Make It Work
by Lim Li Lian
I stepped my little foot (literally) out before I was due to be born. I was too eager to see the world. It was a naive mistake from the beginning of my life. Too early and too soon. And so I lived with the consequence throughout my entire life. I was always frail throughout my growing up years.
I survived in my work life. Although my colleagues often asked whether I was feeling alright due to my pale complexion. Despite the chronic fatigue, I strived on and got awarded for good work attendance few times. I would consider myself fairly healthy and strong in my twenties.
I had a determined mind-set that “if others can do it, so can I”. I thought that if I believe that I was physically well, I will be physically strong. I went canoeing with my friend and was tanned from canoeing in the open sea. Looking very “fit” in appearance but may have unknowingly exhausted myself internally.
After a point in time, my health started to decline in my early thirties. I had a long list of signs and symptoms, and went thru health screening. Some major discovery from all the test was that I have a prolapsed heart valve, benign tumours in my body and a mini stroke (Transient Ischemic Attack).
This was when I seek Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). And my Chinese Physician suggested that I learn Tai Chi. My physician advised me that I should not do exercises that are physically demanding with a weak body constitution. Tai Chi was more beneficial to my condition as my heart was weak. And due to a weak heart, my other major organs are not well either due to the poor “Qi” circulation. I needed an exercise that will help me circulate “Qi” to my organs.
I tried other forms of exercises few times. But, I often experience what TCM described as “cock-crow diarrhoea” or “early morning diarrhoea” the very next day after the exercise. And so the search for Tai Chi classes that suit my schedule, a convenient location and taught in English.
I was glad that I found a Tai Chi class conducted in the morning in year 2013. Patrick was my instructor. It was a torture and struggle alright. At least for me. The basic warm up was not easy at all. I was having a lot of sore muscles after the class. Not to mention having to visit my Chinese Physician to treat the other symptoms I was experiencing. I recalled doing basic warm up exercises for few months. Always wondered in the beginning whether it was a normal Tai Chi class. Finally, one day, got to learn the opening form. And progressively through a period of more than two years, I learnt the many steps that formed the 37 Cheng Man Ching Tai Chi. And only did I realized that without the basic warm up exercises, I would not be able to do the Tai Chi form properly.
There were a lot of self-actualization throughout learning Tai Chi. I realized that I could not stand without swaying due to problems with my inner ear and weak body constitution. I could not balance well. But I continued just practicing the opening stance alone to train my brain to tell the body to stand still.
Doing the “Zhan Zhuang” or “standing like a tree” with eyes closed for the very first time was frightening for me. I felt the spinning falling sensation into a deep black hole. Subsequently, I managed to close my eyes during “Zhan Zhuang” but unaware that I was standing like a “slanted tree”. Patrick or the senior students had to remind me that I was tilted. Only with frequent practice I manage to achieve a sense of proper balance and calming my mind.
Learning the breathing exercise was one of the worthy lessons I have learnt. I practice this breathing exercise to calm my heart when I experience palpitation or pounding sensation. Otherwise, it takes a longer time to recover from my episodes of palpitation. Sometimes, I will do the breathing exercise as a remedy for my mild light-headedness or headaches.
Master Rennie and George Loo authored a book called “Taiji Quan: Body of Knowledge”. This book was my guide and a reminder. The presence of the book reminded me to practice and a source of reference for the basic warm up exercises, Tai Chi forms, breathing technique exercise and tips of being a newbie in Tai Chi. And with this precious book, I managed to continue practising my basic exercises and Tai Chi whenever I could not attend classes or forgotten the forms.
Now, I’m in my late forties. Accepting my physical limitations and changing my mind-set to “if others can do it, sometimes I cannot”. I have also migrated to Master Rennie’s class. Beginning of a different perspective of when I started learning Tai Chi. It has been close to a year since I have attended Master Rennie’s class. I anticipate for the moments when Master share insights about the focus of our mind, our intentions, life, wisdom, humanity and nutrition. An awesome experience with Master Rennie was his ability to share his “Qi” with another person. His teaching method in class is often unpredictable, which made it so interesting and exciting for me. I still have a lot to learn and grow. And hope to have a positive growth in physical and mental wellness under the guidance of Master Rennie.
Master Rennie’s class have very unique instructors like George, Cindy and Zheng Tao that are assisting him. It was an enlightening moment when George taught about visualization. He demonstrated the ability of focusing our mind that change the nature of our physical strength. This was a valuable technique for me. I have used this technique when I have to perform task in my work that demanded physical strength beyond my physical stature. Does not matter whether it was just a psychological effect as long as I got my task done. Simply put it, I don’t get sore shoulders and backache if I use visualization to perform a certain task. Like-wise when I’m emotionally disturbed, overly sensitive towards other’s remarks or having mood swings, I use visualization techniques to control my emotions.
Observing Cindy demonstrating the 37 form Tai Chi gave me some understanding the gracefulness of doing Tai Chi. I have yet to achieve how Cindy look so effortless and tranquil in her Tai Chi. As gentle and petite as she may seem, Cindy have a strong and forceful hand.
And not forgetting Zheng Tao. Young man but exude calmness and yet assertiveness when he is leading the group in Tai Chi. I am intrigued that despite his youth, he has the ability to comfortably pace his movements in a relaxed manner.
My utmost gratitude that Master Rennie and his instructors have continued imparting their knowledge to me. Somehow their dedication, patience and passion have encouraged me to persevere my Tai Chi lessons despite the challenging experiences. Reading about the history of late Professor Cheng Man Ching, Tai Chi research articles and basic principles of Tai Chi have influenced my determination to pursue it further. Believe it or not, I have often attended Tai Chi class with minor ailment and feeling better after class.
In conclusion, I have gained tremendously in mentally, physically and emotionally. Tai Chi had improved the quality of my life. As what Tim Gunn from Project Runway would often say “Make it Work”. So, I made Tai Chi as part of my life to help me make my body work optimally and to be able to live a fulfilling life.