Walking is near and dear to me. So much so that I intentionally think about it every day. Ever since I lost, then slowly regained my ability to walk, I don’t take it for granted. I used a cane to aid my ability to walk for fifteen years, until I lost it completely. I’m so fortunate that my body slowly regained walking ability. It took a lot of effort and determination, particularly gaining leg strength and starting to bend my ankles. What was the key for me in this progression? Tai Chi.
When I started Tai Chi on the mid-1990’s, I tried to follow my teacher’s instruction while seated. For over a year, all my Tai Chi was in a chair. Some days I didn’t feel like showing up for class, the sheer effort was hard. I showed up anyway. My teacher said to practice every day and some days I felt too fatigued to practice. I did it anyway, even if for 10 or 15 minutes. All these years later, I see how those minutes paid off. I don’t want to congratulate myself. The longing to feel better, to try to do what I could seemed worth a shot.
When I started teaching Tai Chi I vowed to include walking in all my classes. Many teachers do, because the methodical, slow walking, with feet parallel and hip-width apart, provide a base for increasing stability in standing and helping increase balance. Regardless of who we are and what are starting point is. We focus on the standing leg, rooting it into the ground, which gives centers our body and enhances free range of motion for the other leg. So many students have told me stories about our walking practice improving their balance, their stability and their confidence.
A couple days ago, one of my students sent me a quote that reminded her of our Tai Chi walking that I want to share with you:
“To agree that life’s road is windy and sometimes narrow is easy. But to walk that narrow windy road with its ninety-nine turns takes a particular type of effort. No matter what we engage in, it always comes down to just putting one foot in front of the other, for wholehearted effort is wholehearted action.”
From Deep Hope – Zen Guidance for Staying Steadfast When the World Seems Hopeless, by Diane Eshin Rizzetto.