T’ai chi and emotional pain


When I’m out in the world, my reflex is to shove grief into a bundle and push it aside, and try to act as if I don’t feel it.

It’s always surprising how much energy that actually takes. When I’m doing anything else that takes much effort, it’s nearly impossible. It makes me forgetful and clumsy, just like a pain flare.

When I was at t’ai chi class yesterday, shoving and pushing one way with my mind while I was shoving and pushing another way with my body was so exhausting that I was wringing wet with sweat. Then I remembered something I’d tried briefly before, and decided to try it for the rest of the class.

I mentally drew the grief into my whole body. The grief turned to sadness and stretched out into every muscle fiber, every moving part. And I did t’ai chi with a body that was swarming with sadness.

It was, above all, peaceful.

I certainly wasn’t as tired. The sweat vanished as if by magic. I don’t even remember it drying on me.

The important thing is, I wasn’t expressing sadness in any deliberate way. I didn’t move more slowly, or try for any effect. I moved more deliberately and with better focus, because I was integrated. My body was filled with sadness, and I moved that body through the t’ai chi form.

The point of t’ai chi is to clear things up, straighten out what needs straightening, and separate muddled body parts and muddled energies into their proper alignments. Therefore, the sadness got a heck of a massage, and by the end of class, it was like it had been processed into something more wholesome. There wasn’t nearly as much sadness, as such. There was a lot more peace. There was a sense of strength I can’t put a name to.

I must add, as a footnote, that it’s been a long time since my feelings were capable of unshadowed joy. I have learned to cultivate a certain shallowness of mind at times, so I can be insulated from the deeps and be simply happy in the moment.

Therefore, when I say that I was happy as I left class, understand that it was a deep happiness. The shadows were very much a part of it, but that was fine. They were in the right place.

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2 Replies to “T’ai chi and emotional pain”

  1. I’m just catching up with your blog, Isy – reading the whole of July so far. I know I’ve said this before but despite the brain fog, there’s a remarkable clarity in your wiring & that led me to think about your particular mind, which has always been like a tuning fork.

    Does the writing help with the brain fog because it demands clarity of thought, facts, deep cogitation? Does it bring you back to you? I’d like to know how CRPS has affected your sense of self…

    1. As ever, you ask a question I have to stop and think about 🙂

      I had a conversation with another writer some time ago. I said something very apt about a major relationship, which made her stand up and cheer, and then I got lost in thought for a moment. She said, “What is it?” I replied, “I’m trying to decide if that’s true enough to write.”

      I’ve been writing with intention since I was 10 years old, as you may remember. It has been a constant in my life, as absolutely nothing else has. I suppose the mental paths for writing are laid deep. I think those old deep tracks, combined with this intense inward demand to not only be good or apt, but to make it absolutely right, do give me clarity in writing that I don’t necessarily have in other ways.

      It should be clearly understood that I FEEL as intensely as ever; moreover, and to my considerable shock, my analytical skills are very much intact and seem to have tracked along with my maturation pretty nicely. My conscious-life-long effort to create as smooth a path as possible between what I mean and what I write now serves as a tool to transmit my feelings and analysis. I guess that’s the size of it.

      So, yes, I’d say that writing brings me back to myself. It rather alarms me how much I look to it now. I’ve lost everything I got to depend on in myself, so it’s not comfortable. But I’ll manage!

      As for how CRPS has affected my sense of self, it has mostly blown away layers of muddle between me and the world. There’s little fluff. Consideration, tact, decency, yes; but no bullshit. Here’s a flippant take on the whole thing, from several years ago: http://livinganyway.com/wp/2011/04/26/words-words-and-words-with-a-poetry-chaser/

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