When I lived in China I learned tai chi in the upstairs hallway of the administration building at Haikou College. Mr. Lin, my teacher, had seen me fumbling through the movements with the group who practiced early morning on the college campus and told me if I wanted to practice I should learn to do it properly. His exact words, although cloaked in politeness, were along the lines that I looked like a fool out there. So every evening after the college closed, he worked with me. Sometimes we would spend weeks on a single movement before moving on.
As a result, tai chi has become an important part of my life. I haven’t mastered it. Far from it. And I’m undisciplined. Sometimes a few days or even a few weeks pass where I forget to practice, and while the movements come back, there’s a certain awkwardness that wouldn’t be there if I were more consistent, if I did work on them daily. And I still repeat those same 24 synchronistic movements over and over.
Sometimes I think I should buy a DVD and try to expand my repertoire. Or maybe if I drove the 80 miles to Reno, I might be able to find a teacher to help me develop a more complex routine.
But there’s a certain comfort in repetition.
It’s winter on the high desert and the mountains are covered in glistening frost. The sky is gray, roiling with silver clouds. Outside the window four deer graze on the wild rye. I start a fire in the wood stove and stand quietly to practice tai chi. Yogi, the new puppy, tries to jump up on me, and brusquely I push him down. Two cats roll together on the floor, Mr. Darcy biting Little Cat’s ear until she howls.
There’s nothing quiet or calm about it. This, to me, is what meditation is all about. It’s not a chance to escape, to “go somewhere else”, but rather the opportunity to be more present right here, right now with whatever is happening. Fighting cats. Romping puppies. Life.