Greetings fellow Type A’s. Welcome to the world of frenzy, frenetic activity and futile energy. Take me to your leader, preferably a Type B or C – someone who is calm, serene, enlightened and relaxed. In other words, someone who is the polar opposite to me.
Someone like a Tai Chi instructor. Now THAT is calm. And relaxed. And oh so serene.
I wanted to get me some of that. Yup – meditation in motion; connection with my deep inner self; serenity, bliss and all of that great New Age stuff. So I signed up for Tai Chi classes last January and have been attempting to assimilate this graceful martial art into my psyche.
How’s it going, you ask? Well, if you took your place as a fly on the wall in the first few weeks, this is what you would have observed:
Instructor: OK class, let’s do a warmup before we begin our Tai Chi.
Bette (to myself): Warmup? Warmup? You gotta be kidding. Why would you do a warmup before doing Tai Chi? That’s like taking a nap before you go to bed.
Instructor: You have to move more slowly, Bette. This is not a race.
Bette: I am moving slowly. If I go any slower, I will nod off and fall down. Why can’t you go faster?
Instructor: Be aware of your body. Think about what every part of you is doing.
Bette: I am aware that my stomach is growling and it is hungry. How can I concentrate on Tai Chi when all I can think about is a Big Mac? You know – two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun?
Instructor: Breathe deeply as you move. Inhale down to your belly button, then exhale slowly.
Bette: I am getting dizzy. Besides, I can’t breathe down to my belly button because it pushes my stomach out and I am trying to hold it in – these yoga pants are a little too tight and those Big Macs I have been eating after Tai Chi class are taking their toll.
Instructor: This is a martial art, not a dance. Do your moves as if you are in a slow motion fight – block and punch as if you mean it.
Bette: Now we’re talking! I’m all about blocking and punching – yelling is good too if you can fit that in. But what would a Tai Chi yell sound like? Perhaps like squealing tires rather than the shriek of a vehicular collision?
And so it went. As any self-respecting fly could see, this particular student was having difficulties integrating Tai Chi concepts into her deeply embedded Type A personality. Not to mention the fact that she was practically panting in frustration over the slow pace of learning one move per class. At this speed, Canada Pension would be shelling out monthly payments before I finished the first form.
In spite of my need for speed, I kept going back; something was nudging me to persist. And gradually, gradually it happened. One evening I found myself moving through the first pattern – breathing, drifting, slowly flowing from one move to the next – when I realized that the constant barrage of noise in my head had grown still. The usual cacophony of busy, disconnected thoughts was quiet; the whirlwind of mental dust and debris that typically swirls inside my brain had stopped.
If focused breathing is the gateway to the spirit, then Tai Chi has given me a key. Coupled with the fluid yet powerful movements of the forms, this gentle martial art strengthens my body and my soul. In the process it even slows me down a notch or two. I’ll always be wired as a Type A – but thanks to Tai Chi, perhaps a little less tightly and a bit more serenely. I might even be able to call myself a lower case Type “a” rather than a triple “AAA” (Always Ansy for Action).
Greetings fellow Type a’s. Take me to your Tai Chi instructor – but please hurry it up; I have a lot to learn.