Moving meditation . . .
About twenty five years ago, and with baby son in stroller, my father and I were walking around the local shops in Melbourne when we came across an ad for Tai Chi classes. My Father was always a Sino-phile, absorbed with Asian culture, learning to speak and write Mandarin himself and Careers and Appointments Officer at my former tertiary establishment, where he and my mother took many overseas students from Asia under their wing. Dad said, ‘You should do that course.’
And I did.
The Australian Academy of Tai Chi met in a hall, under the tutelage of Robyn who was a wonderful teacher. It was a big class and in summer we would meet in the parks and gardens in Melbourne’s bayside suburbs. Quite honestly there was nothing like being part of a large group of people completing a form in unison. Whether it was a communal air of calm, or the beauty of the movements in which Robyn led us, one’s breathing slowed and one became fluid and supple. I studied with Robyn for the last seven years of our time in Melbourne, moving through all the levels to the wonderful Tai Chi swords. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxhAjv3YneM&feature=related] We greenhorns only had wooden swords (Robyn’s was the real deal with a massive red tassel that performed its own dance as she led us through the form) but my parents had bought me a small red tassel in Guelin and it had a jade bead and a carved walnut shell of a small scene threaded behind it. It went onto my sword hilt. I still have the sword and occasionally bring it out and attempt to remember the form, but after living back in Tasmania for 17 years, I have never found anyone who performs and teaches the sword and have forgotten a large part of it.
Not so Tai Chi though. The most wonderful Malaysian elder, Teck Yong, ran a weekend class of Tai Chi on the east coast about 16 years ago and I learned a new shortened form which I do almost every night. No matter the level of stress or relaxation one might be feeling, the opening movements are enough to slow one’s breathing, to open up the breadth of one’s chest to drop one’s shoulders. And I love the names of the movements: Fly like a Dove, Dancing with the Rainbow, and many others. But my favourite is Cloud Hands and even on its own has the capacity to slow me down, both with its visual power and its physical effort (or lack of it). Its not hard to see where the movie title Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came from.
The next level after swords in my old learning days was Tai Chi Fans and I remember Robyn doing an exhibition once . . . it was stunning: the loud ‘flack’ as the fan was flicked open, the slow elegance of the form. I always thought ‘that’s what I want to learn next’, but of course we left Melbourne. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5RzZC0aB6I]
But this last weekend I saw an advertisement for an Adult education course in Tai Chi Fans and I was enthralled and as soon as I have time, I shall enrol.