Relax and breathe. While this guidance would make sense in most of life’s moments, it was particularly valuable to me as I took my first steps in tai chi last April. The world had completely shut down from COVID; I had just left my secure job in corporate brand management, and my savings were crumbling as the stock market was tumbling. Relax and breathe.
Find your center. Tai chi has always been of interest to me—the visual beauty of flowing movement, the unison of community stepping together, the belief that there is balance in all that exists. As a child, I remember having a coin with the yin yang symbol that I kept with me in my velcro wallet because I thought it was cool. Little did I know this symbol would find its way back into my life. As I searched online for an opportunity to learn tai chi, the Tai Chi Foundation (TCF) & School of Tai Chi Chuan came into my Google results with free online videos. Zoom classes were fast becoming normalized and The Human Process, with Patrick and Patrice Wooldridge, was offering a B1 class online. (The Human Process is a Tai Chi Foundation affiliated school in Chicago). I reluctantly jumped in, without knowing a single move of Yang-style tai chi. It was awkward at first as I strained my neck to look at the screen, then look at my feet, then look at my hands and back at the screen. It took time and patience. Luckily, with the world at a standstill, time was all I had and patience was all that was available.
After a few weeks, I realized that my method of learning was beyond unconventional. Tai chi had never been taught by TCF in a virtual environment, as the practice was always intended to be taught live in groups, together, through observation. The beauty of not knowing this allowed me to keep grasping for knowledge through my laptop. I watched Margaret Olmsted’s (MO) Vimeo videos to teach myself B1 (pause, rewind, repeat). I read Master Cheng’s New Method of Tai chi Ch’uan Self-Cultivation and placed masking tape on the ground to create my stepping grid. I participated in the TCF Summer Intensive and began practicing the seasonal qigong movements. Then, I suddenly found myself joining a series of classes: a B1 class with the School of Tai Chi Chuan London, a Fundamentals class with Edna Brandt, a set of B2 private lessons with Patrice, a B3 class with MO. In less than one year, and through a very unconventional method of online learning, I started to find my practice, find my community, Find My Center.
To say that TCF and my tai chi practice has brought me balance is a simple truth, but one with infinite layers. My physical balance is drastically improved and I frequently find myself standing on one leg while doing dishes or watching the sunset. My emotional states are more positive, curious and hopeful for a future that has many unknowns. My work is more in balance with my personal values as I consult with small businesses on their unmet needs related to brand strategy, nutrition, and sustainability. My passion project in nutrition education, My Microgreen Garden, continues to experience balanced and steady growth as we reach more classrooms and communities. My educational pursuits now include Functional Medicine Health Coaching certification to help guide patients in their holistic journey towards balanced health. My spiritual and moral compasses are more balanced towards kindness, gratitude and acceptance of myself and others. Tai chi is the common thread, the golden thread, that has kept me grounded in the Earth as I seek to flourish towards the Heavens.
In my journey to continue learning tai chi, one day, I hope to have the opportunity to share my practice with others as a TCF teacher. I have much to learn and I always will, as this practice will always be about progress over perfection—the substantial and insubstantial. I feel grateful for the community of teachers that have accepted me as their virtual student. I am thankful that I discovered TCF at a major inflection point in life, both for the world and myself. I see a bright and bountiful future where we can all relax, breathe, and find our center.