Once again this is the time of the year I revisit the direction of my school, myself as a teacher, and what I see for each of my students.
In my revisit I come up with the same questions. As a teacher what do I have to offer? What path do I want my school take? What expectations do I have for myself and my students? How can I best guide my students in helping them find/maintain their own path?
What I believe I have to offer and the path the school is on is to offer a supportive atmosphere in which all can learn time-honored skills which can then be adapted to create a better quality of life.
As a teacher I am looking for my students to master what has been handed down to me and at the same time find their own path within it. What I mean by this is to not come up with your own way of doing the form or creating your own form. Heavens no! Nor am I looking for all of my students to mimic the form perfectly. Instead I am looking for you to find yourself IN the forms and then to find your own way to utilize what you have learned. For some of you this may become your MISSION, your path.
My expectations for you are few but great. Come to class, learn from it and do something with it. Now these three seem pretty simple right? I can tell you they can all become quite challenging!
Coming to class: You are in charge of your own attendance. You may find many reasons as to why you can't make it to class but remember every missed class is another missed opportunity.
Learn: Come with an empty mind so that you can fill it with the lessons of tai chi. If you are in the state of mental or physical injury, consider watching class. There are many ways to learn. You can learn by watching class. You could bring a tai chi book with you and read it on the sidelines. You could sit on the sidelines and breath along with the class etc. Be careful of the self created "land mines" that keep you from reaching your goals. Speaking of goals....its good to have one. If you don't have one I will be happy to help you create one.
Apply: In the beginning stages this is easy. It is when you make changes to your life in a way that is healthier. Maybe you have changed the way you eat, sleep, work, deal with relationships etc. Changes are quick and effective. This is when everyone likes tai chi because the world seems to be looking better!
In the middle stages there may be times that you are not quite sure if you are learning anything. You may be doing tai chi just because you believe you should or because you are afraid i will "get" you if you don't! LOL You may go months without knowing why you are still practicing ... then whamo! Its as if you been struck by lightening. Your'e in love with tai chi again! Entering this stage is uncomfortable but it is a pattern that will come and go for the term of your practice. My advice to you is don't become attached to the WHAMO instead look at what is nearly invisible. Breathe, relax, listen and let happen what will happen and remember your goal. (see above)
It is the advanced stages that I hear the most grumbling because it is in the advanced stages that it is time for you to take what you have learned and truly make it your own. You either become a teacher and pass it on or you use the lessons to create a unique spin on it all.
For some of you THIS will be the hardest part of your development. This is where you will need all of YOUR strength and wisdom. It is in this stage that all your deepest fear, judgement or "specialness" can rear its ugly head. If you haven't cleaned yourself up during the first two stages then going through this stage will make it even harder. The pressure may feel like its ON and in some ways it is and this is usually the time to find a way to make tai chi your very own. YUP... YOUR OWN. But look at it this way, you have now spent 10 years going down the tai chi path, you are better equipped then most to take on challenges. You know how to breath! You know how to look at things in several different ways! Your are mentally and physically more agile!