How Tai Chi Enhances My Life and Work
– interviewed by Instructor Lis
Ann started Tai Chi in 2002 after seeking help for tight muscles. Although her partner had been learning and practising for some time, she didn’t take an interest until nudged along by a visit to Fei Wang, a traditional Chinese medical practitioner.
“I did an introductory lesson but didn’t enrol until later. I went to see Fei Wang for massage therapy because I had very tight shoulders and neck from working at a computer and was starting to get headaches. He told me I should do Tai Chi – so I did. That was really the only reason. Somewhere during my first term, our instructor left.” At the end of Week 8, her instructor retired and moved interstate. “I found this change of instructor disconcerting. However, because I’d enrolled and made the commitment, I stuck with it and have been coming to classes ever since.”
“It’s hard to quantify the difference Tai Chi has made in my life and which changes are due to growing older. Things don’t annoy me as much as they might have done a few years ago. I’ve become more compassionate, I think. Also, I’ve noticed, particularly in the last twelve months, friends whom I haven’t seen for a while will say "Gee, you’re looking well.” Some of this must be due to my regular practice of Tai Chi. I have a general feeling of well-being and I notice if I don’t practise, for example, during the holidays, my body starts to feel stiff and uncomfortable.”
Ann and another member of her Refinement class who lives nearby, meet to practise three times per week at 6am all year round.
“Attending two classes per week is a necessity. It’s too easy to get sloppy. It’s a way of reminding myself that to maintain flexibility and strength and to progress, regular practice is essential. This year I wanted to join a choir. The rehearsals were on Monday night and I thought very hard about giving up my Tai Chi class. Luckily, now I’m able to go to choir on Wednesdays so I can do both.”
In her work as a professional speaker and trainer, Ann applies the disciplines she has learned through her involvement with Tai Chi.
“Tai Chi complements my business by building my ability to operate with intention and attention. The concept of giving attention to specific aspects of the form transfers to other areas. I spend much of my time delivering professional development programs in communication. Giving attention to thinking and language processes is something we need to do more of.
Many people have the idea that attending a talk and listening is enough, that they’ll somehow absorb the concepts and make changes by a sort of osmosis. It doesn’t happen that way. Things like stance and posture need to be worked at. Bodies take time and practice to change. Many people can’t hold their posture comfortably for more than a few seconds, let alone up to half an hour. The Qigong exercises and Quiet Standing train us to feel comfortable and relaxed while standing, comfortable within ourselves. They also train the mind to focus.
In Tai Chi, we have to be mindful of the task at hand, that is, performing the movements. Due to the fast pace of modern life and the increasingly shortening attention span of many people, paying attention to what we are doing for an extended period of time is difficult. We learn this overall awareness and relaxed focus while doing the form.”
Ann has done some of the other courses offered by the Academy. “The Bang (Stick) training is good for my wrists and tendons. I’ve also done the Silk Reeling (Chan Si Gong) but I don’t practise that very much.”
Ann went on the Academy’s trip to China in 2005 .
“It was hugely beneficial as well as a holiday just for me. Three weeks in China being a tourist but with the added sense of purpose behind the visit. I gained insight into the Tai Chi tradition but the best bits were listening to the Masters we met. They talked and demonstrated and we learned some movements but what I remember was how they all emphasised the importance of the “other things”. The Qigong and the joint exercises rather than the form. Not that the form wasn’t important, but it didn’t seem to matter which form. The goal was the same. Flexibility, calmness, relaxation and strength.
I hadn’t ever truly registered that before.”