When I joined FLK 11 years ago, I thought I would learn the movement and these few basic exercises within a short time, and then I wouldn’t need FLK, but could practise for myself – or look for something new. After all, I already had more than 10 years of martial arts experience. There I constantly had to learn new movements in order to progress, so 108 movements will surely become boring after a while. But even before the beginners’ course was over, I had attended my first retreat and got the first insight that it is not only about choreography but that the organization offers much more.
I felt like I was at a family gathering. I was warmly welcomed, everyone worked together in a very harmonious way and everyone was well looked after. The stories about Master Moy and about the tradition and the teachings, the testimonials during the retreat and my observations of the other participants, some of whom had been practising for many years, touched me deeply and above all made me realise that these arts require lifelong learning. The retreat had also motivated me to start self-practise in order not to forget all that I had learned from the retreat. After all, I could not practise what I had learned in the beginners’ course, but I wanted to complete it. The first retreat visit was followed by many others. Practising on my own, especially after a retreat visit, has become a habit, where I have tried to integrate and incorporate what I have learned into “my” Tai Chi. However, a continuous daily routine did not develop from this.
Only gradually did I start to feel the effects of his teachings. My posture changed, I went through life much more upright. Little by little I also noticed other effects. I used to be very nervous when I had to give a presentation in front of a large group, but after a few years of training I noticed that I am hardly worried before a presentation in front of a larger audience and have almost the same feeling when I give a presentation as when I stand in front of an FLK group.
The last 1.5 years have allowed me to reflect and learn a lot, also about myself. In particular, I noticed at the beginning of the pandemic that I had developed some false concepts, especially about my role as a leader in training. Whenever I started practising for myself, thoughts kept running through my head about what our members would say about us stopping the lessons, how can I motivate them to self-practise, can they be expected to do it, after all most of them don’t know the movements yet etc.?
This was not only annoying and very disruptive when practising, it taught me a lot about myself. Although I have always practised for myself from the beginning of my Taoist Tai Chi® path and I am aware of how I have benefited from it, in my subconscious I have denied the members both that they are capable of practising on their own and that they can and would do so on their own responsibility.
I worried far too much about something that was not my responsibility. Even though I have heard it several times before, I think it is only now that I have really understood that we as leaders in training only have the responsibility to show people the way, people then have to decide for themselves whether they want to go that way or not. That is so liberating.
The weekly zoom meetings have become such important appointments that I plan all other appointments around them on Saturdays. At first it just made me happy to see everyone, relatively quickly I realised that the meetings give me so much more. Many of the stories and his teachings have touched me deeply and given me food for thought and reflection for the whole week. Instead of mourning over what is not working or worrying about the future, the meetings have given me positive impulses that have not only made me calmer and more balanced but have also finally motivated me to practise daily.
After initial difficulties, the time of self-practise has now become a time of playing, trying things out, experimenting and silence. Whether I am actually getting 1% better every day I doubt. When I used to attend a 5 day retreat I usually noticed a significant change after the retreats, I was bubbling with energy and my body was open and I had to smile all the time. Now the progress is less pronounced, therefore less obvious. But unlike before, the changes are more consistent. The changes after a 5 day retreat were like climbing a mountain, first you climb to the top and then you slowly go back down to the valley, even though the next valley might not be so far down. Currently the changes feel more like a very slow but steady climb. I feel more connection, the aspect of letting go becomes clearer. But even after 1.5 years, I keep remembering instructions I heard earlier that can or should still be incorporated into the “experiment” – and then the playing starts all over again. It is incredibly exciting to observe how everything (timing, feeling, connection, etc.) can change, but then also to discover that one does something again instead of letting it happen. That’s why it never gets boring to work on the same movements – because I’ve realised that I don’t work on the movement but on myself through the movement, on all levels.
I feel the change most clearly during chanting. I used to enjoy chanting, but mostly avoided kneeling. Not only did it feel too much like a church service, but I was worried about whether I could keep it up, so I didn’t do it at all. I would never have thought of chanting on my own. That’s why at first I only chanted sitting down and only with the group, usually with headphones on, so that I couldn’t hear my voice so strongly. This has gradually changed. It took a few months and several attempts, but now chanting while kneeling is as natural as it used to be while standing or sitting, and even with the longer chants it is now no problem to practise whole passages myself. Mostly I only feel the physical effects of chanting (increased circulation (I get very warm), a relaxed but still upright posture), but at the meetings that took place during the week I noticed the mental aspects for the first time – because no matter how exhausting the day was, I was grounded and relaxed after practising.
Through the meetings that took place several times a week on a national and international level, through the administrative work, the connection to the organisation strengthened even more. Through this strong connection with FLK and the daily self-practice, not only has a piece of normality been preserved in these rather uncertain times, unlike many others in my environment, I feel stronger and more relaxed. I am very grateful for that!