It’s 2023 and… we’re not making resolutions. We are making connections: with our breath, with the sky, with each other, with the earth. And we are seeing that this time may be the time when our perceptions are sharpest, and when our patience is thinnest for things that we shouldn’t have been patient with in the first place.
Marilyn Allysum, founder and Director of Tilopa Tai Chi Qigong Centers:
Chris Zydel: “Anything that is even vaguely related to things like planning, productivity or efficiency is making me want to take a nap.” https://creativejuicesarts.com/
Full transcript and notes:
Hey, everyone, thanks for tuning in.
Welcome to 2023. Here we are.
I've seen a lot of those cartoons go around where it's like people peering around the edge, or memes going around where people are like, "let's just walk in quietly and don't touch anything, and maybe nothing will go wrong." And yeah, as as a survivor of a lot of rough situations, I can tell you that walking in on tiptoes is not usually how you get out alive.
But what I am noticing instead is something that I have acquired and reacquired, and reaquired, because I keep forgetting it. Which is this quality of softness. And I don't mean softness in the derogatory like, "Oh, your soft" sort of way. I don't mean that at all. What I mean is the quality of softness that one sees in a really advanced Tai Chi practitioner.
Years and years and years ago, I got to study Tai Chi in Minneapolis, in person, with an instructor named Marilyn Allysum. And she's amazing. Twenty years later, I was working with a personal trainer who said, "Did you used to do Tai Chi?"
And I said, "Yeah."
And he said, "Why aren't you doing it now?"
And I said, "because that one instructor spoiled me so badly for any other instructor that every time I've tried to take it, I've been so disappointed that I haven't been able to continue."
And he said, "Well, you know, there's a pandemic, maybe she's teaching online."
So I went and looked and she was. She had, like so many people, closed her in-person studio, and opened up online instead. And so, after a twenty year gap, I have had the privilege of picking up study with her again. And it is so nourishing, it is so enriching, it is so grounding. And it is so instructive, but not in the way that one would usually mean.
It's instructive, in that she is teaching us things and we are learning them. But we are essentially beginners, there's no way for us to quote unquote, catch up. That's not how Tai Chi works. Tai Chi is a very, very slow learning process. It's a thing that you learn by doing over and over and over again. And the more diligent you are, the faster you learn it. But also, it's one of those things that you have to learn in your blood and bones and heart, more than in your head.
And so there are days when you lose things that you've had smoothly for months, and there are days when you get things suddenly that you haven't been able to wrap your head around because you've been trying to wrap your head around them instead of just allowing them to move through you. And that's the kind of lesson that I have to learn over and over again.
I know it in my head. I tell it. I teach it. I speak it. But of course when it comes to actually doing the thing, it's complicated, right? So we're still figuring things out. We're always figuring things out.
As her students, even intermediate students, continuing students, there's a forever quality to the learning. And the beauty about the way she teaches is she doesn't expect mastery. She doesn't even expect... she doesn't really expect anything except that we show up and try. And that means some days we get it and some days we don't.
And she goes, "It's okay kids." She calls us all kids. "It's okay kids. Have fun with it." She calls it "playing Tai-Chi".
There's a softness that comes with it. That's not.... It's not pushing. It's not.... It's not submission in the negatively-connoted sense. It's surrender to the inevitable.
We are not yet at the stage where we study it as a combat art. We are at the stage, and will be for many years, where we study it as a series of movements. And she will sometimes drop hints and be like "see how this would be that, if we did it faster; if someone were attacking you, if there were something in front of you, this is how that would work."
But by and large, we just are learning the movements. We are learning the Grand Long Form. That's it, we're just, we're just studying how our bodies are in space and time and mass and breath. We're studying how the energy and the physical interleave.
And the softness is the softness of, if something is happening, that you don't provide resistance that allows it to cause more damage; you move with it. And that's the kind of softness that I'm seeing in people now, as we enter this new Gregorian year. Is this kind of move with it softness.
I have never seen so many people join me in not making resolutions. I have never seen so many people join me in not making concrete plans. Well, you know, the last time I made concrete plans for my business was at the end of 2019. So we're not doing that. Yes, the pandemic has made a lot of us superstitious. But even so, my plans have not gone to plan since I graduated from college.
So I've learned not to expect them to go to plan. I've learned to try something else, to reach for something else, to do things a different way. And I think I am not alone. I see, I perceive, I feel, I hear, that I am not alone.
So many people: "plans just make me want to take a nap," Chris Zydel said recently. She's a marvelous teacher of interior life, mostly through the vehicle of paint. And she's not alone, either.
Person after person: "I'm not making plans." "My plan this year is to stay alive." "My plan this year is to have a year." "I'm not motivated." "I'm exhausted." "I'm burned out." "I'm tired." "I just want to make art."
And I read them, and I think in some ways, me too. I just want to make art. But this reminds me of that poem. The one by Sharon H. Nelson, called 'Premenstrual Syndrome.' It was published in the book, I believe it's called "I Am Becoming the Woman I've Wanted." It's the sequel to "When I am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple." It was published in sequence a couple of years later. And it's a collection of poems and art, visual art.
And in it is this poem called 'Premenstrual Syndrome,' which asks the question: "what if PMS is actually when our perceptions are sharpest? When we're telling the most truth? What if, what if this is actually more reality than the rest of the time?"
And I'm asking what if coming out of 2022 into 2023 still in the throes of a pandemic, still in the throes of all of this political-socio-economic challenge, what if this is the time when our perceptions are sharpest? When our patience is thinnest for things that we shouldn't have been patient with in the first place? And what if yes, that's making us tired, that awareness is making us tired. But it's also tired is not the thing so much as unwillingness to expend our energy on things that we no longer value? Or that we never really valued, but someone told us we valued?
And so coming into this year, I am here to encourage breathing, connection. Connection, connection. Connection with the earth, with one another, with the sky, with whatever spirits move you. Interweaving, interleaving, leaving behind the things that we thought we needed, the things that we thought we knew, and finding our way slowly together, like light seeping across the landscape.
Finding our way to one another, in this moment of beginning.
Thanks for being here. I'll see you soon.