S T A R T   T O   T H E   D A Y

by Angus Clark

Angus Clark is a gifted and experienced taichi instructor [TCUGB], author, group facilitator and
movement consultant. He has travelled to Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia to develop his art
and was the last westerner to study with the late grandmaster of taichi, Dr Chi Chiang Tao.
He is founder/director of Living Movement, based in Devon, UK. His publications include 'The
Complete Illustrated Guide to Tai Chi', Thorsons/Element, 2000 and 'Secrets of Qigong', DK, 2001.

The woman's confident walk halted, leaving her in what appeared to be a pool of surprise and a little uncertainty.  I said hello.  She had just enough time to smile, reply, and bounce a quick glance from my neatly parked wellington boots, [betraying the truth of a dartmoor summer] to my bare feet, raised arms and back to my face before her walk carried her a little less certainly away through the gap in the 5 foot bracken that created such a secret place.

Well, not that secret really, right next to a footpath, but ......special.  One of my favourite little spots.  It's one of those places where gravity's stronger, drawing me, irresistably.  Uplifting, magical.

The spirit of the place makes such a difference.  I wonder what it would be like to do this in a block building?  Actually, I remember. That's where I started out my taichi journey - in my breezeblock room at university.  And it was fine.  Really it was OK.  Just.......... different.

This morning my feet delight in the soft,warm, dewey sheep cropped grass next to the stream. There's a moment of cool when a new foot place is found, followed by a deepening warm - it's delicious.  Helps me relax.  I feel my feet wanting more, to go deeper.  I allow them to.  They like the early morning conversation with the ground as much as I do.

We start to play.  Heavy foot, light foot.  They like to take it in turns.   I follow the dance.  Feel my body loosening up, opening to this day, to life.   I feel my arms swing, shoulders breathe as the dreams of the night sail away down the river, into the sky.

A dream hangs in the air for a while - me and my feet have time to consider it, look at it in the daylight.  It's the one where........... I wonder if it will stay or go? It goes, floating into the clouds perhaps? [They have been known to stay around for days].

Ooh, I love this exercise.  It feels so good to breathe deep - this good air.  I wonder how much we have left in the world?  Enough for my kids, I hope, and theirs and theirs and everyone's kids and all of us. Surely we can .......................... ?

And this stretch in my spine.  So good at this time of day.

I can feel my insides waking up!  So they like it too!

Hello body.

I start to feel that alignment feeling kick in.  Thank goodness.  It's a regular visitor these days but still has a mind of its own - if I'm a bit uptight or too busy in my head then it's reluctant to visit for long.  This morning's good though - feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, spine, head - my bones reach for the sky, anchor me to the ground.  Muscles and organs relax, joining the game, instinctively enjoying this alignment.

My body feels solid.  Fluid.  Solid.
Well, which is it?
Well it's both.
What, one after the other?
No, not really, more like both at the same time - solid like an elephant and grounded like water in a river.  And free to move, like the water.  And light like a feather in the wind.
Oh, sounds odd.  Good, though is it?
Yes, very good!

And now I'm feeling that clear focusing.  We're becoming still here.  Enjoy it - won't get this still again today, most likely.  Feeling vertical, aligned, plugged in, strong.  I wonder how far up this feeling goes?  Fair old way I'd say. Up to the stars.  And there's the earth under here - deep, holding, trustworthy - like a dependable friend.

Suddenly several thoughts and ideas click into place for that seminar I'm giving later in the week. It's all so simple.  Creative.  Feels like it's related to my body, my posture, the sky perhaps?  Don't be daft.  The earth?  Oh I dont know - don't try to figure it out.  [I know, but it really is all connected] "Shushh!" Just let me enjoy this moment - it's so full


So what's it like to move from here, this centered place, this stillness - out into the world?  Let's see.  A step, arms alive, eyes offering a road for the spirit ............... here we go - we're away, forward, outward, returning, back to centre, outward, into the world again.  Feels good.

Fast?  Wham!  That's fun.

Slow?  My legs are working now - muscles contracting and relaxing one after the other.  It's so physical.  But I must have slept a bit funny - this hip's a little reluctant to join in this morning. Let's give it some space.  Ah, good, freeing up again.  And a sense of some anxiety melting, dissolving.

Ah yes, this is SO taichi!  Full, empty, open, closed, .................... rhythmic, changing.  This is what they were on about, the taoist lot from thousands of years back - you know the yin and yang stuff.  Everythings always changing.  Night to day, winter to summer, changing, but with rhythm.  Rhythm .............. that's it, that's where the harmony is.  And here, right now my body is changing - heartbeat, inbreath, outbreath, solid, fluid, light, heavy.  And I can feel the rhythm, the balance, the harmony.  It's like I'm really tuning in to my own balance but it's also bigger than this. I'm feeling something about nature, the world, the planets .....................

Yes, I know it's cosmic but...................

It's real and it's here and now.  Natural.  That's what I'm embodying here, natural way, the old taichi, taoist philosophy.  Tao, the way.  Natural way - listening to the way and joining with rather than fighting against.  It feels ancient and present all at the same time.  I like that.  Connecting with people from thousands of years ago with this exploration, continuing on this thread of discovery.   It's like I discover a little more movement every time I practice.

Movement.  No movement, no life. Imagine if there was no movement!  Everything so scared or embarrassed that it froze right up.  Planets, atoms and all.  No wind, no water, no messages. That's a funny thought.  For us humans movement's a birthright.  Imagine how much we all moved in our mothers' wombs.  And then as kids.
What about now?  Good point.

Well this feels good. I know that much.

Two faces appear from around the bracken corner : the pink and grey one belongs to the woman; the shiny, black hairy one [ and sporting a fabulous new collar] ..... her dog.

Time to move on. A busy day ahead.
But I love it when they start like this!!


Angus Clark's workshop:
Tai Chi, Mountain Walks & Massage
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