Day 7 – Q7: And what is it like practicing tai chi while traveling around so much?
Reply: The great thing about tai chi is that you can do it anywhere. It’s very portable! You don’t need to go to the gym, have special equipment, or wear a special outfit. All you need is loose, comfortable clothing, a pair of good shoes, and a little bit of space. If need be, you can make adjustments to compensate for cramped space. You can also adjust the practice to fit the physical condition that you’re in. There are so many different ways that you can practice tai chi. It’s very, very flexible in that way. If you can stand, you can do tai chi. My tai chi teacher in Tokyo, Dan Harrington, taught us standing meditation, a basic and integral part of tai chi training.
As a matter of fact, you don’t even need to be able to stand to practice tai chi. Master Wang Yen-nien, whom I studied from in Taiwan, told us that when he was in the trenches fighting the Japanese, he couldn’t very well get up and do a tai chi set, so he’d simply sit and visualize doing the entire form. He also encouraged us to visualize doing the tai chi set as part of our regular practice.
One point to bear in mind is that although tai chi is a form of exercise, it’s more than simple physical exercise. I don’t have time to get into the mystical aspects of tai chi. But one thing I can say is that relaxation is extremely important to tai chi. Actually, the word relaxation isn’t the best word to use. Let me give you an example. One Chinese tai chi master in his 70′s underwent liver transplantation because his liver was damaged from hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is endemic in many parts of Asia, and he had contracted the disease at birth. This was in China, and they normally would not even have given him a new liver because of his advanced age, but as a renowned tai chi master, they made an exception for him. Anyway, while he was hospitalized, he practiced tai chi, not by making any physical moves, but by mentally “sweeping” through his body, inch by inch, feeling for any tension while mentally going over his tai chi set, checking for tense spots, softening and relaxing every part of his body. As a result, he made a quantum leap in the martial arts aspect of tai chi.
Tai chi is such a deep art — and there’s so many ways to practice it! And for me, with my nomadic lifestyle and lack of routine, tai chi has been a real boon. It’s been the one constant in my life, a center that I can return to, anywhere, any time. I don’t know how true this is, but people have told me that Boulder is a place where all one’s spiritual lessons are intensified. Which means that most relationships break down, and couples who move together to Boulder often end up separating. This was what happened to me. My boyfriend and I moved together to Boulder, and then we broke up. That was a blessing in disguise. But then my cat died, and that was not acceptable — not that anyone was asking me!
That too was part of the transition and my life’s lesson, I guess.
Through all the upheavals in my life, I was always able to turn to tai chi for support. Tai chi and writing have been the enduring aspects of my life. Well, my cat used to be, too. Now that she’s gone, I’m tying all three elements together — writing, tai chi, and cat — by putting together an “autobiography” of my cat. And why not? After living in Boulder for several years, I’m sure my brain has been permanently scrambled!
Anyway, it’s in the works, as well as several booklets about some health topics.
INDEX OF PREVIOUS INTERVIEWS
* French Artist, photographer and documentary maker Nourit Masson Sekine tells of her art and healing work using Chi Kung and Eastern Medicine and how they are used differently in France and Japan.
* Shaman and Healer John Iammatteo talks on the many kinds of healings he does and his workshops Tokyo, Japan.
* Basia Lipska, artist and director of the International Yoga Center in Ogikubo, Tokyo on her new website showing her artwork to the world!