When I started on my Tai chi journey never did I think I would still be on it twenty years later. I started out trying tai chi at a health club to do something together with my husband and for stress reduction. Over time I fell in love with the movement and sense of accomplishment as I mastered moves and learned different forms.
At first I wanted to know everything. Right Now. No patience with myself or with the way my body moved. I wanted to look like the teacher who glided across the floor as if there was nothing but air beneath his feet. I wanted to move with the grace and ease he had. The harder I tried the clumsier I felt. Finally I gave up trying for perfection and just tried to imagine myself doing the moves gracefully.
I wish someone had told me that it takes time and the light will go on when you least expect it. What a wonderful feeling when you suddenly realize that the posture you have been practicing for a long time has an energy, purpose and flow that you didn’t realize was there. I love lightbulb moments! What I didn’t expect was the length of time between those moments. The plateaus and the frustration.
One day I came across a little poster called Zen Things. It had 12 statements on how to live your life. One of those was “Do one thing at a time”. Right, with my monkey mind, how was that supposed to happen? I want to do the whole form in the spirit of that lightbulb moment.
Then I read Eric Borreson’s blog on Taiji and Plateaus in Learning. Eric explains that the plateaus and lightbulb moments are a necessary part of learning tai chi, and the plateaus are “when the lessons are trained into the body.” This is the yin and the yang of energy and learning.
So persevere, less is more, allow your body to absorb the lessons and put space between those moments. Do your form slowly and deliberately. It will come and when it does, enjoy the lightbulb moments!
Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” – Wu Li
Addendum: Last night one of my students, a women who works with autistic children, shared a story about her lightbulb moment.
She was trying to connect with a child by using a small squeezebox accordion toy. She passed the toy to the child and imitated him with her hands in front of her. As they worked together, breathing in and out, each opening and closing hands in unison, she watched as her student’s breathing slowed and he became calmer. She then realized it was the same movement as Open-Close in Tai Chi for Arthritis form we have been practicing! She now saw the practical application of this Qigong. Lightbulb Moments have a way of showing up in unexpected places.