Every Sunday afternoon when I am in town, I make the trek 35 minutes one way up to Highway 92 in Roswell to take a tai chi class with Jeff Cook, tai chi master extraordinaire.
I’ll be honest with you. I really don’t like driving.
Even on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 when there’s not much traffic, it’s just a toll booth and more stoplights than I would rather be staring at.
I tear myself away from my hammock, my knitting, my beading or reading or yoga practice or whatever hobby I am busily engaged in and make myself do the right thing. Practically every time I get in my car, I wonder what I am thinking.
Then I get to class and the reason why becomes immediately obvious.
No guts, no glory. I go for the guts and the payoff is humongous.
Today, as we were practicing tai chi as per usual, Jeff interrupted the practice to demonstrate the martial arts applications.
Now, I have to admit, when Jeff first started showing me how to fend off an attacker or send someone else flying half way across the room, I was not too happy about it.
I would send him very long emails explaining that I had spent two years in a YWCA support group for battered women and didn’t like feeling reminded of my previous experiences.
As it turns out, Jeff’s class has been God’s gift to me. No other therapy that I have ever done has gone as far at helping me overcome the experience of actually being beaten up.
Today, Jeff was showing what to do if another person has your arm twisted behind your back. Then he taught us what to do if we are pinned to a wall, back to the wall, with an attacker grabbing on to your wrist and arm.
I don’t want to explain to you what to do – that would be giving away a tai chi secret.
And you have to earn your tai chi secrets. You would have to show up and do the practice and when you are ready, Jeff will teach you.
But I will share with you this.
Jeff said, “You don’t get stuck, your mind gets stuck.”
As soon as he made his quiet comment, I knew once again why I spend 1 hour 10 minutes driving both ways every possible Sunday afternoon.
In the immediate context, when you go into a fight with someone, the tendency is to feel trapped by where another person apparently has you pinned.
When we get into a conflict in our lives, our habit is to focus on “the problem.”
But if we stay relaxed, stay in our center, ground ourselves to the earth and learn how to extend our chi, there is no possible way to stay stuck. We can free ourselves in less than a second without hurting anyone.
Now Jeff could have said the same thing to a less thoughtful person and they might not have picked up the depth of his message.
I thought of how this very important thought extends literally to every area of our lives.
For example, just recently, I decided to start taking care of my own kitchen floor.
I don’t mind laundry or vacuuming, toilet cleaning, tub scouring, window washing, trash clearing or dusting, but for some reason had developed a mental block about mopping.
I kept telling myself that I needed to research the best way to mop a floor (now come on – how ridiculous is that?), which only gave me one more excuse to procrastinate, as who ever feels like investigating the latest in mop technology?
Then a friend pointed out that my kitchen is actually so tiny I could just get down on my hands and use a sponge. Big duh!
The first time I did it, the whole process took me a measly five minutes. I could hardly believe how ridiculous it was that I had gotten mentally stuck by something as simple as mopping my own floor.
But we all do that in 100 different areas.
One of my ways of getting out of mental stuck places is this. If I have a problem I want to solve, I make myself write down 20 different possible solutions. Then I muscle test or ask for guidance about which ones will actually work.
Most of what we do in life is frankly a habit.
You have a habit of eating a certain volume of food at each meal. You have a habit of when you go to bed and what time you wake up. You routinely think certain thoughts, drive the same way to work and have a comfort zone of how much money you allow yourself to earn and to save.
Last time I went to tai chi class, Jeff and I were talking about conflict.
“Most tai chi masters are very loving people,” Jeff said at the time. “They say, ‘Let other people do what they want, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.’”
I am a great fan of A Course in Miracles. The course retrains the way you think.
To me, tai chi is like A Course in Miracles without the words. It repatterns your entire nervous system, balances your energy field and teaches you how to stay calm and relaxed no matter what life throws out at you.
Today, as Jeff had me pinned with my back against a wall, his hands on my wrist and arm, he was teaching me how to project my chi so I could throw him off.
I used my yoga training and focused on running the energy down my arm at a high velocity.
“I am projecting my chi,” I said.
“No,” Jeff said, “you’re not. I can feel it if you are.”
I tried again, this time with greater mental focus. Instead of tensing up and trying to use my muscles, I kept my physical body relaxed and finally allowed only my chi to do the work. At last I was able to throw him off.
It was a very satisfying moment for both of us.