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Trying New Things: Expanding My Reach

photo credit: Annie Spratt via

Well, I can check that off my bucket list! This post is about my weak attempt at the beautiful

Chinese martial art known as Tai Chi. I DID try. But, Tai Chi and I are not exactly friends. Not really even acquaintances. Yet. There is always tomorrow. And hope... Never give up hope, Friends!

I signed up to take a six-week primer on this ancient art of balance and inner harmony of mind and body. It was being held at a lovely botanic garden close to where I live. With a plethora of ills that often make it hard to move my body during any sort of strenuous exercise, I thought it might be just the sort of gentle movement I could accomplish. That assumption was a misguided underestimation, I assure you. Tai Chi looked so calming and freeing and beautiful when I'd seen it on video and in person. The people all waving themselves gracefully, like summer flowers on erect stalks in a soft grassed meadow. Nope! It is precise. It is measured. It is slow and deliberate and, when done properly, looks like a ballet. It holds specific meaning in each of its ten basic postures and movements, which build upon one another to create the longer forms of beauty I had witnessed. And it even purports to help you live to a gracious old age. This was going to take me quite a while to master!

It started out innocently enough. The instructor was a petite powerhouse of grace and authority. She gave us everything she had in that first session. She was helpful and kind, and tried REALLY hard not to be frustrated with the remedial student in the back of the room. I could follow the breathing instructions and most of the preparatory warm-up exercises just fine. But when it came to producing even the first few of the ten movements? Well, let's just say I became the master's "special" friend. She had me standing right behind her, in front of the class, following along as she performed each subtle position change, imparting meaning for each stroke of the bird and cloud formation.

Friends, I was lost from the start. My brain and I stood in a jumble of images and instructions and did our best. But it was, alas, to no avail. I may yet attempt this again. Sometime. When I'm in need of another bite or two of humble pie. For now, I'll just leave you with this little taste of my time with the elusive art known as Tai Chi - and encourage you to keep trying - whatever form(s) your own art takes!


Tai Chi

I am learning to adopt the horse's stance -

sturdy, sinking into ground, loose-limbed, solid and safe.

I can form clouds and rotate the invisible ball, yin-yang, in my palms.

Drop your shoulders, release the tension, feel peaceful,


I part the horse's mane, stroke the swallow's tail.

I do not punch. Protect! "Huh!"

I walk, heel first, then down, then pivot,

step, plant, repeat, arms outstretched.

We rehearse, again, in detail, the ten basic forms.

I think I reach number four before absolute befuddlement.

But, I persevere next to Master, set before the class,

who all witness my fumbling transgressions in the ways of Chi.

My energies stuck, my arms flailing, my teacher patiently exasperated.

We continue performing something titled "24".

I am not performing.

It is rather like, I imagine, watching Lucy and Ethel

working at the chocolates conveyor.

But for one shining moment at the very end of class, called "closing",

I rein in my sturdy horse, plant one foot beside the other, rest here.

Then face the class who have been staring at my rump

for the last twenty minutes, and declare:

"I'm REALLY good at this move!"

and get an already standing ovation.

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