Olive Branch, Mississippi. I love that city’s name. It draws me in. I spent last the last seven days there.
Two hundred Tai Chi enthusiasts, teachers and students, gathered for a one-week workshop with Dr. Paul Lam, to study and “play” Tai Chi. Journeys started as close as Memphis and as far as California, Oregon, Hawaii, Vermont, Florida, England, Scotland, Austria and Australia. With a variety of backgrounds, ages, states of physical health, sizes and shapes, all of us had a common thread and love — Tai Chi.
In advance of the week, each of us selected a particular form that we wanted to study and focus on the entire week. Pat from Florida and Guy from New York, team-taught our class. They are Master Trainers for Dr. Lam and have years of Tai Chi and Kung Fu experience, both having been in competitions. Their love is Tai Chi and teaching it for health. We learned new moves and practiced four hours a day, sometimes more. After class, many practiced in hallways, outside, in open classrooms, all on our own time. It was obvious that everybody wanted to learn, wanted to understand the underlying principles and wanted to use Tai Chi as a tool to promote healthy lives, and for teachers, to pass it on to their students.
Given the concentration of study and practice, it was far from a type-A atmosphere. There were breaks for tea and snacks. We drank plenty of water. Students sat down if they needed to rest. Still echoing in my mind are my teachers’ frequent suggestions – “relax”. “do only what you can”. “nothing should hurt”. “don’t worry about the details — they will come later”.
As the week progressed and we became more confident with the movements and their sequence, there was less talk in class. We started to flow forward, backward as we shifted our weight. We moved less as individuals and more as a group. There was focus and there was silence. The flow and the silence helped us relax. The relaxation helped us with focus and flow. The flowing energy was more than a group of individuals; it was bigger than the individual parts. Our group energy filled the room.
Those moments of silence, focusing only on where we were in the present were key to feeling relaxed and fulfilled. It seems that each of us needs to find those moments.