Studying Tai Chi and Slowing Down

People doing Tai ChiI recently started studying Tai Chi with a Sensei (Master) who’s almost 69 years old. He moves gracefully and powerfully and also looks great. I was sent to him by the Orishas, the divinities in my religion (Yoruba), whom I trust to guide me in directions that will benefit me. They did not tell me specifically to study Tai Chi with this particular Sensei or even to study Tai Chi at all but this is what I believe they were saying to me when they said that something from the Far East would come into my life that would benefit me. I put the pieces together on my own which is how it’s supposed to work with information we receive on a spiritual level.

Thus far, it seems like a good choice. A former patient of mine began studying Tai Chi while she was still in treatment with me. I’ve seen it benefit her greatly, including significant weight loss, so that was an additional impetus (not specifically the weight loss but the overall benefits).

Having had three lessons thus far, I’m finding myself challenged in ways that I had not anticipated.

For starters, I am being called upon to have lots of patience. Not that I don’t have any (which I do) but even more so than I’m used to demonstrating. The lessons seem to move slowly with a lot of talk and not a lot of practice of the postures. I find that I have difficulty remembering what we did when I leave. The only thing I’ve ever done on a once-a-week basis is psychotherapy. Any athletic/sports/dance pursuit has been more frequent. It seems easier for it to become part of my muscle-memory that way. Initially I thought my forgetfulness was a sign of my advancing age, but was told by my Sensei that it was not. So I’m trying to be patient – with myself, the process and his instructional style.

Another challenge is the slowness and fluidity of the Tai Chi itself. It’s hard, I’m learning, to slow down while moving. Tai Chi is very dance-like but my dance experience has included Jazz, African and Afro-Cuban styles – never the more lyrical and slower-paced ballet. Even the slower dances for specific divinities in my faith are not THIS slow! So once again, a challenge for someone whose primary physical activities include bicycling, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and swimming and dancing for Orisha.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of all is the spiritual. Tai Chi is based on the Chinese concept of Tao. From my limited understanding thus far, Tao is more of a philosophical perspective on life and living, but it is also spiritual and seems to include some aspects of divination. I can resonate to that but wonder how I’ll do with the non-action and not forcing and not analyzing aspects of Tao. We Yoruba are very active in our life pursuits on a spiritual and religious level. Tao is definitely not a religion. What I do know is that it is very much based in nature and natural phenomena. I look forward to finding out how this plays out and how it is related to the practice of Tai Chi.

So for now, it’s on to lesson number four. I’m remembering a bit more each time but am still struggling to carve out even a small amount of time to practice during the week. That’s critical to studying anything. I feel like I don’t know enough to practice (what I remember can be done in about 15 seconds!). Even repeating it several times I have a hard time doing it for more than 5 – 7 minutes. It’s a paradox I know – it only takes a little time but I can’t find the time! That’s certainly something to meditate on.

© Copyright 2010 by Kalila Borghini, LCSW, therapist in New York City, New York. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • sulley


    October 14th, 2010 at 6:02 AM

    there are a lot of eastern techniques and practices out there that can actually prove to be very beneficial to us but the problem is that most of us are not aware of them.its good to see that a professional like you is embracing such techniques and are also talking about it here.

  • JEN


    October 14th, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    I have read a lot about meditation and other similar things and I really want to give them a try but I just can’t seem to find time to do it.

    I just hope I can fulfill it atleast as a new year resolution in a few months from now.

  • Bethany


    October 14th, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    Really? I guess I am just not patient enough to give this a try

  • joan


    October 14th, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    I would love to try Tai Chi! Do you know if there’s a way to find a Sensei locally? I don’t want to end up in a class taught by anyone who isn’t fully qualified.I wondered if there was an association of any kind.

  • Carly


    October 14th, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    I haven’t done Tai Chi before although I have practiced yoga. The quieting of the mind was hardest for me. We’re always in such a rush that it felt weird to not be overburdened with incessant thoughts. Tai Chi really appeals to me.

  • paula


    October 14th, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    Thanks Kalila for sharing your Tai Chi journey with us. I’ll be interested to see how that develops.

  • emma


    October 15th, 2010 at 5:53 AM

    these kind of methods are gaining a lot of following which is a good will give them a lot of endorsment and will help more and more people learn about them and practice them for their holistic well-being.

  • Colette


    October 15th, 2010 at 6:59 AM

    Since my brain runs like a speeding locomotive most days, there’s no way I could do this! Thank you for the insider view, Kalila. :)



    October 15th, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    patience and doing things slowly but with concentration is something that is slowly being phased out of the world nowadays.Everybody wants everything instantly and patience is dying faster than you can say “Its-gone”!

  • Kalila Borghini

    Kalila Borghini

    October 16th, 2010 at 4:50 AM

    Thank you all for your comments. I had a great lesson yesterday and feel more motivated to practice. I was able to get my Sensei to spend less time talking and more time demonstrating and watching me make my mistakes. Now if only I can keep the dog from jumping on me when I do The 8 Treasures warm-up, I’ll be on my way!

    In terms of finding a teacher, I do private instruction in Dingmann’s Ferry, PA. He ONLY does that for adults (no classes) because he says each person is different and thus has different needs and capabilities.

    In NYC that can be really costly. I’d try to get a personal recommendation of a good instructor or class in which you’d get personal attention. If possible, think about any private instruction as an investment in yourself. You may need to do that for a while until you get it and can then do a class/group practice.

    Hope this helps.

  • mandy


    October 16th, 2010 at 4:19 PM

    You’ve whetted my appetite. :) Is Tai Chi suitable for people with back problems? I would love to find an activity that wasn’t too strenuous and stretched the mind too. With my back I have to be careful not to partake in anything that will jolt it like aerobics or running. It’s too easy for me to put a disc out.

  • Lee


    October 16th, 2010 at 6:50 PM

    I was told you can find a real Tai Chi teacher by asking them to show you “push hands”. I have no idea what that means. It was a cryptic answer given to me by a Tai Chi practitioner years ago when I asked about learning it. She could have been teasing me. She liked to think of herself as mystical and intriguing. :)

  • Kalila Borghini

    Kalila Borghini

    October 17th, 2010 at 4:47 AM

    My understanding is that Tai Chi is very good for back problems in that over time it will strengthen weakness. If you can swing it, private instruction might be a better way to start out since the Sensei can give you more personal attention and focus on your specific issues.

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