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There is a tremendous emphasis in modern culture upon getting things right. People are afraid to make mistakes. Yet, mistakes are inevitable in all aspects of life.
Adhering to a bewildering number of standards, rules and guidelines imposed by somebody else (parents, work, society) is quite a strain. Face the truth: we all make mistakes.
Learning from mistakes
The first step in learning from your mistakes is to accept the mistake without being defensive. The second step is to consider what went wrong and why.
The third step is to try again; this time with a modified approach.
If we can be honest and accepting of our own faults, then humility follows. We also have the opportunity to adapt, change and stop making the same mistake. This is part of learning.
When starting tai chi
Accept that your tai chi is going to be pretty lousy to start with. You cannot hope to master the art overnight... Don't beat yourself up. Be realistic. And patient with yourself.
When a new starter begins a tai chi class they bring with them all manner of baggage:
Bad habits of body use
Very poor bodily awareness
Usually the student is
completely unaware of these impediments.
Mistakes are OK
Your instructor does not expect your practice to be 'perfect'. They are looking for effort and hard work; not flawless practice. You will be gently corrected every lesson.
Slowly, you come to realise that making mistakes is inevitable... and OK. There is no need to get upset. No need to become defensive.
When you stop pushing yourself to be perfect and accept your own flawed nature, relaxation follows.
Don't look back with regrets, because there is nothing that you can do to
change the past.
Do not look forward with anticipation.
Do it or don't do it.
Live it, when it arrives.
Corrections are not criticism. The teacher corrects the student because they care about the student's progress.
Suggestions, possibilities and alternatives all serve to broaden your horizons and open the mind to new possibilities.
A reminder encourages the student to remember the basics, to focus upon the underlying principles.
The student should be grateful when corrected, because the correction offers an opportunity for change, for improvement.
Calming the mind
There are various meditation practices in tai chi. They are all designed to bring your mind back to the immediate moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about potential future events.
As the mind becomes increasingly calm, you become more focussed, more deliberate. You pay attention to what you are doing. Fewer mistakes occur.
A work in progress
It can be helpful to regard your tai chi as a work in progress. You receive corrections, tips & pointers and new ideas every week in class. Then you go home and seek to improve your practice.
Gradually, your skill becomes notably more refined and you make fewer gross mistakes. The mistakes are now more subtle. And these too are corrected.
You will never reach a point where your tai chi is perfect. Your tai chi can always be improved. Learning tai chi is a process. There is no end to the training, no final product or conclusion.
18 April 1995
Last updated 13 January 2020