As a kid my Dad frequently took me to Santa Monica Beach, which I loved. There was a sense of anticipation and excitement as we drove over the hill from the San Fernando Valley to Santa Monica. The air felt and smelled differently. It was cooler and sometimes foggy, but it did not matter because I was at the beach.
At some point during the day, after playing and swimming, I would lay down in the sand. The sounds of the ocean lapping on the shore and the songs of the shore birds, the rays of the sun, and the warm sand enveloping my body would create a sense of being at one. At one with the planet, at one with the universe, at one with myself.
This is how I feel when I practice Tai Chi. Yes. At one.
Students often ask how long it will take to learn Tai Chi. My reply is “a lifetime.” It is vital, almost alluring, to understand that the study of Tai Chi is many things:
- Martial art
- Spiritual practice
- Breath work
- Mind/Body practice
But what keeps someone studying Tai Chi? Often it is thought of as an old person’s exercise because it is so slow. I can understand why that thought is prevalent. Maybe as we age we slow down enough to perceive the subtle nature of the practice. Slowing down, or pacing oneself, can be difficult mentally and physically, but I think the mental aspect is more challenging than the physical. Tai Chi addresses and alleviates that.
There are times when I’m doing Tai Chi that I get a “feeling.” That feeling is what keeps me coming back. I feel time slow down, and, like that feeling I used to get on the beach, I feel connected. It takes time to develop, but along the way you will get all the other benefits of the practice.
When I practice regularly, I feel a sense of well-being, a sense of joy, a sense of vitality. That is what keeps me practicing. And that is why Tai Chi has endured.