This week I was writing the chapter in my book about my very first Tai Chi class. Spring of 1996. I so easily can go back to that time, that day when I walked slowly, gingerly, cane in hand, into a totally foreign situation — a room full of seniors who had been together in class for many months.
I quickly scan and size up the group — short, tall, limber, stiff. There are 15 women and one man, moving to stand in the center of the room. All are older than I am, some at least 40 years older. Class is about to start. The teacher walks into the room, comes towards me and welcomes me with a smile. I ask if I can sit in one of the gray, metal folding chairs. Without hesitation, the teacher says “yes”. So, I sit in the right back corner of the room, telling myself to stay open and try to follow what I can.
We start to breathe, following the inhale/exhale instruction from the teacher. “Now inhale while raising your arms straight out in, up to chest level, bringing your forearms toward you, palms of facing each other, fingers pointing upward. Like you are holding a ball, a ball that is lightweight and filled with molecules constantly in motion,” the teacher explains. I scoot myself to the front edge of the chair, not sure where to look. I decide to focus on the empty space between my hands.
In and out with my breath and with my hands, barely moving. Time disappears. I am concentrating only on the ball. I like this energy ball that the teacher says can help improve balance. I certainly need that.
As class continues, students practice walking, slowly and methodically, paying attention to each little weight shift. I have to use the wall as a prop. It doesn’t take me long to realize that my balance is the worst in the room.
Class ends and I am waiting for the bus to go home, I reflect on the experience. Everyone was friendly and kind. Nothing was familiar. I felt a little down because I couldn’t do much.
By the time I get home my attitude reverses. Rather than dwelling on what I can’t do, I decide that I want to be like those seniors when I am their age — vibrant and full of energy. That’s something to work for now and for my future.
Reflecting on this right now, twenty years later, I am so grateful that I took a risk and continued, that I decided to forge ahead with Tai Chi when I didn’t understand what it was, nor what it might do. That first class was very uncomfortable for me. Despite that, I returned.
I learned that there are times to jump in and try, even with out having sufficient information, even when it feels uncomfortable. That was one of those times and it ended up changing my life.