Why I Love Tai Chi. Because It’s S-L-O-W

I’m a slug! It’s not that I’m lazy. I’ve actually been pretty productive in my life. I just love to move slowly. It’s my nature. I come from a lackadaisical lineage. As a child I remember my mother spending afternoons lying on the couch, sun streaming in through golden curtains, arm draped over her forehead, listening to the slow sultry sounds of Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis. (Cue up ”Chances Are”). Those long afternoons always made me feel so good.

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I played sports as a child; soccer, softball and countless neighborhood games. By young adulthood I was no longer interested in aerobic exercise. In college I practiced yoga, which woke me up in a way that I had never experienced before. I felt alive and electric, but the way it was taught, there was still too much effort in the extreme stretching, always pushing the edge. In my late 20’s, I walked into a Tai Chi class. We began by standing quietly for 10 minutes, feet planted in the earth, knees softly bent, belly relaxed, spine dangling from the sky like a string of pearls, shoulders melting downward, heartbeat, breath and mind simultaneously slowing and quieting. That moment I realized I was home. From that instant I was transformed into another dimension . . . the land of S L O W.

Slow feels so good. It’s luscious, pleasurable, and feels like honey flowing through my veins. Moving slowly and deliberately is profoundly relaxing. One movement melts into the next, a silk reeling, cloud floating, Hawaiian wave-bobbing comfort.

There is a scientific reason for that comfortable feeling. According to Peter Wayne, a PhD. and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, who wrote The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, millions of years ago, when we came out of the ocean and walked on the land, we took the ocean inside us. Humans are made up of 70% water. That includes juices both thick and thin, including tears, saliva, blood, synovial fluids, spinal and reproductive fluids. All those juices are slowly sloshing around inside us. The slower you move, the more you relax. When your muscles and joints are loose and supple, you can actually feel your fluid nature sloshing back and forth, and it feels sensational.

Moving slowly changes your perception of time. If you watched our Tai Chi class practicing in the park, it would appear from the outside that we’re moving very slowly. But from the inside, every single moment of our attention is filled up, and a field of awareness spreads  thoroughly throughout our being that we don’t feel like we’re moving slow at all. We just have much more time to put our attention into movement.

Many Olympians and professional athletes now use the technology of slow-motion replays to improve their performances. Golfers, gymnasts, swimmers, everybody’s doing it. Looking at the frame-by-frame images, they’re able to detect when their form or technique is off, and make corrections to improve their game.

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To actually move in slow motion takes more strength and balance than moving quickly. It gives us the ability to check our form second by second with deliberation and care. Practicing slowly makes it easier to move quickly, and move with clarity.

Slowness enables awareness. Moving slowly gives me the opportunity to let my mind relax and expand. I have time. I can gently move between focus of attention and field of awareness. For example, I can use my attention to finesse a detail of a move, feeling the connection of my feet on the ground, or softening the tension in my shoulders. Then there’s field…… aaaahhh, I love the field, when my awareness is spread out more evenly, like peripheral vision, the barriers melt, the mind relaxes and I’m melting into the natural surroundings.

Moving slow isn’t everyones bag, but it’s changed my life. As we age we tend to get creaky and brittle, stiff and rigid. Finding something simple that helps to keep our mind and body supple and elastic, is pleasurable to do, never get’s boring, and encourages personal growth is a very good thing. I invite all of you to take a moment or two, or ten, of your time and slow down your actions, your movements and thoughts and reap the pleasurable benefits that slow has to offer.

 

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