My friend Susie and I took a Beginner’s Class of Tai Chi at Callanwolde this past winter. Even though we didn’t have “perfect attendance,” (and I actually never heard if we even passed let alone “aced it”) I am very grateful for the class.
My favorite part was the breathing.
And isn’t that true for most things?
There can be a frantic pace to life that exhausts the spirit as well as the body. This un-Godly pace and “the next thing” feels like a race from the time my foot hits the floor until my day is mercifully done and I’m checking to see how the Red Sox did before closing my eyes.
There are lots of causes I think. (I know this sounds old, but…) One cause is the pace of being in an urban setting. “We are many” here in the metro- Atlanta area. The traffic speaks volumes to the mass of humanity. And I think some of the frantic daily pace can also be attributed to the constantness of information that we are exposed to. It’s too much, really. When do we have time to process it all? When do we have time to settle-in to all that is coming at us? When do we have time to breathe?
And what happens to us if we don’t take the time to process it all? What happens if we don’t take the time to breathe? All of the data is there, but it feels as though it is there without the opportunity to make sense of it.
The first thing we were taught with Tai Chi was to breathe. We were encouraged to pay attention to our posture, especially holding our backs straight (to give our lungs a chance). And early on we were shown the first four movements: raising our hands up, pushing them out, pulling our hands in and then pushing them down. And then be ready to begin again. A circle. An attitude. A holding on and letting go. A release. And back again.
Tai chi has a zone that is amazingly healing. There is a mental / emotional place when I’m doing that beginning, circular exercise that somehow creates a break from the hectic rushing. When I’m in this zone, there is the opportunity to focus and then to refocus. There is a place to remember the feeling of both my feet on the ground, that place of recognizing my balance and centering. There is a place to catch my breath. And Lord knows that these days, that is truly, truly a gift.
It turns out that breath can’t actually be “caught,” but somehow it can be “lost.” It’s my intention to pay better attention these days to the wisdom of those things. It’s my intention to pay better attention to the life of those two truths. Tai chi is one balancing place and I know that there are others. It’s up to me to live these days at a pace that allows for the companioning of grace. It’s up to me to welcome-in the gifts along the way.
Working as a Hospice Chaplain, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.