Last night I taught my last two weekly classes at Brookline Tai Chi.
Next month, I’ll be diving into a new intensive learning experience, building software applications and learning about the web from a depth I’ve only poked at up until now.
It’s going to be a big change for me. I don’t quite know what to make of shedding a professional identity that I’ve held for almost 10 years.
And I don’t quite know what to say to the students I’ve worked so closely with over all this time.
But when I think about what’s coming, I recognize a pattern that I’ve repeated many times in my life. On many occasions now, I’ve been able to dive into a pool that I couldn’t swim in at first, and then somehow, float.
After 10 years teaching weekly classes at Brookline Tai Chi, I feel ready to swim in a new pool and in a strange way, I’m excited to be really out of my element, because I know that with the right structure, in the right environment, I will float back up to the surface buoyed by new skills and new perspectives.
Ten Years Ago at Brookline Tai Chi
I still remember walking across the room, not making eye contract with anyone, just shuffling out into the lobby to wait for students to come in.
It was just a couple of weeks into my job as the new director of Brookline Tai Chi, in the summer of 2005.
Shortly after that, many of our lead instructors left the school and while I was in the process of training to teach, I found myself with close to 20 hours a week of classes, not the 3 to 5 I had expected.
It turns out that being thrust into such a high volume of classes created one of the best learning environments I could have hoped for.
Every night I would have 3 different classes, sometimes 4 on the weekends. That meant that each hour I had to do a complete reset, with a fresh new group.
Students would come in from whatever they had done all day and I had to “land” them, make the feel comfortable, relaxed and slowly tune them inward to become more present. I watch this arc, from scattered and tired, to relaxed and focused happen over and over again.
In the process, I learned how to more artfully make that transition myself.
Then we would get “to work” – the middle 20 – 30 minutes of class. In the work phase we would go into a form or a principle and really train it. Once you’ve opened up, relaxed repetition is much easier, and more meaningful to your nervous system.
At the end of the hour, we would do an easy practice where the goal wasn’t to keep squeezing in more and more information, but rather to feel integration, letting things settle and come to rest so that your body could more easily absorbs the training.
Finally, everything would go quiet….and then I would start all over again with the next group.
I did that for the last ten years, so 3 x 5 x 44 x 10 or over 6,000 times. When you factor in workshops and personal practice time, I’m confident that I’ve paid attention to this work-rest-integration cycle for well over 10,000 hours.
A Supportive Learning Environment
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have done this kind of learning.
I’m grateful to Brookline Tai Chi for its community and its structure.
I’m grateful to my teachers who gave me material to work on and also guided me through the meta layer of learning even more through teaching and sharing it.
I’m grateful for all the students who were excited to learn with me.
I’m grateful to all of you reading this post who have indulged my sharing my teaching experiences on the web.
Even now, as I open a new chapter professionally, the combination of training, learning, and teaching will form the foundation for new endeavors.
If you’ve benefitted from my writing, podcasts, videos, or teaching in any form on this site, I want you to know that it’s largely because of the opportunities I had to develop a teaching voice at Brookline Tai Chi.
I hope you will consider supporting Brookline Tai Chi at this time, so that our learning community will continue to produce new teachers, who work hard to benefit all of us, and that as a group, we will always have a home base to return to for deep learning.