Live Small, Stand Tall: Tai Chi for Free at the Li-brar-y


One of the things I’ve tried to do on this blog is encourage those living on a seriously skinny budget.

The big emphasis these days on “downsizing” and “simple living” is great…but I’m really talking to those who aren’t doing it as a matter of choice, but because there is no other choice.

Now, that’s not to say that I won’t throw in a plug for some crazy robot hipster device you can buy on Amazon, for my more financially fortunate readers, if they’re into that kind of thing, and have the means to streamline with technology. (Remember; since I’m an Amazon affiliate, you help to finance my rockstar lifestyle when you use my links to purchase. Just don’t blame me when Alexa becomes self aware and supercharges your smart-home-controlled bidet because you made a SkyNet joke at her expense.)

For the most part, however, I’m going to point people towards things that may help if you’re trying to get the most out of life on less than a stellar salary. If you’re in the Oklahoma City metro area, some of the suggestions may be actual pursuits you can try out, like Yoga Lab in Midtown, or they may just be stories that you can commiserate with, like the one about how sometimes financially strapped folks are the best supporters of the “Shop Local” wave…because we have no other choice.

That’s what today’s post is; a celebration of the fact that there are good things that you can take advantage of in our fair city for free. Specifically, things brought to you through grants at your local library.

Yes…remember the library? I actually had someone guffaw when I mentioned taking something back to the library in the semi-recent past, and ask me, “Who still goes to the library?”

Um, people who can’t afford to buy every book they want to read. (Also, people who realize that you can read books for free, even if you can afford them. I don’t get how EVERYONE isn’t going to the library.)

More than that, people go to the library to take free classes. To learn how to knit, to share their writing with groups, to talk about movies…there’s a lot going on at the library.

And specifically, at the Pioneer Library System‘s South branch, there’s a Tai Chi class. I can’t tell you how excited I was to find out about it, and stoked I am about Chock, the awesome instructor pictured above who has been helping the handful of us who have gathered on Monday evenings to get our Tai Chi on.

Chock learned Tai Chi in his P.E. class as a kid in Thailand (and all we got here in the U.S. was kickball). He returned to the practice after injuring his knee running marathons, and is now sharing his knowledge with those of us who are lucky enough to be taking advantage of his class, free to library patrons through a generous grant from theĀ Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.

Why Tai Chi? Some of you may remember that I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And run. I also like to paddleboard. In short…I like a lot of frenetic activity.

Now, I also enjoy yoga, and that’s what opened my eyes to the need to occasionally slow down. Tai Chi is another step in that direction; further movement down the path of deliberateness. I’d been curious about it for a while, and the class came along at a time when I was also on a forced break from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (stitches on my face), so it seemed like a perfect opportunity. I’m glad it was there, and I’m glad I took it.

It’s funny to think that anyone would need to tell me to slow down, considering what kind of kid I was. I was always being berated for being too slow. And maybe that’s why I sped up, I don’t know. It’s a fact of life that adulthood speeds you up, and perhaps it was just that; I grew up.

I have a lot I have to do. I have a lot I want to do. And there are only 24 hours in the day, and I’m no spring chicken. There’s more and more of a feeling of the Icy Claw of Time on your shoulder as you age.

Which is another good reason to look at things like yoga and Tai Chi.

Chock talks about how we move away from what we knew as children. (Chock talks a lot, in fact. It’s not unusual for us to hold a pose as he digresses for a minute or two and then says, “Where was I?”, but that’s part of the charm of it. It also helps with the whole slowing down thing, when you’re frozen mid-White-Crane-Spreads-Its-Wings, waiting for your teacher to finish telling you a story about his time as a temple boy in Thailand.)

It seems counter intuitive to slow down when you feel pressure to achieve, to not waste time, but more and more what I learn is that slowing down is exactly what I need to do when I feel that way. I get amped up during Tai Chi, occasionally, envisioning myself as the next Iron Fist, and then Chock blinks at me and says, “Sloooooow…”, and I remember why I’m there. Not to be better, faster, stronger, but to be calmer, saner, quieter.

Yoga gave me an introduction to the mindset that your physical activity can ground you in the present moment. Tai Chi is broadening that idea, and opening my eyes even more to how much we need to include deliberateness and focus in our physical lives.

Slow is as important as fast.

Deliberate is as important as powerful.

And more than that…beauty is necessary, too, even in our exercise. Tai Chi is, in addition to all the rest of the things it contains, beautiful.

Chock has come to me during a movement, pointedly rearranged one of my hands by a millimeter, and then smiled and said…”Is prettier.”

We all need beauty, and people who can’t afford it probably need it even more.

Support public libraries, and education, and museums. Encourage funding for grants that provide free classes. Food and shelter are important, but to be more than just survival, life needs things like Tai Chi, too.

“Is prettier.”