TCC from a Beginner's Perspective: Thoughts from a Newbie

A TCC student describes her sudden awareness that “Chi is spreading like rings in water to other aspects of my life.”

 By MSK, Seal Beach, California

To be Present

 One of my close girlfriends asked me why I liked this T’ai Chi Chih so much and what it was all about and it got me thinking. I have never tried any traditional T’ai Chi practices so I wouldn’t know the difference. But I know what I like about T’ai Chi Chih and what got me to going to it in the first place.

 In a world where time can feel like riding a tiger through water and hours just slip through one’s fingers, it's so important to find something that helps you live in the moment and be 100 percent present. I searched and tried many things. I tried a circle group meditation where we stared into a circle of candles, and for 35 minutes I did nothing but think about my back hurting, the itching behind my left knee, and buying milk on my way home. I've tried mindfulness CDs where I sat still and got increasingly stressed about spending 14 minutes listening to the ocean … when I had e-mails to answer.

I also practiced a morning meditation where I lay on my back listening to one quiet song all the way to the end (never longer than 5 minutes), and during that time, I managed to make multiple shopping lists, a list of calls to make that day, and to plan Christmas gifts for years to come.

I tried several relaxation techniques where I often just fell asleep. I tried a few types of yoga where I either mentally beat myself up for not doing a daily practice, or I focused too much on doing the poses properly, until realized it would take years (if not decades) before I could relax into it. So when I saw an advertisement in a local magazine in Seal Beach for TCC I thought, you have nothing to lose my friend. I must say I was very skeptical.

 My first time

I arrived a little early to peek at the intermediate class. Students stood in a circle and pulled taffy. Wow, I thought, I will never learn that; it looks so easy that it must be extremely difficult. But I have never tried any martial art, meditation practice, or anything that is so easy to catch and get into the flow. Suzanne Roady-Ross, our patient and smiling instructor, got us started in no time. Luckily, Suzanne explained that we should not be surprised if we felt energy in our hands while doing the exercises. Otherwise I might have run away and never returned because the feeling of something was there almost immediately – the feeling of polarity between the palms and a tingling in the palms that flowed up through the arms. I was speechless.

 To be or not to be

I did not flee and returned again and again to Suzanne's classes. After five weeks, I joined the more experienced class and followed as best I could through all 19 movements. It was an absolutely amazing experience. My brain simply logged off. For the first time in my life my mind quieted. I followed the others from one movement into the next. No shopping lists, phone calls, or anything else emerged in my mind. I experienced for a short while just being. Then we reached “Daughter on the Mountain Top” and my body needed my brain to coordinate my arms.

 The Future

I'm still a beginner, but I’m now able to do all 19 movements, and I keep being impressed by how easy it is to get in the flow and just be. As Suzanne made me focus more on my legs, I realized I had never really felt my legs. I am often unsure if they are bent or straight when they are supposed to be, but that will slowly come. 

I can feel little glimpses of being and the sudden awareness that Chi is spreading like rings in water to other aspects of my life. I now find that in other meditation forms, being in the moment and feeling joy comes more easily. I believe that TCC will continue giving in body awareness and inner peace and joy. I will definitely be practicing TCC for years to come, and I will continue recommending it to people like me, those who often feel more stressed than relaxed when lying down rather than being through motion.

 Reprinted with permission from the November 2014 issue of the TCC journal, The Vital Force.