I started going to a tai chi class once a week during my month off in April.
It came out of a recommendation from a supervisor at the agency where I intern. We were talking about the fear and anxiety that I encounter in work and interpersonal contexts. She strongly suggested finding a body-based practice that can translate into some helpful practice philosophy for work situations.
Then she gave me a gift certificate that she had won for 4 tai chi lessons. “I take way more classes than that, so I don’t need it,” she told me.
So I went. Just to see what it’s like. And I know that I’m badly out of shape sitting in front of the computer or crocheting all the time.
After the first class, I decided to call it “air-bending”, because of the slow, subtle movements that the body makes, as if flowing with air. Also, because it reminds me of my sister, who’s a big fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
I wasn’t really “getting it” for the first three classes. I was thinking that maybe it’s not for me. I’m just too uncoordinated. I wanted my body to move in the way that was demonstrated by the instructor, but I don’t know how to get it to move in that precise way.
The instructor was very nice. She came over to give me individual help every class. And in my third class, while doing this “ward off” movement, where the body kind of leans forward and the arms cross to press against an invisible intruder made of air, like so…
… the instructor observed how I was doing it and said,
“You’re leaning too much forward. Don’t lean too much, know where your centre is.”
What she said touched something that was really important for me. I knew it was important because my mind blanked out for a moment and was only able to repeat those words.
Don’t lean too much, know where your centre is.
Isn’t that what I do every time I feel afraid? I lean into it. Completely into it. And I work myself up to become even more anxious, and I tell myself that I can’t finish the task. I can’t handle the situation. I can’t do it. I’m too anxious.
But what if I don’t lean into that fear, and I try to find this core place where I can believe that I can face challenges and other scary things with steadiness, knowing that I have some skills, some knowledge that will help me.
The fear makes me forget that I have skills.
I realize that I’m sick of telling myself that I can’t. I can’t because I get too anxious. I can’t because I don’t handle stress very well. I can’t because it’s too much work and it’s going to stress me out and increase my anxiety level and compromise my mental health. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.
But I can. Because I’ve done it. Every time a goal is reached, every time a deadline is met, every time a dream is fulfilled. And, having been in school for quite a few years, I’ve had many goals and deadlines. And because of school, some of my biggest dreams have also been fulfilled.
My supervisor spoke with me about not letting negativities live rent-free in my head.
“You have to evict them, and you have to grow that place that cannot be wounded. Can you find that place inside you that cannot be wounded?”
The place that cannot be wounded, for me, is the spirit that God has created in me, and that, I think, is my centre, the core place that has the strength to pull me back from leaning too much into fear and self-doubt.
Ah, heavy topic on a Friday. But something that I felt I needed to sort out by writing it down.
Have a good weekend!