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November 28, 2013

When She Moves She Flows Like Water. ~ Elisa Malinverni

I have finally found an English speaking Tai Chi teacher in Taipei.

The other day was my first lesson, and I loved it. Like many Asian women that I’ve met, my teacher has an innate gracefulness. Yet a sharp, discriminative mind is reflected in the deep of her eyes.

When she moves, she flows like water.

I was not surprised to experience the positive effect of the slow, subtle movements. My joints felt like butter. My mind—which has been spitting cherry pits of homesickness at me—became completely absorbed with the fluid wave movements.

As we were doing the traditional standing meditation at the end, I found myself wondering if the local (or maybe universal) yoga-as-fitness craze has rubbed off on me lately. Ever since I got here, I have been practicing vigorously, pushing myself towards new physical depths. The fiery side of me likes to fan the flames, to sweat it out.

On the other hand, I can’t help but notice that the (very masculine) form of Hatha Yoga tends to make me hard and unpliable.

That’s way too easy. I cannot blame my achievement mentality on the type of practice, on the local preferences, on the universal physical yoga-craze. Isn’t this what we do all the time, seek an outward cause so we can just be the victim?

Hatha Yoga is not inherently “bad” for me—nor is Tai Chi now the new go-to cure. Thinking along these lines is not going to help me assume the responsibility of being awake and honest with myself. Of course, it is more work to ask yourself every day: “What is it that I need? Soothing or invigorating? Yin or Yang?”

You have to dig for the honest answer and, even more tiresome, decide which one is the appropriate choice.

Is it surprising, then, that we like to avoid the effort of touching base with ourselves? It is so much easier to look away and switch to autopilot by doing what we always do. Perpetuating the pattern. That’s why we tend to go for a default practice, a solid routine, the same eating habits every day, rituals to unwind, ways to react to provocation, to stress, to intimacy etc.

This spares us the trouble of tuning in, of pinpointing how we feel and what this feeling calls for. More often than not, we are disconnected from what is. It’s like treating every kind of ailment with the same medicine (or put some windex on it).

It is a fine balance that we are called to find. In terms of yoga, there is a lot to say for sticking to the same set of practices for a long time, to go vertical instead of horizontal, as my teacher would say.

Only when you go through the same motions over and over, you can actually compare and see the growth taking place over an extended period of time. Perseverance, however, is not to be confused with rigidity. Progressing also includes resting on the side of the road, watching the coming and going and getting some perspective.

It is wise to stick to your practice and not quit when there’s a bump in the road. But it is also wise to be awake and not look away. It takes courage to see what’s there and to know what you need.

Some days, fire needs to burn. Others water needs to flow. A mature practice is to stop and listen and then choose wisely.

 

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Editor: Renee Picard

{photo: Edwin Lee on Flickr Commons}

 

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