I wrote about a week ago "Hello universe, please give me something to look forward to..." and the next day, I was invited to a tai chi retreat. A friend had booked the trip with someone who hurt their back at the last minute, so it was all paid for and sorted, I just had to turn up!
Strangely enough, for anyone who believes in coincidences, about a year ago I had decided I wanted to learn tai chi and looked into courses; hadn't booked anything and eventually forgot about it. Then recently a friend started going to a class nearby, and I had also noticed funny little references to tai chi around the place which got me thinking about it again. And then I was offered it on a plate!
But when I woke up this morning, instead of finding myself floating carelessly out of sleep in a relaxed haze, I felt angry. Why was this?
Now, I'm not in any way being ungrateful for my free spa weekend! Let's get that straight right here: I couldn't be more grateful, it was a beautiful and incredibly relaxing experience... but this was (to a large extent) despite the retreat organisers and not because of them, and it's got me thinking...
You know what, I prefer people who are looking for answers to people who think they have the answers.
By lunchtime we had been concentrating and practicing the form for three hours, and were all starving. The soup and salad were tasty, but didn't really hit the spot, especially after the small portion of chicken and brown rice we'd had for dinner the night before. When my friend and I went to the office we found the boss sitting with some salad next to his receptionist who was tucking into a Macdonalds. My friend expressed jealousy at her box of chips and I agreed.
'What's the point in training in self defence if you're doing these things? You don't need to worry about someone else killing you, you're doing it yourself. You might as well be hitting yourself repeatedly in the face with a brick' I think later... was that a dig about the chips comment?
That night, after a tiny portion of chilli and more brown rice, the whole group get together and do their best to polish off the hotel's entire wine cellar. Someone makes a trip to a nearby shop and on their return, tips a carrier bag of crisps, sweets and chocolate onto the table. Half of us dig into it, the other half are outside having a fag. I think to myself 'Mmmmm, it's like hitting myself repeatedly in the face with a tasty, tasty brick.'
Boss spends the dance sessions moving slowly around the room doing a bad Dad dance. During the jiggling session he breaks off into the centre of the circle and walks slowly round, watching everyone. He heads towards me and I say to myself 'If you're coming to tell me I'm jiggling wrong I'm going to be angry.' But he just looks at me and moves on.
When the meditation is over we have to sit in a circle and, one by one, speak for two minutes about our experience. There's no way I'm going to lie and talk about my incredible emotional experience when I just didn't have one. I say I love to dance, I do it a lot and I love dancing in nightclubs: I love the trance state you can get into when you just dance and forget everything around you, how you can just let the music fill you up and go with it, but that personally I have trouble letting go completely if I don't like the music. I said that the jiggling was really good for loosening up, but that all I could think about was how much the blood was rushing to my fingertips, and that I do a bit of meditation at home, and always find that fantastic for emptying your head and relaxing. He doesn't seem best pleased but he just says 'Ok' and moves on around the circle. Most of the group say exactly what you'd expect... 'I really enjoyed it, it was nice.'
I don't go back to the tai chi class the next day. Surprisingly, I'm not too fussed about being picked at and used as a self-righteous, passive aggressive example of what he sees as 'wrong'. I may have the wrong end of the stick here but it certainly felt like he was trying to tell us that we don't understand, that he knows how to become 'zen' and that we weren't doing it right.
Now tell me that's not a better meditation than standing in a circle jiggling whilst being watched by a creepy man with authority issues.