seen a person doing/practicing Tai Chi in a park or on TV, I have been drawn to it. I remember when one of my dearest friends started taking Tai Chi in her 80’s. She loved it. Of course she also loved learning different kinds of “international” dances. I feel the pull……thanks for prompting my awareness.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
September 11, 2014 at 9:25 pm

Carla, I would be so pleased if my experience – and my blog post about it – became part of a tai chi discovery for you. I was drawn to it by instinct, and my instinct was correct. It is very meaningful to me and is enriching my life. Just today I was talking to someone about a challenge and I found myself using the example of a particular tai chi form to illustrate my point. The people in my class (nearly all of whom are Chinese) love to talk about all the old people who keep doing tai chi until very late in life, and how it is so good for health. I can tell you it’s very good for spirit as well, and I haven’t had to do it a long time before recognizing that. Feel free to ask about it any time. I’ll also be writing more about.

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