Thursday, November 19, 2009

T'ai-Chi Paradise

Sometimes we do things we don't want to do. Drag ourselves to work. Drudge to the gym. Pick up after the dog, clean the fuzz off the back of the toilet seat. Life is full of it. And I'll be honest, last night I didn't even want to go to T'ai-Chi. I wanted to curl up in the ol' Snuggie, pop in a movie and chow down popcorn. But since I hadn't been to class all week and knew I would not have time to go again until after the weekend, I stepped one foot in front of the other and managed to get to the Studio.

It was a multi-level solo form class, where sometimes I am asked to tutor, sometimes we have a lesson, and sometimes we simply practice the form. Last night was one of the latter, and it didn't take long for me to be grateful I had made it out the door. Sure, I could have done the solo form in my living room, but there is something about the group energy generated when you have a group of folks doing the form together that can't be done alone. This energy, coupled with my own need to mentally get away from life and focus on everything and nothing all at once, brought me to a whole new world that, in my experience, can only be realized in a group form.

As I went through the postures with my classmates, each shift and turn was its own focal point. Brought together, these focal points became a mecca of sensations that relax the body and calm the mind in a way no other exercise that I have done can do. I was both alone and among others: content in the journey to nowhere taking place only inside of me all the while sharing the feeling with those around me. When I get to this place, this T'ai-Chi paradise for lack of better way of putting it, there is nothing else. There is no job to hate, no house to clean, nothing to worry about. I have no name, no needs, and no faults. Everything is perfect.

When class is over and I need to step out of that space, into my aging vehicle and back to my messy house, none of that is important. Yes, the brakes need to be fixed. Yes, the dust needs to be wiped from behind the toliet seat. And those things will not go unattended, in fact rather the opposite. T'ai-Chi paradise is with me for all those tasks and other motions of life, bringing a calm to daily living not even Yoga can match.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Women & Spirituality Conference

Last weekend I spent my free time at the Women & Spirituality conference Minnesota State University, Mankato. I was honored with leading a session on Tai Chi Chuan and Meditation, plus being able to partcipate in the rest of the conference. Although this conference is nearly thirty years old, I had never been. So when the opportunity was presented to me through my Tai Chi school to lead a session, I chomped at the bit.

It had the standard conference formula: a key note speaker, workshops, and opportunities to socialize. The key note was an Indian lady who studied global agriculture and spoke on the necessity of keeping our nourishment sacred. She said that women are the "sacred seed keepers," that seeds hold the essence of life within them until conditions are right for growth. She spoke about corporate farming, seed patents, and the impact of corporate farming on third world countries. This topic was new to me, and as she spoke I began to realize that I have less control over what I put in my body than I once thought.

Lunch was an interesting adventure. Minnesota State has partnered with the likes of Taco Bell and Chick Filet for its students, sort of ironic that hundreds of conference goers went from hearing the evils of corporate food to eating Taco Bell! I settled for a special-ordered turkey burger from the burger place which was of little consequence. I sat with two women I had never met named Linda and Emma (or maybe Eloise). They were putting on a workshop on trance dancing. Linda was a small gray haired white lady with horn-rimmed reading glasses wearing a tie-dyed tee shirt. Emma was an overweight cheerful black lady with curly hair. They were very friendly and quite the pair, but could not convince me to try trance dancing.

My session was in the first time slot. I only had four partcipants, but I went with the flow and allowed it to be more conversational than classroomy. We had a relaxing meditation, and they all took to the Cloud Hands posture fairly easily. I was able to make sure they got the attention they needed and the group chemistry was on point. While I was teaching, I found myself being more and more at home in my own skin, like leading these ladies in Cloud Hands was exactly what I was supposed to be doing at that point in time. I lost myself to each moment, peppering our exercise with quotes from the Classics and reminders to tuck hips and drop shoulders. The words flowed from my mouth as naturally as the Mississippi flows south, and I am thankful to have had that experience.

After my session was complete, I was free to indulge in what others had to offer. Of the three I attended, the class called "The Energy Anatomy of Relationships" was by far the most telling and most insightful to my personal situations. I learned about how we slip into survival mode in our adult relationships, residual from our child-parent relationships. We can also end up co-dependent by allowing the person we are in a relationship with to take our energy without ever returning any of theirs. That was a familiar story to me, and I learned that when I offer anything in any relationship, it must come from a place of love and/both wisdom in order to discern the difference between truly supporting the other and being preyed upon.

All in all it was a telling weekend for me. I felt at home, and with friends. It was a conference where words like "chakra" and "aura" are thrown around freely and where nearly every face smiled and said hello, at least. The energy was positive and light and I felt at ease the whole time I was there, and I look forward to going again next year.