Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 431

Problems Stimulate Growth

Note: I originally wrote this in February of 2019. Hope you enjoy it.

I went to the wharf early this morning. It was the first time in a while, due to the snow and cold. This morning was clear and quite beautiful. Mountains showing off in all directions.The wharf is built out into the bay and overtop of the water. As I walked out to our usual place near the far end, my feet slipped a few times. The wharf was covered with some frost. I wanted to enjoy the morning, so I continued to the end. I wasn’t sure how my Tai Chi practice would go – standing, turning, creeping down, kicking – all pose problems of balance when the surface is slippery. That’s when the following thought came to me – “Problems stimulate growth.”

When we are faced with a problem (in this case slippery surface), we can either walk away and do nothing, (problem solved with no growth), or we can work on solving it. This morning, I was in the mood for playing with the 216 Form(108 to both sides), which requires deep concentration to transpose the moves in a new sequence to both sides. So I really had two problems – the other side and the slippery surface.

I started the form, and as I moved from movement number one – Commencement – into Ward Off Left, my right foot slipped a bit. Not enough to throw me off balance, but enough to warn me of the possibility of slip and fall. I know from experience that in order to maintain balance on slippery surfaces, one has to be ever vigilant to place the weight directly over the foot holding the weight, keep it there when stepping until a root is established with the stepping foot, then shift the weight in a slow and steady manner.

This, of course, is how it should always be, yet with the slippery surface, one has to pay closer attention, especially to the bottoms of the feet. On the normal side – the right- I had no problems, But when I moved into the second section on the opposite side – the left – I lost the sequence, as much of my focus was on the bottom of the foot.

The answer to the sequence problem of playing the other side is simple enough – make sure you know the usual side moves so well that you don’t have to concern yourself with what comes next. I certainly can do that, but this morning my focus was divided. It was a good lesson on mindfulness at all times – one thing at one time. Most people pride themselves on multitasking – doing multiple things at the same time. I think it is much more difficult to do one thing at one time. Do your form, set a goal like breathing or center turning or kua gather and release, and notice how long you can remain with just that one focus, or how soon other thoughts pop up. A good lesson. The problem of single focus will help your Tai Chi practice grow, which will benefit all aspects of your life.