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February 26, 2021

The Practice that Taught me to be Present with Pain & Discomfort.

Finding Strength and Slaying Dragons

I am the eldest of three daughters.

Growing up, I watched my younger sisters participate and excel in martial arts.

My middle sister was and is extremely skilled and rose in ranks, obtaining a black belt. She competed against grown men at a young age.

I admired and cheered as a spectator.

At this time in my life, I was a spectator, an introspective observer in life in almost every domain, except creative pursuits, and even then, I held my crafts of writing and music close to my heart.

My father encouraged the studying of martial arts. I was the only one to resist.

“I’m not a fighter,” I insisted.

“Darling daughter,” he said, “It isn’t about fighting. It is the very opposite.”

Studying these arts, he said, is about finding your inner strength, resilience, and inner calm.

I miss my father dearly, and every conversation is recorded in my heart.

I can hear him clearly saying, “You can be an artist and gentle and study martial arts.”

My father was wise and gentle, yet strong and resilient, and yet, I challenged and rebuked, often engaging in academic banter.

Those days have long passed, and my life has brought many storms and waves that I have learned to ride.

My father’s voice still remains, and he is always near within my heart.

Two years ago, I joined a local Tai Chi class. During this time, I was transitioning and had a mission to learn new things.

I had a desire to return back to finding the person hidden deep inside me.

I had some blockages—a disconnect between my heart and the rest of my body.

I had forged a fortress, a wall of protection, and this barrier was causing me stress. It manifested as high blood pressure physically and an ache in my body, my “pain body.”

I thought the class would be relaxing; I was a ball of cortisol most days, and needed to de-stress.

I had no idea it was a martial art.

Initially, I admit, I was frustrated and it seemed complicated. I stuck with it, though, as I am fiery and fiercely determined.

To be honest, learning Tai Chi forced me to be present to the pain and discomfort both in my heart and my physical body.

At times, I did want to run.

I stayed with myself, however, and with the class. I was challenged physically, mentally, and spiritually.

The room of male participants initially terrified me. I feared contact. I feared the dismantling of the fortress I created, my protective shield.

I know now that the shield was doing more damage than good.

The practice of Tai Chi allowed the energy to flow and helped to aid and heal the broken parts of my heart.

The art I once opposed, I now embrace.

I feel my father smiling!

Today, I feel most drawn to the staff form.

I am not sure why; I just know I appreciate the way I feel.

The pandemic has been hard. For the past year, I had had no physical contact.

The seven-foot stick used in the form serves as a conduit for connecting to other humans.

The class is diverse and there’s always something new to learn.

The slow movement is meditative and healing.

Through all of this, the practice is helping me to find my own inner and outer strength, while calming my mind.

The inner strength is the wise part of my mind, which challenges the ego to let go.

The critical voice and constant inner chatter is silenced. Going with flow and breath, I return to that original state of “being.” This art is both a physical and mental exercise.

Moving with the flow, I feel the energy move through me and there is a renewal.

Physically, my body is slowly returning to a state of calm, and I find myself standing and sitting taller.

The strength I have, I no longer fear.

I am a physically strong woman.

I can learn to lean into this physical strength, while balancing it all with flow and softness. This is Tai Chi.

I am grateful for the men in the class, for they are the gentlest ones you will find.

The Sifu provides individual feedback and guidance. He shares stories of his own teacher, the passing down of a lineage.

The class is a community.

I continue to ride the waves of life, while learning to battle my own inner demons and slaying the mystical dragons in my head.

Learning new things and doing activities of pleasure is more important now than ever. Finding flow and moving daily is a gift.

I continue to show up. I continue to thank my father for all of his wisdom and love.

Peace.

~

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