Tai Chi Chuan: The Practice

Though I studied Tai Chi Chuan during graduate school, it wasn't until I was living in Vermont that I was fully captivated by the practice. I remember seeing a group moving together outside on a grassy lawn in Lincoln one morning. At the time I was a mother of a toddler and infant and was completely drawn to the slow, quiet steadiness of the movement - a rhythm that eluded my life at that time. So, I sought out the teacher (Christopher Kiely), started showing up for classes, and have been a committed student ever since.

The benefits of this committed practice permeate my life, much like tossing a stone into still water and watching the concentric circles radiate from the center. Such it is with Tai Chi - the center, the sinking weight below allows for lightness to ripple at the surface above.

And, in a our culture that rewards a certain pace and quality of strength, adopting and adapting to the practice of Tai Chi is continually humbling and revelatory, with its own special treasures that are awarded over time.

POETRY

One of the treasures revealed with Tai Chi practice is an awakening of creative energy. I share below poems that have emerged both from the physical practice of Tai Chi coupled with a deepening understanding of Tai Chi theory and the principles of Daoism. The balance between being a scholar (studying theory) and a warrior (focus on physical practice) is worthy of attention and cultivation. You can read more about this in the Theory section at www.fallingwatertaichi.com.

And now for the poems...

Diplopia

I stay low to the ground under clouds turned to rain
looking for December.

Head bent for clues along the white wooden fence
bordering the broken corn field.

Layers of brown and gray in the first glimpse of light,
and the dull ache of belonging.

Drenched. Maybe ahead by the stream where
I might stand awaiting perfection

in the breath of the water, in the hidden dream
drifting just beyond reach.

I remain unanswered as the sun rises above the horizon
however certain as the crows billowing from tree to tree

and my own breath dissolving in air. The specter of ideals
with each step - weather prevails.

December 2013

Mother of Siddhartha

she was there all along by the side of the river,
retracing her steps upon the narrow path

in the morning, in the evening
with a basket of clothes, a pot of potatoes

disappearing from view beneath the shala tree
where the current gathers in a spiraling pool –

still enough to see his face in her face,
quiet enough to remember, after all

water is water. work gets done.

a clean shirt folded on his bed,
a bowl of soup set upon the table

the final good-bye their first embrace

November 2012
the moon nearly full

every time I pass the flowers

I am up
before the children

these mornings
of late summer

when the silence is raw
and there is no one to claim me.

I sit by the window
and cling to the end of things

- the last sips of tea,
wisps of water rising off the pond

flowers,
my sons as they've been

and in the presence
of what is passing

there is a little death
of me, too, keeping track

of what's been missing,
and how it should be

and from far away
in the stillness of a home

I smile
that I get to know flowers at all.

late August 2012

mountain under earth

in the time it takes
for a body to ripen

in the late summer heat
I have lost

in the blinding light
and capricious winds

bending taught to tender
-lascivious turns luscious
pride softened to pulp

I have lost
at my own games

in the time it takes
for blood to sweeten

I have lost
my belongings

so I belong
where I am

July 2012

a hundred convergences

From the porch
amidst the fluttering of leaves
I overhear the distant sounds of children

- mine, who don't bother with me now
on the couch, in the sun
where I've come for rest and reclamation -

thighs, belly and bosom
bare what was never lost
to begin with

and from the vantage of these fleshy ridges
at the height of May
there is no place to hide -

the frailty of supposition exposed
under the certainty of the sun
that shines upon every part, all at once

and as warmth fills
the forgotten spaces
there is no need to take cover

from the light, in the sun
I am corrected.

May 2012

Ode to Paracelsus

rain again

- I know this rain

the way it repeats itself again
and again

until there is no difference
between then and before

until there is no difference

between the way
the rain knows me

dry, under the roof -
I would wear a hood

and not feel you
on my skin

only the idea of you
I love

only the idea of you
only the idea of you

until

I change my mind
and face up to it -

bend back the hood
and get wet, for once

and once again
- one more time

one more time

the dosage makes the poison

until I'm drenched
in the sublime greening of May

soaked to the bone
where it all starts anyway

- this way to know love
in the rain

in the rain
in the rain

May 2012

yellowed

i.

I know a woman who cries
for old houses left to ruin

cracked windows, dried wood askew
in overgrown lots -

mothers left for dead
too soon, she mourns

for home
to resurrect the walls

that once held back
the wind

and the only arms that could
possibly be safe

ii.

the glass surface of the pond
is broken into circles

as the fish nip for bugs
coasting along the way

there is no place
for resurrection or regret

at the edge of the water
where the white birch bend

in the breeze
from the east

and the forsythia
come out from hiding

for the purpose
of being yellow and spring

April 2012

nil per os

beginnings

I entered into it
for the sake of madness

to see its face
as if for the first time

once and for all

through the swinging door
everywhere I went

there I was
no end of me

until I realized
all deals were off

and my mind came to rest
on the head of a pin

endings

with nothing to grasp
parts began to fade

accretions dissolved
until even my face peeled away

behind which I could see
the original, the masterpiece

God's work
all along

and I could see
through dispassionate eyes

there are no faces, anywhere

and now
I call that sanity

approaching
in retreating darkness

December 2011- January 2012

Still

I walk alone
way past the house, beyond the gates
and return to the field once more.

In the first light, under dense clouds
there are no shadows, no glory

and the future of the universe
in my hands
bears no weight.

I am beckoned here by what it is
that keeps me standing

and I walk
with my eyes upon the familiar --

how the water forgives the rocks in the stream
and wind lets the tall grass bend
and gravity is fair to everything

especially me, it seems
now still
in the field

I return
once more.

December 2011

Ninth month

I think about death
at night
in the dark
by the doorway
when the cat wants in
and I rise from slumber to oblige

it is then
in the deep thicket of quietude
as I gaze up at November's sky
when all particulars fall away
and I don't believe everything I know

and I am small
there in the dark
under the stars

but then
even death falls away
and what is small is suddenly vast

and me again
in the dark
closing a door
to a house
where I live

who am I
but a chance

I am the greatest chance

October-November 2011

Molting

Autumn envelops
- a new skin, pearly white

warding off invaders
from the north

En garde!

as the breath settles
with the evening light

no act of faith too brilliant
against September’s sky

360 Degrees

the loon's perfect pitch
while the ducks nestle at the water's edge

waves chatting and lapping onto the sand
and the mist spreads over like a blanket

Approaching

Hartford from the East and I am lost - thankfully, still.
Unfamiliar signs and I follow the road bending west towards the setting
sun throwing light into my right eye.
Blind spots.
The map lies in pieces on the passenger seat and the best way to see is to
lift my crown as if holding posture.
Moving steadily forward am I ready to act accordingly?