Friday, March 7, 2008

Walking Clouds

On Fridays I go to an exercise class where I am the beginner surrounded by people who are on average about 70 years old. There's something good about being in a room of grandparents and great-grandparents. They are at least 2 decades ahead of me. I've learned that my classmates spend time with friends, schedule holidays with children & family, pursue hobbies, and keep a keen eye on their health. Immersed in such a crowd, I am getting a picture of graceful aging.

Yesterday we did a move called "Walking Clouds" where we take a small step to the left and a small step to the right, while circling our arms across the front. Moving hands and feet is challenge enough for this novice, but our Instructor has been training us to breathe in time with the movements as well.

Exhale while moving left. Inhale while moving right...or vice versa. (Like I said, I am a beginner!) Here's what happened: Before I finish the step and the arm circle, my lungs fill up, but I can't exhale until I start the next movement. So I found myself holding my breath until my body caught up. That fixes the problem of exhaling too soon, but creates a lot of discomfort while holding my breath.

When I asked my Instructor about this after class, she said it is very common to have a longer exhale than inhale and that over time my lung capacity would increase and my breathing would even out. Then she told me that to go ahead and pause between breaths...and use it as a moment to rest between movements. Consciously resting is different that making the effort to hold onto a breath that is ready to escape.

I'm always looking for how the gentle movements of tai chi can point me to something going on in my spiritual life. Here's the quote from Richard Rohr that tied this one together for me,

"...we are growing up as we move through the texts (scriptures) and deepen our experience. God does not change, but our readiness for such a God takes a long time to change. Stay with the text and with your inner life with God and your capacity for God will increase and deepen."

With practice and attentiveness, my lung capacity will increase...I will be able to take in more air and rest between breaths. And if I trust in the words of Richard Rohr, with the same kind of practice and attentiveness, my capacity and readiness for God will increase and deepen.

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