9 October 2012
body, daily practice, discovery, exercise, self care, tai chi, work
This morning I began my tai chi routine, and discovered during the first lower-body movements that I have injured my left knee somehow. I think I banged it during field day on Friday, but it’s also possible I slept on it wrong during the past weekend. Either way, when it came to doing poses like snake creeps down and the pheasant kicks, it was screaming for attention unhappily.
By the end of the three routines it was a little better, but it’s clear I’m going to be nursing it for a few days. The nice bit about tai chi is how the form itself tells me what’s wrong with my body, and gives me a path to correcting it.
The other thing that happened was that my biceps were tight when I woke this morning, it appears that I’ve overdone the ‘snap’ on the return to ready position, and the biceps have gotten to strong. Again, the correction is built-in— remember to do the snap on the punch or push, and not just on the return.
Already, paying attention to these two things, I feel like I’m getting better from whatever injury I sustained. Preventative medicine: gotta love it.
20 April 2012
body, chi, dream, energy, flesh, reality, tai chi, taiji
Today during taiji I had the oddest sensation of finding a different body beneath my skin. Sure, I am not exactly the skinniest guy on the planet. At nearly 300 pounds, and 6’3″, I am not going to wake up one day and find I’m a beanpole of 180 pounds. Not going to happen. Alas.
But. Today during taiji, I had this very strange sensation of knowing how large I’m “supposed” to be. It was as though I had a sense of the size of the body of muscle, bone and organs lurking under the fat deposits and skin. It was as thou my form said, this big. This height, this width, this shape. It was an unnerving feeling.
I thought of this as the inner body. I don’t know if there’s an exact equivalent in Hermetics, or in Taoism, but there was this notion of a body under the skin for the first time in a long while. And my body — not the skin or the fat under the skin, but the body — did the forms today.
Wow, that hurt. First off, I carry myself in the world in certain ways because of this weight I carry with me, it affects how I walk, how I stand, how I dance, how I sleep, how I eat. It makes me hungry for some kinds of foods, and lethargic in other ways. Those habits carry over to my musculature and to my fat and skin. Yet when I move according to the dictates of the inner body, the body within, all that extraneous matter I’m carrying around gets in the way. And the body says, ow… Why are we carrying that, anyway?
When I move from the inner body, though, people notice. It’s hard. God, it’s hard, to move from that body. The pressure of this weight I carry on my abdomen pulls my spine out of alignment, pushes my tailbone out, pulls my head forward, affects how I walk. Standing within the inner body, I I sense how far I have to go so that inner body and outer form match. Yet this is a real glamour… Walk and move from the inner body, even if it’s hurtful, even if it reminds you of how you must go on, and the inner body will gradually become the outer one.
16 April 2012
body, chi, energy, tai chi, taiji
I’m visiting my parents today, and for a variety of reasons I decided to do my daily practice in the small room that used to be my bedroom. My parents’ name for this room is really, “the room that used to be Andrew’s” but really it’s the tv room: the living room is much more formal these days, and this room is for watching movies or whatever. It’s also the room where Mom gives in to her insomnia, reading or writing until she’s tired enough to go back to bed.
This means that the room that used to hold a twin bed and a dresser and a shelf of toys and books now has a couple of large comfortable chairs and a tv rack in it instead. I did the windmill kick perilously close to the tv screen, and I had to back up to do one of the snakes creeping down, or else run into the big blue chair.
If you can’t generate the power of tai chi in a small space, you’ll never be able to do it in a large space. And if you can generate it in a small space, you can learn to generate it in no space, when there’s no maneuvering room at all. My taiji teacher Laddie said that the most powerful martial arts maneuver of all was a proffered handshake and the words, “how do you do? I’m _________,” and he’s right. If you don’t even have that much room, sometimes a smile that comes from your tan tien will have to be enough.
4 April 2012
body, Feet, martial arts, tai chi, taiji, weight
We walk around all day on our feet, but we tend not to think about them very much. They’re in the wrong place on our bodies: the other end from the brain. But in truth, in martial arts as in life, they’re impossible to do without. As much as we might like to think of ourselves as minds rather than bodies, our feet give us access to local motion. Or, as the old joke would have it, “why do flamingoes stand on one leg in the shallow water?”
Because if they lifted up both legs, they’d fall down.
During this morning’s exercise, I concentrated on putting my feet in the right place. A lot of things flow from that. With the feet properly planted, one focuses on sinking weight into them. In tai chi, one foot is almost always floating – touching the ground but not resting on it. The other is the anchor — where the body conjoins with earth, where persona meets reality. A foot that’s properly anchored has toes spread and arch flattens, because one’s full body weight rests on it. That means, of course, that the punches, blocks, kicks and turns have to be generated by other body parts.
The lesson for kids, though, and for us as teachers, is to build good foundations not just of mind and academic capacity, but also body. They’re going to be using this one body for sixty or seventy years. It’s important that they know how to stand on their own two feet.
I found myself using the muscles along my flanks more. I found myself trusting my weight to my feet more. It’s a silly thing, saying “trust your weight to your feet more” but it’s true. Most people walk as though they don’t really trust their bodies to carry them. What else could possibly be carrying them???
5 March 2007
body, head, healing, mind
On the one hand, it was a lovely weekend. I got to hang out with my friend Larry most of Sunday, and my lady got me a massage from one of our favorite massage therapists on Saturday night. Friday, of course, we went to Drum and Dance, which was awesome though we had to leave early. We had a totally awesome time.
On the other hand, my body did a pretty good job of sucking for most of the weekend. By Friday night I started having twinges in my left shoulder, and by Sunday it had degenerated into full-blown agony. When I got up this morning, almost an hour and a half early, I had to wrap my shoulder in a couple of heating pads just to move and get to work. Moving up and down stairs today in the hallways was exhausting. It roiled my shoulder pretty badly, and now I’m back in the same kind of pain I had this morning. It’s painful to sit, to stand, to lie down, to get up, to walk, or to drive. I tried to walk to the post office this afternoon; I could barely get to the street, much less cross.
Yes. I do have an appointment with a chiropractor. Unfortunately it’s tomorrow. In the meantime I’m dosed with ibuprofen and heat pads.
24 August 2005
body, diet, learning, process, seasons
I’ve been doing this diet from the doctor down in White Plains for a while now, and while I’ve not been great about following it, I have noticed some changes. Yesterday I put on a shirt that hasn’t ever really fit me properly. It’s labeled “large”, which means it should be tight on me, and not really comfortable. All that changed yesterday, when I put it on and it was snug where it should have been, and loose where it shouldn’t. I look better and I feel better, too. And these regular outbreaks of pimples on my flesh are slowing down and appearing much less frequently.
The doc said these skin outbreaks were the result of my skin doing its secondary function of flushing waste out of my body. The fact that there are a lot fewer pimples means that there’s a lot less waste inside, and it’s likely less toxic as a result. So far, so good.