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Clear Water

Do you have the patience to wait till the mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself? - Lao-Tzu (trans. S. Mitchell) My understanding of tai chi, how it benefits us, how to teach it, and how to practice it has evolved over the years since I was first a student in 1975. As a young man I wanted a martial art for self defense – not that I ever expected to need or use it, but, you know, just in case. That evolved into something I would do with my friends, then something I felt I might be reasonably good at, then something I could teach as a way of being helpful to other people. During times of sickness and injury, I realized how important it is for regaining my health. As I have grown older, I now appreciate that I remain healthy, with reasonable endurance, nimbleness, and mental clarity – all very handy as a nearly 69 y.o. man with a 14 y.o. daughter. Along with the meditation I have done, I have come to another appreciation of tai chi. It helps cultivate an ability to enter the space between thoughts, where my mind is naturally quiet, present, and undistracted by worries, concerns, regrets from the past, fears about the future, and so on. Over the past couple of years our in-person classes have become increasingly quiet, with fewer words spoken. We are finding that often the less we say the more easily our students learn. Even better, they (and we) find it much more peaceful and restorative. It is a most welcome break from the barrage of mental information we process daily, and which often distracts us from how we feel, from our ability to relax, from our ability to gain perspective, and from enjoying the ones we are with. As I practice on my front porch each morning, I see my neighbors walking past. One father walks with his two young boys, holding their hands while they happily skip along singing and chattering with him. Many others are looking at their phones or listening to ear buds. They are missing the interaction with their kids and with the people they pass, the sound of the birds and the breeze rustling the leaves. In short, their mind is somewhere else. The events of the past couple of months have been revealing. My livelihood as an acupuncturist and tai chi teacher has temporarily halted. We are fortunate to have enough savings to get by for a while. Like many, we’ll reign in our spending. We’ll be fine. When we first started social distancing I felt a need to find some way to continue teaching, even though I cannot do so in person. I wanted to maintain the connection with my friends, the continuity with our students, to continue earning what income might be possible by teaching, and to maintain my sense of purpose and usefulness in the world. I considered several ways to teach online and tried some. While they are useful, I miss the in-person interaction sufficiently that for now I am stepping back from teaching online classes. I have given myself permission to simply relax into the present situation and wait patiently for conditions more conducive to sharing what I love about tai chi. I have been and will continue to participate in daily quiet morning tai chi on Zoom. This community practice is done with very few words. The peacefulness that arises is a wonderful way to start each day. If you have studied tai chi in the past, come and join us. (Email for a link.) If you haven’t studied tai chi or you want classes with instruction, there are some very good opportunities to learn online. Here is a list from the Tai Chi Foundation. May we all allow ourselves to relax with a peaceful mind into what is happening. May this be an opportunity to pull back from the things we feel compelled to do. To see how inseparable our well-being is from the well-being of all others on the planet. To see what is essential. To see what remains when the mud settles and the water is clear.

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