“Is this right?”
“How about now?”
I asked this from my awkward squat position, while donning a giant grin that just begged for my Qigong instructor’s approval. Jorge Banales laughed and shook his head, ushering over the one other student – with a couple decades more (not just in age but in somatic awareness practice overall) experience to example-set. Ya know, so I could learn the hard stuff. Like how to stand, suck and shove air outta my lungs, and tuck in my ass which seems to wanna poke out like a Brazilian chick’s. “At least they’d like me down at Carnival,” I reasoned internally, comforted by the delusion that I’d be accepted by a group of people whose language I can’t speak fluently. But tonight, they weren’t here. Jorge was. And, bless the poor dear lamb, he was trying his hardest to teach me how to harness the universal life force into my stiffened limbs here at an Occoquan studio.
Starting with my wayward sacral circuit that just couldn’t connect to the Pepco of the cosmos.
(“How about now?! This is definitely it. I can feel it this time…”)
Had he been quizzing me on anything else – how long he’s taught (16 years), where he teaches (Alexandria), what kinda work he’s done (wounded vets), I’d’ve been able to do far better. And, to be fair, I can and do access that force-feeling on a daily basis. Sometimes through yoga or meditation. Sometimes right when I feel like a panic attack’s rising in my chest and I force the energy back down into my legs. Sometimes when a sexy jogger passes me on the trail and it forms a nearly visible lasso, spiraling on out from my clam chakra and into the ether after ’em – after which, I hafta reel it back in like an errant shih-tzu on a leash (“Let’s finish one form of exercise at a time, dear.”)
But, for some reason, adding in all these motions in front of people whose approval I secretly sought made it disappear – like an apparition that only visits when no one’s around. (I don’t have one but I’d really like one. #lonely) And maybe that’s part of the problem – because my current full-time job’s writing, it doesn’t give me that much time to acclimate to being around others (ghosts or not) enough to practice this self-calming-chi-harnessing where you need it most: out in the real world. There was a documentary I saw once on this; they explained how the science behind meeting new people or coming outta isolation (however productive that extended solo-sesh might be) is that there’s this whole preliminary cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters cycling around at top speed around your system like a chemical Kuiper belt when you first initiate convo with others. GossPause: maybe that’s why they call it breaking the ice? ‘cause it’s like breaking through the ice chunks of the K-belt to get to the solary goodness at the center?
However you wanna think of it, we actively work to counteract that is-this-person-a-threat-ness every time we meet someone new. I think that’s why yoga classes are so tough for me. I mean, it’s torture, sat there with new people on their magic rubber carpets – and all this potential conversational energy that you never actually get to act on. Instead, you then spend it being talked at and STFU’ing. Then afterward, everyone’s shuffling out the door quietly, but quickly – like Lucy Liu’s tranquil trot across the board room table in Kill Bill that culminates in her decapitating a dude. I like yoga at home, but something about being part of a large class like that just… isn’t where I’m at right now. I’m sure when I get back into the outside-work-force, that whole quiescence of non-interaction will be far more welcome and relaxing. But for my current-sitch, I realized what it was that I need yesterday evening. That one-on-one interaction with someone like Jorge who doesn’t take life too seriously – willing to joke with us in between movements and hang around after to chat. And also – a huge wakeup reminder that I spend most of my life breathing like I’ve got no lung bottoms – and that my posture looks like Donald Duck after receiving a Dear John letter.
I’d like to say that by the time I left yesterday, I’d gotten the movements all right.
But the truth is, I hadn’t. And, somehow, I felt great about that. Maybe it’s because (despite all the work I need to do to get there), I left feeling like I’d at least gotten the GPS steps for where I’m meant to go and thanks to a living Zen Siri reading the route out loud for me, I was starting out on the right road there. That – the interactive part you don’t always get in large groups – was imperative for me. When you can jest and make spirituality less serious, it breaks the ice, and (for me at least) alleviates some of the tension to allow a self-conscious mind like mine to be a bit more open to direction. The funny thing about that, though, is that much like the hormones synching up in your body just right – I had to meet this experience halfway by being willing to laugh at myself. A few weeks ago before starting this challenge, I’d’ve instead gotten so anxious about how horribly I was doing that I would have failed and gone home feeling like it was a shitty waste of money. And it would’ve been. Because of myself. Not this night, though. ‘cause starting this #30daysofnewthings has made me remember just how funny failure is. It’s a common denominator humanity shares – any of us who’ve strived for anything at least. So we find humor in that. And it’s even funnier when you’re ironically trying to attain tranquility. In fact, revisiting his lesson, it seems like that’s a key theme behind chi (qi?) too – he talks about the energy as an “ebbing and flowing”; a “balloon expanding and contracting”; a “snake coiling and uncoiling”.
And I feel like that key to chi leads to a larger life lesson:
We can always be uplifted by what brings us down.
If we let ourselves.