health humor meditation T'ai chi trees Zen philosophy

flu symptoms and t’ai chi: to do or not to do?

Another day of feeling out of sorts. Made it to morning class but was showing flu symptoms by 2pm or so. Canceled a meeting to go home and rest. On the way home I felt sorry for myself, thinking, “I feel crappy. This is what I feel at this time of year every year, when the students get sick and then we all get sick and I hate the end of the semester, and I always get sick at Christmas, what a drag it all is, blah blah blah blah blah blah.”

And I thought, “God, are you boring. Shut up. This is today. The only today I’ve got. This is no longer those other years. What if I try the morning routine even though I feel crappy? Maybe my body would feel better. I can always stop and lie down if it doesn’t work out.”

So I did.

First the standing meditation, looking out the window from our son’s room here. Gazing at those colorful leaves gently moving in the wind, it was easy to practice the “fuzzy thinking” of Zen contemplation. With my hips more open from the V stance, the tightness and aches around my lower back faded away. With my mind peaceful and calm, I remembered the many fabulous things that are happening these days, and how lucky we are to be here in this pretty house.View from Max's room Nov 28 2017 Then, the T’ai chi sequence as usual, in the other son’s room with the shades drawn shut. (Master Peng told us to practice it that way. It is very calming.) And as I moved to the sinuous sequence of Yang long style 108, it seemed like my inner torso of organs was loosening up from the grasp of nerves and tension. Being very attuned to my queasy stomach and stuffy head, I observed as the symptoms drifted away. Doing that long twisty sequence, I felt like I was becoming animal-like, agile and fluid. I felt happy. I was smiling. I smiled for several minutes and ended in a state of alert calm.

So I thought I’d describe that to you.

It appears flu symptoms can subside under the impact of what the Chinese call chi or vital energy. It is chi that circulates in the body up the spine. I often look at the kind of strange pictures (below) that Master Peng gave us last summer. One is a Chinese myth of a journey that begins at the bottom of the spine and moves its way up to the head and enlightenment. The chi is symbolized by the ball of white fire at the navel. The goal of Tai chi being to move that ball of white fire up as far as you can while you move.

These pictures inspire me to describe the experience in metaphor instead of science.  If anybody wants to explain to the blog how T’ai chi works scientifically, that is fine with me; please do! (I’m no M.D.; I’ve got a degree in French lit!)

In his wise and funny books, Bob Klein warns practitioners of T’ai chi that everybody will think you’re crazy if you start talking about it. But with all the miserable people I see around the campus and city and country and world, and all the colleagues, neighbors, friends and relatives I have who seem to be getting decrepit, sad, and old before their time, I feel it is urgent to let people know that T’ai chi exists. And it still works, just as it did in Ancient China. I am living proof of it. I feel pretty good tonight!

Charts of chi and spine and organs all attached


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