Over lunch I had an appointment with my banker to go over the refinancing of my mortgage. I’m trying to see if I can refinance at a lower interest rate.
He had me sign off on a lot of papers the last one was asking me if I wanted to ‘lock-in’ the current interest rate or ‘float’ for a few days in the hope that the rates would dip lower. It’s a bit of a crap shoot as the market can go up or down at a moment’s notice depending on what’s going on in the country and the world.
When I asked the loan officer what would he do, he quickly brought up a website that he uses to judge the marketplace and interest rates. Although there’s no guarantee, the author advised to ‘Cautiously Float’. Keep track of the market on a daily basis and be ready to lock it in when it starts to turn. I liked that terminology – it implies a realistic optimism.
After work I found myself standing on the flagstone patio in my backyard. I felt a light mist and cool breeze on my face and arms. It had started raining lightly at noon and now was tapering off to hardly anything.
I built this patio 2 years ago (wow, it seems like just last year) and specifically made it big enough so that I could use it to practice Tai Chi & Qi Gong on. These arts place an emphasis on practicing out doors, around trees and in the fresh air. Nature has a calming effect on you and Tai Chi is all about calming and relaxing your mind and body, unifying them as you do one thing at a time.
After returning to work from a few days off, I needed to relax. The chaotic nature of my work has an up side – it encourages me to practice more, so a bad situaiton (work) produces a good situation (practice!).
At work I am constantly pulled in a half dozen different directions. My computer has more windows open than I could possibly hope to use. The irony is that no matter how many windows are open, you can only use one at a time. At home on the patio I only have one job to do, only one window open.
In the opening movement of the form I stand with my hands at my side, fingertips stretching down and resting lightly on the seams of my pants. I pay attention to letting go of the little bit of tension that I use to hold them at my sides. When I do, my arms move forward on their own. This simple movement shows that by relaxing, or doing nothing but letting go, I actually let things happen on their own. I control my movement by not controlling it.
From here I raise my hands shoulder high but not in one movement, rather I try to keep my attention just ahead of my fingertips as I slowly bring them up. If you compare a boxer’s punch to a plane traveling from LA to New York then a Tai Chi movements are like a bus driving across the country. There’s no hurry to get from point ‘A’ to ‘Z’. You just sit back, focus on one simple movement at a time and enjoy the ride.
Breathing slowly and deeply as I go through my routine, I find my mind wondering. Sometimes to work, the ongoing divorce process I’m in the middle of, my son & daughter, my father and on & on. As soon as I take notice, I acknowledge the wandering and bring my attention back to the task at hand. It’s a continuous process – your mind wanders, you notice it and bring it back. It’s a lesson in how easily we’re distracted and how what we think affects how we feel.
When extraneous thoughts rise up, I can feel the tension creep in. After a few minutes where I relax my shoulders and elbows, focus on raising my arms by the fingertips (as though I was a puppet), I can feel my hands warm up. My blood vessels no longer constricted by tense muscles.
Two bright yellow Canary finches alight on the dried out Coneflowers in my garden. They like the seeds and hop from flower to flower picking at them. A few feet away from them a hummingbird buzzes to the feeder I just refilled the day before. My dog Cosmo is lying on the deck snoring . . .
After 40 minutes or so I find my mind and body much more relaxed and calm. Such a simple thing, such profound results. Simplicity itself. In Tai Chi literature you’ll often find reference to ’swimming on land’ because when you move it’s as though you’re swimming through the air. You only use enough strength to push aside the air surrounding you. You are caustiously floating on the air!