I’m working on this pair of paintings called, appropriately enough, “Black Pillar” and “White Pillar”. They’re pretty much meditations on geometry, with the White Pillar holding three mandalas or roundels (I like roundel better, actually. It’s a more western word.) The three roundels on White Pillar are they in-yang symbol at the top, a square turned on its point in the middle, and two nested seven-pointed stars at the bottom. White Pillar, as a painting, is about 80% finished.
Last night I began laying out the detailed painting guides on “Black Pillar”. This is the bottom roundel on that pillar, a meditation on the number 8, and as you can see, it’s a pair of nested eight pointed stars (one is actually composed of two inter-locking squares) inside an octagon. It’s a considerable change in geometry from 2, and 3, deceptively simple and yet relying on what one learned from the earlier shapes and geometries. It’s an unfolding, of sorts, as larger numbers reveal much more complex patterns and allow greater interactions and relationships.
What does this have to do with tai chi?
Well, daily practice is an unfolding, of sorts. The natural habit of our minds and bodies is to ossify and tighten up, to reject new things, and to limit the adoption of new concepts or new technologies. I’m neither a painter nor a math teacher, nor a martial artist (once upon a time, I wouldn’t have said I was a magician either, but that title is growing on me).
In any case, what’s going on here is an unfolding. The creaks in my body rarely trouble me past the first two or three movements — I’m not reversing the aging of my body, but I’m slowing it down. Many of the creaks and pops that were ever present when I started, are gone.
Unfolding, in this instance, means breaking out of the shell. Letting the egg hatch. Pinocchio becoming a real, live boy. It’s growing up, in a sense. It’s growing out, in another sense. It’s delving deep, or reaching high… Some Christians use the prayer of Jabez, “O God, increase my territory.” And others remember the prophet Isaiah (I think it’s Isaiah), “enlarge the place of your tents, strengthen your cords, lengthen the stakes in the ground.”
A tent is useful only in potential when it’s stored in the bag. A human too tight in his skin is only partially useful. Or strong. Or happy. Or healthy.
I feel that I’m unfolding, these days.